The USMMAAAF has been quietly working the halls of Congress since long before Homecoming to try to avert the closure of the Academy in the event of a government shutdown. Government funding under the current continuing resolution runs out in four days — on Friday, December 22, 2017. In the event of a prolonged shutdown, the midshipmen at the Academy will not be returning from the winter break on January 2, 2018 because there will be no funds available to allow the Academy to operate, feed midshipmen, have personnel in place to supervise midshipmen, etc.
Few people understand how dramatically a temporary shutdown of the Academy could affect the midshipmen. Midshipmen at the Academy are on a trimester system that runs from July to June and, combined with the need to send second and third classmen out to sea for sea year, if there is a prolonged shutdown, there is almost no way to get them their necessary classroom time and sea time and maintain their graduation schedule. During the last shutdown, the Academy stated that because the academic schedule was so crowded, there were only 19 days available in an entire year that could be used as make up missed days. The academic schedule is no less intense now; however, because a 2017 shutdown would come later in the year as compared to 2013, I suspect that there will be far fewer days available to make up for lost days (in 2013, those days would have included the winter break days, which will not be available if a shutdown affects the return of the midshipmen on January 2, 2018). A shutdown of the Academy for more than a very short period of time could cause massive disruption in the lives of the midshipmen.
I suspect that those who do not have an intimate understanding of how the Academy works probably view the effect of a government shutdown on the Academy like they might view a “snow day” at a normal college. They don’t understand the logistics. It is possible that despite the best efforts of the Alumni Association, some in Congress also do not fully understand how damaging even a short shutdown could be. The other four federal academies are protected by law from a shutdown. The AAF has been working to extend that same protection the the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. This is your chance to help.
The AAF sent out its Signal Flags newsletter yesterday with the following information about how you can help:
In case you haven’t been keeping up with the usual budgetary back and forth in Washington, for the sake of the 900-plus Midshipmen currently at Kings Point, it’s time to start. There is a very real chance that budgeting discussions will soon reach an impasse and a government shutdown is on the horizon.
If a shutdown happens, Kings Point will be forced to immediately cease operations.
To make matters worse, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, will be the only institution of higher learning in America that will be forced to immediately close. Many of you will remember that we faced this situation during the government shutdown in 2013, and the situation still hasn’t improved.
Last minute legislative discussions leading up to the 2013 shutdown carved out space to make sure West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy, and the Coast Guard Academy remained unaffected. Civilian employees at each were deemed “essential” by their Cabinet Secretary thanks to a quick-acting Congress, but the USMMA was overlooked.
We need your help to tell Congress that U.S. Merchant Marine Academy operations are ESSENTIAL and can’t be forced to immediately cease.
We ask that you take the time to contact your representative in the House and Senate, letting them know our shared concerns about Kings Point’s continued operations. Tell your representative to support Senator Roger Wicker’s efforts to amend the Pay our Military Act (S 871, HR 2220) which will ensure USMMA is no longer overlooked, and will ensure emergency funding for USMMA in the event of a shutdown.
Thanks for your support and advocacy, so our Midshipmen can avoid this rollercoaster of uncertainty year after year.
We would appreciate all graduates report their congressional contacts and responses to our Legislative Affairs Coordinator Brian Foy ’83 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents can report to the National Parents Association Congressional Affairs Committee Liaison Keith McLiverty at email@example.com.
Capt. James F. Tobin ’77
Please do what you can to contact your Senators and Representatives and make sure they know that you would like their support for Senator Wicker’s proposed amendment. Thanks.