What is the Key 3?

Scouting-101-logoUpdated for 2018

Behind every great Scouting unit, district, council, area and region is a committed Key 3. These are the three top individuals within each segment of Scouting.

The BSA even has a National Key 3, which includes our national chair (previously called national president), Chief Scout Executive and national commissioner. These three individuals — two volunteers and one professional — are responsible for guiding the entire organization.

The Key 3s meet frequently in a quiet situation where successes and concerns can be shared and solutions reached. At every level, from unit to national, each member of the Key 3 needs to understand his or her role and feel empowered to serve.

So what is the Key 3? That’s what this guide is all about. 

Unit Key 3

  • Unit leader (Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Venturing crew advisor, Varsity team coach)
  • Unit committee chair
  • Chartered organization representative

Why isn’t the unit commissioner a member of the Key 3? Because the unit commissioner isn’t a member of the unit, and he or she serves as an advisor to the unit Key 3.

Like other Key 3s in Scouting, the unit Key 3 meets monthly at the midpoint of unit committee meetings. The Key 3 addresses unit challenges, checks on Journey to Excellence status, and adjusts program and administrative elements to ensure unit progress toward JTE.

The unit Key 3, along with the unit commissioner, reviews Voice of the Scout feedback and makes recommendations to the unit committee to strengthen unit service to youth.

District Key 3

  • District chair
  • District commissioner
  • District executive*

The District Key 3 meets as often as needed — probably twice a month for about an hour. The district’s purpose is to support units to ensure that our youth members get the best possible Scouting experience in the safest possible environment.

The best way to accomplish this is to make sure that all units achieve Journey to Excellence goals and that the district achieves JTE goals. District Key 3 members also keep in close telephone or email contact throughout the month and work together to build the agenda for the district committee meeting.

Council Key 3

  • Council president
  • Council commissioner
  • Scout executive*

The Council Key 3 meets informally as necessary to ensure proper coordination of the work of the council. They strive to improve the council’s Journey to Excellence standing. They furnish liaisons between the commissioner staff and the various committees of the council. They may also provide proposals and recommendations to, but in no way usurp the authority of, the executive board or executive committee of the board.

The council president and the Scout executive develop a working relationship in which each is utterly frank with the other. The president should expect the Scout executive to share any reactions that might be helpful in doing a better job as council president. Likewise, the Scout executive will expect the president to offer suggestions on how to be a more effective Scout executive. It is the council commissioner who acts as a liaison between professional staff and volunteers at the unit, district and council levels.

Area Key 3

  • Area president
  • Area commissioner
  • Area director*

Areas are geographic clusters of councils; several areas make up a region. The members of the Area Key 3 support councils in improving their Journey to Excellence status. They promote national, regional and area events and develop relationships with areawide chartered organizations. They assist councils in any special needs they might have.

Regional Key 3

  • Regional president
  • Regional commissioner
  • Regional director*

Nationally, the BSA consists of four Scouting regions: Central, Northeast, Southern, Western. The regions provide liaison between the National Council and local councils to achieve the purposes of Scouting and to maintain standards, policies, programs and procedures established by the BSA. The Regional Key 3 is responsible for the effective operation of each of its councils, including the proper alignment of councils, sufficient qualified volunteer and professional leadership in each council, and an effective program for financing each council.

National Key 3

  • National chair
  • National commissioner
  • Chief Scout Executive*

These are the top three individuals in Scouting. They’re in regular contact with one another and with assistant Chief Scout Executives and the National Executive Board.

The national chair serves as chairman of meetings of the National Council, chairman of the National Executive Board, chairman of the executive committee and member ex officio of all committees other than the nominating committee.

The national commissioner is a member of the executive board at the National Council and, like all commissioners, is an experienced Scouter who helps chartered organizations and unit leaders achieve the aims of Scouting.

The Chief Scout Executive is essentially the organization’s chief executive officer, or CEO. He guides the organization into the future.

Our current National Key 3 consists of National Chair Jim Turley, National Commissioner Ellie Morrison and Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh.


* An asterisk means this person is a professional. No asterisk means he or she is a volunteer.

About Bryan Wendell 2904 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.