Editorial: The ultimate conclusion to be drawn from the SAGR statistics

Yesterday, I posted the results of my analysis of the Academy’s SA/SH statistics. As an alum, it pained me to report those results; because, they showed that the SA/SH problem lies, not with sea year, but with midshipman who are sexually assaulting other midshipman. Painful as that fact is, it’s the truth, and anyone who really cares about stopping SA/SH must confront the truth.

My willingness to acknowledge the truth of SA/SH at the Academy is where I differ from Superintendent Helis and MARAD. Rather than addressing the real SA/SH issue, they have deliberately distorted the issue. That’s offensive enough; but in the ultimate abuse of power, they have used SA/SH and a sanctimonious claim that they are protecting the midshipmen to create a false narrative – in order to hide their own malfeasance. Their actions have actually continued to expose midshipmen to the same SA/SH problem and diverted valuable resources from addressing the problem, while simultaneously libeling an entire industry.

The problem with SA/SH among midshipmen is addressable. The regiment is made up of teenagers and young adults who are going through the same maturing processes that are taking place at schools across the country. The difference is that at other schools, there is a leadership team in place that understands how to address the problem. The Academy is lacking that leadership. Helis took over the helm in 2012. Chip Jaenichen became Maritime Administrator that same year. They may have done some good things regarding other aspects of the Academy, but SA/SH has increased ever since they took over.  And, they took over with a mandate to address the SA/SH problem.

In August 2016, Academy leadership was harshly condemned for failing to address the SA/SH problem by the Inspector General. And that was after we learned in June what Academy leadership had known since at least April: that the the Academy is in danger of losing its accreditation – the first federal academy to ever be placed on accreditation warning – in large part because of Academy leadership’s failure to address the SA/SH problem.

The [then pending] June 2016 release of the Middle States accreditation report should have been the final dash of reality that shook Academy leadership out of its stupor and caused it to finally address the problem. Instead, we saw the energy that should have been used to address the problem expended on a giant cover up. In order to hide the failure of leadership, SA/SH was weaponized against an entire industry.

Shortly after the sea year stand down cancellation was announced, Helis falsely claimed that Middle States had identified an SA/SH issue related to sea year.  I offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove Helis’ claim was true. The money remains  unclaimed. Jaenichen made the same false claim in a July 13, 2016 “town hall” meeting. (See page 2 of the transcript.)

As I have also documented, the false  sea year-has-an-SA/SH-problem-and-its-an-accreditation-issue narrative was concocted sometime between May 20, 2016 and June 16, 2016 — after Academy leadership learned of the accreditation warning but shortly before the bad news became public. Then, immediately after the accreditation news was announced to the public, Academy leadership made the above false statements about what the accreditation team said about sea year in the hopes that we would not actually read the accreditation report and would instead be reassured that they had already taken action through the sea year stand down cancellation.

Jaenichen and Helis have the same data we have. They know what it shows. They know that it indicts their own leadership. Rather than stand up, they stood down. Worse, they stood sea year down. Sea year, the industry, and the midshipmen they are sworn to protect were all thrown under the bus in their effort to hide their failures. The inescapable conclusion is that they would rather let the Academy lose accreditation than actually address the SA/SH problem and admit that they have wreaked nothing but havoc on a venerable institution for the last four years.

If a culture of SA/SH exists at the Academy, its because there is a culture of corruption and incompetence at the top. This is the same leadership that didn’t want the Alumni Association on campus because they didn’t want a watchdog looking out for the interests of the midshipmen. They didn’t want it so badly that they falsely claimed in a federal court proceeding that the Alumni Association needed to be evicted because the Academy urgently needed the rooms the Association occupied to  be used as classrooms. Update: the property has sat empty ever since and is now condemned. Then, as now, false claims were made and “for the good of the midshipmen” was used as a shield against efforts to get to the truth. Then, as now, the midshipmen were the victims. Then, as now, the perpetrator was Helis, assisted by Jaenichen.

This is the same leadership that has gone out of its way to purge the Academy administration of Kings Point alumni. They don’t want someone who cares about the institution serving as a watchdog.

