Breaking: Bravo Zulu VADM Buono

VADM Buono announced today that he will be retiring as the Academy’s 13th Superintendent when the Class of 2022 graduates in June.  Thirteen turned out to be a lucky number for the Academy and we owe him a tremendous debt and hearty thanks.

Buono assumed command in a time of crisis. Sea year had been cancelled by MARAD — to the point that midshipmen were referring to their Sea Year “experience” (which consisted largely of assignment to ROS ships that were incapable of getting underway) as “Land Year”.) After graduating from the Academy in 1978, Buono sailed with Exxon for 18 years and raised his license to Master Mariner. He served as captain on five different Exxon vessels. He moved ashore in 1991 and eventually became president and CEO of SeaRiver Maritime in 2016.  He came out of retirement to serve his alma mater as superintendent, officially assuming command in November 2018. The regiment was in dire need of a leader who put their interests first.

Buono’s tenure has been marked by many accomplishments including earning a third star to become Vice Admiral and being awarded the Secretary of Transportation’s Gold Award for meritorious achievement.  The award is the highest award the Secretary of Transportation can bestow and is given for “outstanding leadership and distinguished contributions of major significance.” In Buono’s case, it was for his response to the COVID-19 crisis. The reason for the Gold Award is evident when one realizes that the Academy was the only federal academy to graduate, on time, both of the classes of midshipmen that were due to graduate during the pandemic.

That accomplishment — making sure his mids graduated on time — also demonstrates how Buono led the Academy. During his tenure there was never any doubt that he would put the best interests of the midshipmen ahead of any other interest. It was a welcome change from his predecessor and should be the North Star that guides any future superintendent.

Buono leaves at a time when Sea Year is once again under a stand down cancellation. But make no mistake about it — despite the rantings of a certain Internet troll — the Academy’s superintendent has no control over SASH committed aboard a commercial ship against a midshipman when no report of the crime was made to the Academy. Indeed, even MARAD has no such control. And unlike his predecessor, Buono has kept open lines of communication with the stakeholders and did not abuse the stand down cancellation for his own purposes.

We wish VADM Buono fair winds and following seas. 


  1. While Buono has done an outstanding job, the timing of his announcement and date of retirement could lead one to believe that his departure is not voluntary. Of much, much greater concern is who this administration will select to the the next Superintendent when they haven’t even made a serious attempt to file the Maritime Administrator slot. This leaves the Academy in the hands of Dunlop who, based on having met her, is the last person who should ever be the Superintendent, even on an interim basis. Unfortunately, the politicians will always want an empty suit who will do exactly as she/he is told — Helis 2.0. It is going to be a very, very bumpy ride.

    At this point it is a very, very good thing that the band is back together.

    • I have a source deep in DOT, who has proven to be reliable in the past, who tells me that the decision was entirely Buono’s and that he wanted to make the announcement earlier this year and was asked by DOT/MARAD to hold off. I feel very confident in saying that it was completely voluntary.

      I agree that Dunlop is not the person for the interim job and that we are going to have to be very vigilant in the selection process so that we don’t end up with another May-He-Rot-In-Helis. Some of us know the backstory on how May-He-Rot-In-Helis got hired and the machinations that went on to make sure he got selected despite two of the three committees that interviewed him concluding that he was not the person for the job. As I understand it, one of the committees recommended that the entire process be restarted because they didn’t think any of the final candidates were qualified. I don’t think I ever published that story because it was water long over the dam by the time I started the blog, but there is much, much more to that story.

  2. With the disappointing announcement today of Admiral Buono’s departure, I have some thoughts.. I have been around USMMA since 1997. (That’s 9 Superintendents if you count interims.) I wrote “King’s Point Acta non Verba.” I am currently writing a book on Admiral Joseph Stewart and Leadership. I am a past NPA chair. It’s the “here we go again” problem. We get excellent Superintendents who know King’s Point and the Maritime industry. They know how to fix the problems and how to train our mids. But the DC political administration changes and the good ones leave and we end up with political appointees who have no idea what they are doing. Some have never been on a ship. Losing both Admiral Buzby AND Admiral Buono at King’s Point is a devastating blow and historically it will take a new election and a new political administration in the White House before we see a positive direction again. How tragic for our Mariners! They deserve better from DOT and MARAD.

    • You seem to be unable to resist mixing your partisan politics with what are often otherwise good comments, but I continue to hope you will realize continuing to take swipes at the current administration is not in the best interests of KP.

      • Oh well, the truth hurts. I have always believed that the longshot election of 46 was only reason why Buzby or Buono were able to installed in the first place. USMMA enjoyed a four year reprieve from the policies of 45, but it was not enough to reverse 8 years of damage caused by 45, his appointments and his “never underestimate Joe’s ability to F*** things up” deputy now at the helm. Elections have consequences – what part of that do you not understand?

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