Tonya Keys
Tonya Keys

How do you support NNSA? 
I am the Director of Human Capital and Business Operations for Defense Programs. HCBO leads the logistics, employee engagement, training, human resources, and business operations support for all employees, bridging the gap between the mission and the people.

What is your personal background, and how has that shaped you and your approach to your career? 
I come from a family that didn’t have much but was always willing to give, and that’s where my passion for public service began. I served 10 years active duty in the U.S. Air Force and particularly appreciated humanitarian deployments. I later worked for the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration after 9/11 before joining NNSA in 2008. The common thread is that I enjoy assignments that contribute to the betterment of others.  

What did you study in school and how did it impact you personally and professionally?
I studied business, but my original desire was to be a teacher. I have a huge admiration for educators. When my children were young, I volunteered in their classrooms and for other school activities as much as possible. In my next life, I may become a teacher after all.

What led you to a career in nuclear security?
Honestly, I didn’t know much about nuclear security before joining NNSA. I was in awe of the capabilities and knowledge of the people and was happy to provide support in any way I could to accomplish the mission. I’ve served in positions such as a Management Analyst and Emergency Management Specialist, leading programs that aided emergency response, training, and policy.

What is the best part about your job?
I love providing good service and supporting people. Providing exemplary customer service is a goal of HCBO and we work hard to achieve it.

What is your proudest accomplishment while supporting NNSA?
While I have held many positions and supported many program offices, the last position I held in NNSA prior to becoming the HCBO Director was Deputy Chief of Staff. The position was offered to me after senior leadership recognized the knowledge and skills, I possessed far exceeded my then current role. I was the first Deputy Chief of Staff the organization ever had. I was extremely grateful for the opportunity and the confidence leadership had in my ability to perform in that role.

Tonya Keys
Tonya Keys served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years.

Tell us something interesting about yourself. 
I absolutely love reality TV, some call it trash but I call it entertainment. I also love competition shows like cooking/baking showdowns and game shows. And I’ve always wanted to be a contestant on the Price is Right.

In May of 2021 I served as part of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Unaccompanied Children Project Volunteers and Support Team, which aided migrant children and ensured their safety while awaiting unification services. My duties included direct oversight of children and activities, distribution of supplies to new arrivals, and escorting children to mental health services, medical services, and provided other critical support. This was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, and I received the DOE Secretary’s Award for this work.

Do you have any highlights from your time supporting NNSA? 
I was a certified DOE Emergency Support Function 12 responder during hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. While assigned to the National Response Coordination Center at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, I assisted with coordinating response capabilities, technical assistance, services, and the effort to unify impacted communities. I also represented NNSA as a President’s Management Council Interagency Rotation Program participant. I was awarded a 6-month detail to the Department of Housing and Urban Development where I worked for the Special Needs Assistance Program, specifically on a team that awarded grants to state and local governments that provided housing assistance to homeless veterans and youth. It was an incredibly eye-opening and worthwhile professional development experience.

What advice would you have for anyone interested in a career in nuclear security?
Love what you do. This career can be demanding but also very rewarding. NNSA encourages public service and it’s something to consider if you are looking to make a difference, enjoy building alliances, working with great scientific minds, and keeping our country safe.

Who is someone that inspires you and why?
Professionally, I’m lucky to have had excellent mentors throughout my military and civilian careers. Those who took me under their wing and the invaluable relationships that have cultivated over the years inspire me. Personally, I am inspired by my grandmothers, strong figures in my family who taught us all how to persevere during the tough times, rejoice during the good times, and to always love, support, and respect one another. 

How do you plan to celebrate or commemorate this Veterans Day? 
I usually take time to reflect on my active-duty years. I look forward to commemorating with my military family around the world. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me because of my military service. And not just on this day but often, I pray for those who served and continue to serve our country with honor.