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.