How MARAD Snookered Senators Fischer and Booker and Congress

In the recent posts (here and here) about the hijacking of the mission of the Congressional Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (“SAPR”) Working Group, I’ve mentioned that MARAD was the proponent of the legislation creating the Working Group. But the other day it suddenly occurred to me – why was it necessary for MARAD to propose such legislation? MARAD oversees the Academy. It could have easily created the working group without any legislation. So why did MARAD go to Congress to seek the legislation?

I racked my brain and couldn’t come up with an answer. Then I texted the question to one of my colleagues and was amazed at the speed with which the answer came back to me:

“They did it this way (with legislation) so it would survive after Jaenichen’s departure.”

My colleague nailed it. If you are Chip Jaenichen, a political appointee who knows his term is coming to an end with the end of the Obama administration, how do you create a policy and keep it from being canceled by the next guy?  You get Congress to pass a law. Jaenichen didn’t need a law to create the SAPR working group, he could have just done it.  But he would need a law if he wanted the SAPR working group to continue past his time in office.  Getting a law passed was the only way to be sure that would happen. And how do you do that?  Well, in the case of Jaenichen’s efforts to cancel USMMA Sea Year on commercial ships, you wrap that insidious language in a package filled with non-controversial verbiage about fighting sexual assault and take it to the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security  chaired by Senator Deb Fischer and Ranking Member Cory Booker.  Senators cannot be expected to discover hidden agendas of a Executive Branch agency that are buried in a comprehensive piece of legislation — especially when it is well-hidden in feel-good language addressing a hot button issue like sexual-assualt-on-campus.

And that is how the SAPR Working Group came to be in a law.  And, hidden within the paragraphs of MARAD-drafted, feel-good, SASH language (most of which were policies already in place) of the proposed law (S.2829) was the now infamous “Line 6.”  Line 6 tasked the Working Group with evaluating whether Sea Year on commercial ships should be replaced with “alternative training” (i.e. state school training ships, the only training platform not already in use by USMMA). Line 6 was the language which would essentially require the working group to recommend replacing sea year on commercial ships with training on state maritime school training ships.  Line 6 was the poison. The rest of that part of the bill was simply fluff designed to hide the poison.  And as we’ve well documented in previous posts, forcing Kings Pointers onto state school training ships would bolster Jaenichen’s efforts to get $1.8 billion in Congressional federal funding for that fleet of new training ships for the six state schools.

So, finally, if you’re Jaenichen, how do you further snooker Congress to be sure your people are on Working Group who will further your sea year agenda?  You create a list of, literally, over 50 people who “should” be on the Working Group. Buried in that list are your allies – and you write language which requires that those allies be on the Working Group.  Most everyone else is optional – they are chafe hiding the people you need to be involved.  You also make sure the only people required to be on the committee from USMMA are the Superintendent (your ally who supports cancelling Sea Year) and the sexual assault response coordinator (who works for your ally). That’s it – two people from USMMA.  Then you REQUIRE your allies, at least one person from each of the six state maritime academies (so it could be six or sixty or six hundred) — to be on the Working Group.  Finally, you make sure no quorum is required for the Working Group, draft the language so you yourself can be on that committee after leaving MARAD, and hand the language off to an unsuspecting Senator to sponsor.

That is how you snooker Congress and make Senators your cat’s paw.

The devil is most certainly always in the details.  MARAD conned good people in the Senate who unfortunately weren’t schooled enough in Jaenichen’s actual agenda buried in that bill to recognize they were being snookered. Fortunately, some observant USMMA stakeholders uncovered the snookery – but by then the bill was passed in the full Senate.  Not to be deterred, Academy stakeholders made sure Congress saw what had actually happened, and Congress fixed the language in Conference.

As detailed in these two posts (here and here), even after having his “plan A” uncovered and defeated, Jaenichen wasn’t done.  Just before he left office, he and the departing Deputy Administrator Michael “Anchorman” Rodriguez simply issued instructions to the Working Group that were contrary to what the law now requires and reinstated the language Jaenichen wanted.  MARAD created subcommittees (not in the law), put Jaenichen’s ally (the USMMA superintendent) on a committee that oversees the subcommittees, put the USMMA Deputy Superintendent (another ally) as co-chairman of the subcommittee evaluating Sea Year, and directed the Working Group to use the previous administration’s discredited, $363,000 LMI study that was rigged from the start to give MARAD the result it wanted and thus, (no surprise) recommended changing sea year on commercial ships to something akin to the state schools’ summer-at-sea on  training ships.

The Academy’s midshipmen are the ultimate victims of this Machiavellian strategy. But MARAD took advantage of Congress and now is taking advantage of the volunteers on the Working Group who are spending a lot of their valuable time re-inventing the SASH wheel without realizing that they are merely camouflage of MARAD’s real agenda.  That is patently unfair to them.