It is long past the time when Helis and Jaenichen should have resigned. They do not have the trust of the midshipmen. Rightly so. They do not have the trust of the alumni. Rightly so. They do not have the trust of the parents. Rightly so. They do not have the trust of the Academy faculty and staff. Rightly so. They do not have the trust of the Inspector General. Rightly so. They do not have the trust of Middle States. Rightly so. They do not have the trust of the maritime industry. Rightly so.

By lying, Helis and Jaenichen have set the poorest possible example for the midshipmen they are charged with leading and protecting. By lying and diverting resources from the real SA/SH problem, they have further endangered those midshipmen. Since Helis and Jaenichen are apparently incapable of doing the right thing by resigning, it is time for Secretary Foxx to take action and fire them. He should do it for the good of the midshipmen and to protect them.


  1. Andy,
    I’m trying to follow your logic. Do I have this right? You think RADM Helis and Administrator Jaenichen should resign or be fired because you believe they’re lying. What would you recommend for Secretary Foxx?

    • I would recommend that he fire them. I know that’s not what you were trying to suggest with your question; but that’s what I would recommend. I think Secretary Foxx has been played by his subordinates. We know that Sea Year SA/SH was not an issue as late as May 20, 2010. We know that the announcement of the stand down cancellation was made on June 16, 2016. We know that there was a meeting with Secretary Foxx, Jaenichen, Helis, and van Wyk on June 10, 2016. At this point, the latter three certainly knew the accreditation warning was coming down. (Helis acknowledges he knew about it in April 2016.) They certainly knew that because they were the three leaders charged with oversight of the Academy for the previous 3-4 years, they were going to be in the hot seat. The accreditation report pointed the finger directly at Academy Leadership for failing to address the SA/SH issue. My suspicion is that they decided to blame sea year as a way of directing the blame away from themselves. They already had the June 24, 2016 meeting with industry scheduled, and van Wyk’s written report informed Secretary Foxx that this meeting was planned. Van Wyk’s report did not recommend a sea year stand down.

      The decision to cancel sea year came out of the blue. A logical explanation is that Secretary Foxx believed his subordinates about the seriousness of a problem at sea year and reacted to their report by saying, “put a stop to sea year until we’ve addressed this.” And it spun out of control from there.

      What happened in that meeting is supposition (other than we know that van Wyk described significant issues involving sea year; focused on steps that, in her opinion industry (along with MARAD and the Academy), needed to take; and informed the Secretary about the June 24, 2016 meeting). But the way the stand down cancellation occurred, with no advance warning (or planning), announced six days after this meeting, makes the above scenario very plausible.

  2. Do you know: 1. is there legislation or policy in place to insure the other academies have alumni in top critical roles?
    2. should we now consider pushing to introduce the same for Kings Point?
    I know this seems a bit off point, but while we are pushing and gaining momentum it seems like a good time to do so.

    • Julie, here’s the answer from someone who knows this stuff better than me:

      No alumni, but it is in legislation that the Superintendent of each of the other 4 academies be from that service’s branch.

      USMA: 10USC403 Para 4333: ….(a) The Superintendent and the Commandant of Cadets of the Academy shall be detailed to those positions by the President from any branch of the Army…”

      USNA: 10USC603 Para 6951a. …(b) The Superintendent shall be detailed to that position by the President. As a condition for detail to that position, an officer shall acknowledge that upon termination of that detail the officer shall be retired…”

      USAFA: 10USC903 Para 9333 (a) The Superintendent and Commandant of Cadets of the Academy shall be detailed to those positions by the President from the officers of the Air Force.

      USCGA: 14USC 9 Para 181 The Commandant [of the USCG] may select a superintendent from the active list of the Coast Guard who shall serve in the pleasure of the Commandant.

      As for pushing for it for KP, There is pending language in the National Defense Authorization Act regarding creating minimum requirements for USMMA supt and commandant to mimic being in the service branch like the other academies – still being finalized in conference.

  3. I read the MS report and it only briefly touched on the SA/SH issue. Specifically, it point to the fact that only a handful of incidents were reported from which they draw an assumption that reporting is/was likely an issue. I am not saying there is not a problem, but it was definitely not the primary reason for the warning, the lack of leadership, planning and accountability are all cited as issues that needed attention.

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