Dear Secretary Chao:
Congratulations on your confirmation as Secretary of Transportation. Those of us who have watched the systematic attack on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy over the last five years — an attack accelerated in the last seven months with the
stand down cancellation of sea year and the wilful failure to promptly and professionally address the threat to the Academy’s accreditation and the concerns of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education — were particularly heartened to hear your statement during your confirmation hearing that Kings Point will be “the first thing I take up at MARAD.”
There are three immediate action items that we hope you will consider.
- Immediately restore sea year on commercial ships. There was never a valid reason for ordering the cessation of sea year on commercial ships. As this website has documented, the reasons given for the
stand downcancellation were false; and the data upon which the false reasons were based was badly flawed and misinterpreted. MARAD withheld the actual data for months until public pressure finally forced it to release the data — the same data that every other federal academy freely releases.
- Demand real and demonstrable steps — and transparency — in the Academy’s efforts to address the looming threat to reaccreditation. The out-of-date and bureaucratic jargon we are given gives us great concern.
- Address the leadership issues at both the Academy and within MARAD (including the career employees at MARAD). This post summarizes some of the leadership problems at MARAD and Kings Point. Fairly or unfairly, Superintendent Helis lacks the confidence of any of the Academy’s stakeholders; this may be one reason why. This is definitely a reason why, especially after this. It is not unfair, as we explained here, to demand Helis’ resignation — or show him the door if he refuses.
These action items have the support of every Academy stakeholder. Today’s message from the National Parents Association is a good example. But Congress agrees. The maritime unions agree. The industry agrees. On the leadership issues, even the LMI report — a product of a blatant conflict of interest and a cover up — agrees. When the group that MARAD hand picked to deliver it the results that MARAD wanted nevertheless comes out slamming Academy leadership, you know the leadership must be bad.
I will have a separate post on the SAPR Working Group that is supposed to make recommendations regarding Kings Point Sea Year. There are a number of actions you can take with respect to it. Suffice it to say for now that (a) it is not legally constituted as required by the legislation creating it and (b) it has been stacked with partisans or individuals with conflicts of interest who were placed there by the prior administration in an effort to further their agenda long after their time expired. It is a Trojan horse.
The motto of the Academy is Acta non Verba — Deeds not Words. The last administration wanted neither our deeds nor our words (witness its treatment of this website’s deeds and words). We look forward to working with you to make the United States Merchant Marine Academy great once again. The midshipmen, the parents, the alumni, indeed, the entire industry: We all have your back.
To all supporters of Kings Point: We all know there is a problem with leadership at KP and we are calling for action. I know that it is difficult for Secretary Chao to act on short notice but I feel strongly that we do have a solution that we can propose for the short term and perhaps long term. Dr. Shashi Kumar was “moved” from the Dean’s position at KP to a post at MARAD to keep him out of the way, in my humble opinion, of the Superintendent. I feel we need immediate solutions and appointing Dr. Kumar as the Interim Superintendent will result in very fast resolutions to most of the problems we face with accreditation. He has served admirably as the interim Supt twice before and has the support and respect of virtually every stakeholder that I can think of. I just hope that he has the willingness to take on the challenge but I feel he is the solution that can turn things around very quickly.