  1. I’ve said this all along. Despite my negative feelings towards Helis as a leader, the little I have ever heard from anyone on the “inside” is that he did not personally support the stand down and that he does not want to end sea year on commercial ships. He basically got pushed into it by his bosses as a way of directing attention away from the accreditation issue. Now, while they’ve gone off to greener pastures, he’s stuck holding the bag. I could very well be wrong given how things have actually played out, but at this point, with Jaenechin and Rodriguez out, someone should just ask him directly the following question:

    Do you, Admiral Helis, personally and/or professionally, support either the partial or total elimination of the traditional KP sea year on commercial ship? Yes or No?

    As a related aside, in the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several mids who have recently made it out to sea (finally) on commercial ships. Needless to say they are thrilled and they have been made to feel very welcome by the officers and crew. One common theme, however, that I am hearing from the mids is that Helis, Jaenechin and Rodriguez may be the most despised people in the industry, particularly among KP grads. Officers at every level are insulted that they have been basically labeled by those three as, “a bad influences on the mids”. Nonetheless, despite the insults thrown at them,I have also been hearing stories about the great help and guidance they have been providing to the mids on their sea projects.

    In a nutshell, nobody seems to be taking out their anger at the administration out on the mids. In fact, they may even be going out of their way to prove the administration wrong. IN the long run, this may prove to be a positive for the mids when it comes to seeking employment in the future given that many of those who might be responsible for hiring seem to feel an added sense of obligation to the current mids whose education they feel has been short changed. Just a thought.

  2. The post is not clear, has the working group “recommended changing sea year on commercial ships to something akin to the state schools’ summer-at-sea on training ships”, or, is that just referring to the LMI study? I have not seen any discussions of an actual recommendation change from the working groups.

    • Sorry, I’ll see if I can make it clearer in the post. But, to answer your question, no, the Working Group has not recommended anything yet. The Working Group’s draft recommendations are due (internally, MARAD-imposed deadline) at the end of June 2017. It is required to report to Congress in Sept. 2017.

      What MARAD did is direct that the Working Group evaluate the LMI study’s recommendations — which include having sea year on commercial ships be limited to a “capstone program” (which is how some of the state maritime schools refer to a brief stint on commercial ships that certain cadets get to do after spending most of their sea time on the training ship). The critical thing to realize is that a consideration of alternatives to sea year is what MARAD wanted to have in the legislation coming from Congress. But, Congress rejected that idea and instead directed the Working Group to look at ways for improving the prevention of, and reporting of, SASH during sea year. MARAD refuses to listen to Congress. So it is trying to accomplish the exact thing that Congress rejected by instructing the Working Group to evaluate the LMI study recommendations — which recommends (because MARAD controlled the report) considering alternatives to sea year.

      It’s a perfect example of the Administrative State at work — Executive Branch agencies that refuse to recognize that Congress calls the shots. MARAD is effectively using Obama’s famous “pen and a phone” to ignore the will of Congress.

  3. The choice to seek codified law is stronger, however they could have also created a new Code of Federal Regulation. Given past precedent MARAD fails to follow those also like 46 CFR 310.59 which requires a Dual License Program or 46 CFR 310.57 (e) Reporting to the Academy which states “to the Academy on a specified date in mid-July for orientation and induction.”

    The USMMA no longer offers a Dual License Program and requires Candidates who accept offers of appointment to now report in late June per the academic calendar.

    We shall see if they can follow the newly codified law, they can’t follow their own code of federal regulations.

