A pony for the administration for the Jan. 17 town hall

[updated to clarify the date of the town hall]

For the January 17, 2017 town hall meeting, we thought it might save everyone a lot of time if we gave Superintendent Helis and soon-to-be-former Deputy Maritime Administrator Rodriguez some of the questions they should expect in advance. This will make it harder for them to evade the questions or deny knowledge because they weren’t expecting the questions or don’t have the answers at their fingertips.

And soon-to-be-former Deputy Maritime Administrator Rodriguez, since you don’t think people should believe what they read on this blog, this will give you a real opportunity. You can bypass this blog and get your unfiltered answers out to the blog’s readership by beginning the town hall by answering the following questions without even waiting for them to be asked.  (And if you want to answer them in writing, we’ll even post them here.)

  1. How many B-splits are failing their Sea Project this year compared to last year? (This will provide a benchmark for determining how the stand down affected sea projects.)
  2. A number of midshipmen could not complete their sea projects because they were not given the sea duty that would allow them to do so. Reportedly, they are receiving failing grades for something that was beyond their control.  (It is kind of hard to complete a cargo sea project if assigned to a Navy warship.) How many midshipmen are in that position and what steps are you taking to ameliorate the impact of the stand down on such midshipmen?
    1. Will any midshipmen lose liberty, time with families and/or extra-curricular activities to make up the deficiencies their sea time and/or deficiencies in their sea projects as a result of not being assigned to ships that would allow them to complete their sea projects?
    2. How many midshipmen are impacted in that manner?
  3. It has been over 70 days since the start of the A-split sea year and most midshipmen would normally have been at sea for most of that time. As of today, many have almost no time at sea and thus are at risk of being unable to graduate because the Academy failed to assign them to ships. How many midshipmen A-splits have achieved fewer than 20 days since the A-splits departed on or about November 1, 2016? 30 days? 40 days?
  4. As of today, how many A-split members of the class of 2018 do you project will return from their sea year with inadequate days of sea duty to allow them to graduate (without undergoing additional sea duty after their return to campus)?
  5. How come no representatives of the National Parents Association were appointed to the working group that is meeting to consider changes to the Academy’s sea year?
  6. There are a number of very prominent women mariners who have reached the pinnacle of the sailing profession. Many of them have also gone on to high level positions in the industry. Yet, it appears that only two such women were invited to participate in the working group. Why are women of accomplishment in the industry so under-represented on the working group?
  7. Subcommittee C of the working group could have incredible implications for the Academy’s curriculum; yet, neither the Academy’s acting dean nor any of the department heads are on the working group (and thus cannot be on Subcommittee C). Will you commit to modifying the working groups, and specifically Subcommittee C, to rectify this oversight?
  8. Similarly, one would have expected to see Gene Albert, the head of shipboard training at the Academy on the working group (and logically, he would have been assigned as the Chair of Subcommittee C). Why was he left off?
  9. The sea year stand down was a major change at the Academy that occurred after Middle States last visited the Academy and issued its report. Rightly or wrongly, it has thrown the campus into turmoil, further eroded trust in leadership, and seriously impacted morale.
    1. What has been communicated to Middle States about the stand down?
    2. What steps have you taken to make sure that the stand down will not result in an adverse review by Middle States (no matter what steps have been taken to address the requirements imposed by Middle States)?
  10. The Middle States accreditation team, the Self Solutions preliminary findings, the Inspector General, the Long Island Newsday Editorial Board and even LMI seem to be in agreement on one thing: that there are major problems with the leadership at the Academy.
    1. What specific actions do you intend to take to address the leadership problem?
    2. What steps are you taking to try to regain the confidence of the midshipmen, the parents and alumni?

We look forward to hearing your answers.


  1. Why couldn’t these issues have been investigated / resolved without resorting to such a drastic measure as the stand down?

  2. I believe it would have been appropriate and wise to have included at least one representative of the USMMAAF in the working group.

  3. I am thrilled that there seems to be real movement towards bringing back the commercial sea year. By the same token, it sounds a lot like all of this could have been implemented without a stand down or,at the very latest, sometime in July or August.

    I also notice that when Helis commented on why they had a problem with reporting of SASH, he mentioned everything negative in the LMI study about the mids and the industry, but failed to mention LMI’s finding that a lack of trust in leadership was also a disincentive to reporting.

    I can understand his being uncomfortable with that portion of the report, but if you want to base a “change in culture” on that report, you can’t just pick and choose those portions you wish to acknowledge.

    I know a lot of people on this board have called for Helis to resign. Personally, I am neutral on that topic given that I don’t think the stand down was his idea. But from a leadership and confidence building point of view, it would have been a smart move for Helis and MARAD, particularly in light of their own supposedly independent report, to acknowledge that they themselves are at least as responsible as the mids for the problems at the academy. After all, they have been running the place for the last five years. That type of admission, along with a prompt resumption of sea year, would go a long way towards restoring the faith of the regiment in their leaders.

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