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.