Here’s my initial take on the RFQ. It incorporates observations of others who are working in the background on this.
- This RFQ does not appear to be designed to promptly address the alleged* problems with SASH during sea year. If that was its purpose, the scope of work would be limited to sea year and there would be a much tighter schedule for completing the study. Six months is absurd.
- The RFQ appears to have been written and timed so that DOT/MARAD can steer the contract to a chosen bidder. The Office of the Inspector General needs to investigate this.
- Incredibly (or maybe not, depending upon your point of view), Section C.1.4 directs the successful bidder to “Conduct an assessment of the role of USMMA leadership and management, both historically and currently, in addressing a climate in which sexual assault, sexual harassment, other forms of sex discrimination, retaliation, and related misconduct has persisted.” We already have two assessments of USMMA leadership and management on this very issue — and leadership/management FAILED. See the OIG report from 2014, the follow up from August 2016 and the Accreditation Report. This part of the Scope of Work seems designed to generate a report favorable to leadership/management — despite the evidence.
- Similarly, C.1.9.3 asks the successful bidder to “Identify any progress achieved in recent years in reducing the incidence of these offenses and discuss the reasons therefore.” In other words, “Help leadership look good. Can you please find something — anything — that looks like progress and put it in your report so that we can wave it before Congress and say, ‘see, leadership isn’t the problem, the OIG and MSCHE are wrong.'”
- On page 9, one of the “deliverables” is a weekly briefing “for confirmation of direction and interim findings.” This allows DOT/MARAD to steer the results of the study as it progresses. And if it doesn’t like the direction, it can always shut down the study.
- The Background section (starting on page 3) doesn’t even mention that the Academy was the first federal academy to accept women or the success it had in accomplishing that feat. One wonders if anyone in leadership is even aware of that fact.
- This study generates a whole lot of Verba and no Acta. The Acta comes after the six months — which means that a restoration of sea year doesn’t start until well beyond six months.
* I’m not suggesting that there aren’t any problems with SASH at sea. Of course there are, just as there are in any industry and the military. But, I do assert that there is no data to support a claim that SASH problems at sea are of a significant enough nature to justify cancelling sea year and threatening the graduation (and livelihoods) of dozens of midshipmen. As near as we can tell, the basis for the claim is not from data. It is from an anecdotal “investigation” performed solely by Sharon Van Wyk, the Chair of the Academy Advisory Board, with no documentation, no properly designed questions, and no earmarks of validity. This undocumented hearsay is being used in lieu of very well documented, professionally conducted, surveys conducted on behalf of the Academy every two years (as required by law) that refute the notion that there is any sort of crisis involving sea year.