  4. Just for the record. For the past several years, as well as being the band director, I was also the academy’s drug-alcohol counselor. Relevant midshipman alcohol abuse cases were referred to the “official” alcohol treatment team…Made up of the Academy Psychologist, Social. Worker and myself. I have a Master’s Degree in Alcoholism and am a New York State Credentialed Alcohol-Substance Abuse counselor with an additional Credential as a Gambling Counseling. I also hold an INTERNATIONAL accreditation in conjunction to my NY official Accreditation. For years I took assigned Midshipmen to OPEN (open to the public) and kept exacting records. Even though I retired in July 2016 I retained all of those records. The Superintendent, RADM Hellis, met with me once when he first arrived…He never spoke to me or met with me again..Right to my departure which was strange to say the least, especially since we had alcohol people’s as most colleges do. I also gave plebe lecture s which were popular with the midshipman. One day a government SARC showed up. To say the least he was a disaster..He often asked me “how can I get a license like you.I told him to call MYState OASAS. He was shocked at the state requirements and testing. 2 year later a woman appeared, with the same title. Once again, I was excluded from any sexual assaults issues…But I continued to act as I always did with the Alcohol treatment team.I lived on the campus for obvious emergency alcohol related problems, in addition, I drove the midshipmen to AA meetings at night or on weekends. The dates and times of those meetings and the midshipmen involved I still retained. They go back to 2004. One day a listing of who was to live on the campus was sent to me. Frankly since I was the one Person really necessary I frankly didn’t pay attention to it. Two years later I was called to meet with RADM Hellis. ( Remember) he had met with me 3 years previously.
    He told me they needed my quarters and that I had to vacate my quarters within the next few months. I was shocked. He told me there were two others also who had to leave. The Academy electrician ( who never left) and an academy supervisor who told me that RADM Hellis called him into his office when he found out he was moving off with his wife…And Hellis acted shocked and told him flat out “I didn’t mean you!” I FINALLY had enough, it was obvious they wanted me off the campus but since I was handicapped, it was also impossible for me to not only conduct the band…Which I built from a 14 member ” moving noise” to a world Class musical institution.As a result of my work with the band, I was elected to the prestigious American Bandmasters Association. And was the leader of the small group that erected a 9 ft. Statue of John Philip Sousa at the new Marine Barracks in Washington, the Marine Corps was nice enough to recognize my work in a bronze plaque at the rear of the statue. Back at the Academy members of the Alumni, started a petition, which quickly morphed into 904 signatures and letters some from Steamship company executives, CEO’s, Retired Navy Admirals and Marine Generals, and past Superintendents. Admiral Helis and MARAD clearly did not expect this push back from over 1,000 almuni, and Maritime professional professionals including current Midshipmen. Shortly thereafter I met in the cafeteria almost by accident. He offered me a deal. If I announced my retirement at the upcoming Beat Retreat ..Attended by parents and alumni,they would let me stay until they following June. Admiral Helis called me in a few days later and asked me what I wanted to leave. I told him “the title Emeritus and to stay until the end of July. Oh yes, on graduation, the Maritime administration presented me with a beautiful plaque for distinguished service. Oh yes, my quarter’s remain empty…. Obviously they really weren’t needed.

    • Capt Force is an iconic part of decades of Kings Point tradition. He and I had our highs and lows (like me and my clarinet playing the high “C” at to end of the Star Spangled Banner an octave above the trumpets!) but he always made sure the Kings Point Spirit was well represented. He is a legend. God Steer Thee Well Kings Point!

    • You made difference and a proud tradition, That is all we need and the powers that be failed everyone. I wouldn’t have made it If it wasn’t for the band and commaraderie.

    • I forwarded this comment to a friend and he asked me to check and make sure it was actually written by Capt Force. His concern was: “…it just doesn’t read right”. He trying to be responsible before passing it on.

  5. Your March 24, 2027 post is quite explicit and can be summarized in two sentences: 1) the Working Group was designed to circumvent the intent of Congress, and 2) Working Group membership was designed to circumvent the intent of Congress.
    What is necessary now is to ensure that the Working Group is directed to concentrate on “looking at the ways for improving the prevention of, and reporting of, SASH during Sea Year” and not divert its attention to MARAD’s hidden agenda to “evaluate whether Sea Year on commercial ships should be replaced with alternative training…”
    How can that FLASH message be conveyed to Secretary Chao?

  6. Andy, I believe you have nailed it. This is exactly what Obama did to trump as he left office. My guess is that Valerie Jarrett is the guiding hand here.

  7. One should also note the “sound of crickets” on everything and anything related to KP lately. No news on response to MSCHE, nothing. When things are this quiet one wonders what is going on behind the scenes — and the silence is probably not a good sign. This is especially so given that only one (1) appointment to support Secretary Chao at DOT (Deputy Secretary) has been announced. The designation of Mrs. Chao’s Deputy wasn’t made until early March. So, other than members of Mrs. Chao’s small personal staff, it does not appear that anyone from the new administration is watching the store at MARAD.

  8. Every time I read something about the Academy it becomes more weird. This example demonstrates a total lack of leadership by the Superintendent yet again.

    It is also evident that politics at a very high level is behind the sea year SNAFU.

  9. Isn’t! It time to raise the torches and the pitchforks And escort (being polite) Helis off campus. At any one of the other federal academies he would have been relieved 4 years ago….wake up. Really this is a Naval Reserve unit …The Navy would have canned Helis long ago. And by the way we are his employers and if we do not get immmediate answers from the FOIA request recently submitted by a concerned citizen regarding accreditation I would say there is even more reason for action.

  10. My Class, 1962 was there when the “Powers That Be” forced CDR Ferris out. He taught Electronics and had invented “The Ferris Luminous Plotter” for Radar Plotting at night using Black Light (UV) so as to not ruin your “Night Eyes.” My section got his “Farewell Address” which included, “Now you will have an Instructor who does not even know how to hold a screwdriver properly.” I often feel like a flounder watching the sharks above me savage one another.

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