As reported here (and elsewhere) yesterday, Maritime Administrator Mark H. Buzby cleared his calendar today so that he could get up to the Academy and get a first hand view of what was happening with the furniture fiasco in Fourth and Fifth Companies. This evening, he copied me on the following email entitled “KP FURNITURE SITREP” that he sent to the leadership of the Alumni Association and the National Parents Association:
I traveled up to KP today to put eyes on target and gain a first hand understanding of what is going on with the furniture swap out in Jones and Barry Halls (4th & 5th Co). I spoke with the Superintendent, Commandant, Deputy Commandant, both Company officers, last night’s CDO, John Demers, the RC, and the 4th and 5th Co CX’s. I also spoke with about twenty Mids of all classes who were in the midst of it.
Status of Midshipmen: 35 were not able to sleep in their own rooms last night (Tues). All were provided a bunk in a room in another Company, except for three who opted to remain in 4th Co with friends and sleep on a mattress on deck in their room. CX4 and the CDO showed me their lists of where they had people specifically berthed. I was told that CX5 took similar action. No one was aware of anyone sleeping in Land Hall with no heat as was reported.
There is heat in all barracks, however the main deck doors were open to permit furniture movement in and out, so it was cool on the main deck while I was there. 2nd and 3rd deck was fine.
Belongings: I spoke with over 20 Mids in their rooms and everyone had all of their belongings which had been retrieved from the company storeroom (contained in Tupperware tubs and hanging bags). Most of it was in the process of being stowed, awaiting the new wardrobes and chests of drawers which were coming in as I was there. Those who went to class today told me that they had all the material they needed for class – not an issue. The upper two decks in both buildings have bunks, desks, chest of drawers, and most have wardrobes. Remainder of those were coming in today and tomorrow. There is NO new furniture outside in the weather; it comes off the truck and straight in the door and to the room. The main decks in both buildings were getting their new furniture today and tomorrow, however weather will likely impact tomorrow’s work. Best estimate is all new furniture in by Saturday and everyone in their own racks. The 35 number will be less tonight, and go to 0 by Saturday. 4th and 5th Co midshipmen officers are showing some real leadership and ensuring that their people are taken care of, and they are getting great help from the other CC’s and the Reg staff. Was most impressive to see. Class of 18 is showing their stuff.
The Junk: it is everywhere; but I also saw a lot being carried out today. Mostly old mattresses are in the barracks passageways; metal stuff is mostly gone and the upper decks look like a barracks. The pile outside in the buildings is extensive, but the scrapper is supposed to start moving it out in next couple of days weather permitting. It literally had to be sawzall’ed out of each room. It looks like a mess.
How we got here: I am still pulling string on specifics of contract, but my bottom line is that contractor said he had 20 days worth of work, but only period to execute (holiday break) was only 14 days long. So behind the power curve to start with. Should have been conveyed to all – but apparently was not. That was before disassembly problems encountered. Contractor notified Academy, but said they could still meet schedule. Probably could have if contractor had brought additional labor to bear – which it was not – until today. I have my contract folks looking at the specs to see what the detailed requirements were, and if there is action to be taken there.
Where we stand: Everyone has a bunk for the night. Heat is on. Mids are very much taking it in stride. I apologized to Regiment and thanked them for their patience during noon chow. During tomorrow’s snow shutdown, RC told me they were going to focus on clearing out old furniture and squaring away barracks. I fully expect all rooms to be outfitted by this weekend. Commandant’s staff will remain closely engaged to push completion as quickly as possible.
Where we go from here: Superintendent and I had an extensive discussion after my inspection. I had my staff inform the BoV Congressional Members staffs this morning of the situation, and we also prepared a press response should we receive a query. Thus far we have not heard from either. Last evening I informed Secretary Chao’s Chief of Staff of the situation and promised to keep him updated on any significant developments. The Secretary knows that I traveled up to KP today.
The Superintendent promised to provide a daily update on progress until completion.
Please understand that this is my report of conditions and not a discussion of the process that obviously did not serve our Midshipmen well. That will come later.
Let me know if you have specific questions and I will attempt to answer. You are welcome to share this as desired.
Hope your hatches are battened down for the approaching heavy weather.
My immediate observations:
- It’s so refreshing to finally see someone in command who is willing to descend from the Officer’s Deck and show genuine concern for the crew. No platitudes. No talk about any sacrifice on his part (cough, cough). No excuses or efforts to shift blame.
- Reports that I received from midshipmen today indicated that RADM Buzby’s visit was much appreciated.
- It was also good to see confirmation of the impression I had gained (from seeing some of the internal email traffic) that several of the midshipmen officers showed real leadership in looking out for their people.
- It’s good that the initial furniture problem is being managed; and, tomorrow’s weather cancellation of classes will give the mids an opportunity to get things further squared away.
- For everyone who thinks that this is an issue solely about furniture (it’s not, it’s ultimately about a failure of leadership), RADM Buzby mentions two open items in his SITREP that I believe are the most important part of this. First, I’m particularly interested to find out whether the contract gave the contractor 20 days (versus the contractor simply thinking it needed 20 days) to complete the job. If the contract allowed 20 days and the contractor was told to proceed when only 14 days were available, then someone seriously screwed up. Second, RADM Buzby points out that his SITREP is “not a discussion of the process that obviously did not serve our Midshipmen well. That will come later.” That process is the primary issue that needs to be addressed. It’s that process that raised to the Cabinet level an issue that should have been either a situation that never developed into a problem or, at most, a minor problem that was quickly addressed before it got out of hand. That’s the failure of leadership that still must be addressed.