Inspector General Reports on KP

Here’s the Inspector General’s 2014 report on SASH at KP.
Here’s the Inspector General’s August 2016 follow up.

Look at the progress — or lack thereof — over two years and draw your own conclusions as to whether the problem lies with sea year or with leadership at the Academy. Then re-read Joseph Keefe’s article where he concludes,

[I]t is clear that these students are safer while on board the garden variety U.S. flag merchant vessel than they are when they are sleeping in their own dormitory on campus at Kings Point. That’s what the numbers tell us. Marad owes these shipping companies, their merchant mariners and the midshipmen themselves, an unambiguous apology.

I can’t help but believe that the whole sea year stand down cancellation was a gigantic “Look, a squirrel” diversion to deflect attention from two separate reports (the Inspector General’s and the Middle States Accreditation Report), both of which identify problems with leadership AT THE ACADEMY.  As I reported here, three months before the stand down the superintendent and the Maritime Administrator were testifying before Congress and the Superintendent devoted a lot of time to SASH at that Academy with nary a mention of a problem during sea year.  Yet, in June, right before the Accreditation Report was released and two months before the Inspector General reported on the failure to satisfactorily address the concerns it had raised TWO YEARS EARLIER, suddenly there is a crisis during sea year? With absolutely no data to support the existence of the crisis?

Folks, a federal academy is in danger — serious danger — of losing its accreditation because, among many problems, “the [accreditation] team concludes that the institution is not able to function successfully as it is not properly administered and staffed.” See Accreditation Report, p.13. The people who are charged with administering the institution should be focused on real, defined, problems rather than ginned up problems designed to shift attention away from the real problem.


  1. In 2009, then MARAD Associate Administrator for Administration, Taylor Jones, told then Superintendent Allen Worley, that MARAD would henceforth select, review, and otherwise supervise the Academy staff in the areas of HR, Finance, and Procurement. This was to be a temporary state-of-affairs necessary to address the failures of Kings Point leadership to provide the lawful stewardship identified in the corresponding GAO investigation and report to the Congress.

    Normally, this might have been a prudent course of corrective action ultimately ending in the return of control of reformed administrative functions, staff, and resources to the stewardship of the Kings Point leadership. Unfortunately, as MSCHE reported and the Self-Study Committee documented, these functions remain problematical yet are now the sole responsibility of MARAD.

    Accrediting agencies have placed other institutions on Academic Warning (and worse) when critical administrative and resource management functions have been removed from college or university leadership. The only remedy historically acceptable to accrediting groups is the return of these functions and resources to the school. MSCHE’s Standards of Learning make this position clear.

    Unless, and until, US DoT and MARAD return control and autonomy of these functions and stewardship of resources to the Academy, it is unlikely MSCHE will agree to give the Academy a clean bill of health.

    A cynical–but some would say accurate–assessment of the recent SASH-inspired shutdown of the Sea Year was intended to obscure the real reasons why MSCHE placed the Academy on Academic Warning. MARAD failed in its initial promise and ability to reform core administrative functions. Indeed, they have made governance and resource allocation a nightmare adversely affecting the Academy.

    And, US DoT/OST has shown an inability to provide adequate oversight of MARAD.

    Former Secretary LaHood exhorted MARAD officials to determine whether they were in the regulatory or advocacy business, when it was then (and remains so even today) clear that MARAD suffered from a lack of mission and purpose. What has always been clear is that MARAD does not wish to be in the higher education business, in general, and the owner of Kings Point, in particular.

    The business of higher education is challenging and expensive. It cannot be left to folks whose only claim to expertise is that they attended a college or university as students. Running a maritime institution is even more challenging and requires at least a passable understanding of the maritime industry–locating targets of interest while commanding a submarine doesn’t count.

    LaHood’s concern remains valid today. If MARAD is going to be in the maritime higher education business, then they need to get serious about doing it. They need to take a cold hard look at their collective failures-to-date and make the necessary corrections.

    Neither MSCHE nor Congress will let “business as usual” continue to carry the day.

  2. Howard, my take on it is they do NOT want to be in the higher education business, and further would love to get at the $100M a year appropriation. MARADs budget is small, KP represents a large part of their budget (25% I believe), and MARADs wishes it could get at that extra $$$ to play with. For one, disburse to the State Academies.

    MARAD appears to have its own leadership and strategic problems.

    Forget defining a clear vision in which KP could be a critical component, MARAD chooses to chase what they think of as easy money instead of defining an vision for the US Maritime Industry’s future.

    • Tom I think you are dead on target. Look at the accreditation issue. Despite administration claims, this was not a surprise to them. That’s not how it works in the accreditation business. You are given critiques throughout the process and told, “you need to address this . . .” They did nothing. Then, right before the accreditation report is made public, they cancelled sea year — the one major component of the Academy curriculum that escaped any significant criticism in the accreditation report. Look, if you are a major educational institution in a crisis because you are in danger of losing your accreditation, you take immediate steps to address (or at least appear to address) the major problems cited by the accreditation review committee. The LAST thing you do is undermine your institution further by degrading the one major component of the curriculum that escaped criticism. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)

      There are two logical explanations. The first is sheer incompetence. The second is the motive to close KP and use the $ to fund state school ships. That’s the theory I posted here. I’ve actually come to believe that the explanation is a hybrid of the first two. I think MARAD wants to close KP. I think MARAD deliberately chose a non-Kings Pointer with no maritime background to be superintendent to help accomplish that goal. And, unfortunately, I think MARAD was spectacularly successful in that effort because, in my opinion, it’s hand-picked superintendent has proven his incompetence. All you need to do to reach that conclusion is do a performance review: Look at his signature issue: SASH. It’s gotten worse under his leadership — according to the Academy’s own surveys. Accreditation? Major fail. Alumni relations? Major Fail. Faculty relations? Major Fail. Student relations? Major Fail. Donor Relationships? Major fail.

      If KP was a “regular college” run by educators and it received the accreditation warning that KP just received, there is no question as to the first step that the college administrators/trustees would take: They’d fire the provost (superintendent in our case) and get someone in to right the ship. They’d do that for two reasons. First, the warning demonstrates that the superintendent is not up to the task. Second, it lets the accreditation team know that steps are being taken to address the problem.

    • Tom,

      I worked closely with the folks at both US DoT and OST during my final 18 months at Kings Point. Key players at OST were appalled by the ineptitude of the MARAD leadership. So, OST intervened and for many months OST staff pushed the MARAD staff aside to “help” the Academy. What did the OST staff learn? Higher education as a business is a difficult task and its problems and challenges cannot be meaningfully addressed in a single news cycle. Indeed, pick a problem at Kings Point–any problem. It’s like dipping your hand in tar.

      All of the people I met at OST and MARAD are bright–well most, anyway–and well credentialed. But they all get tangled in the same false premise: They graduated from a college or university, and as former students, they are experts in the business of higher education. Like standing in line at Starbucks makes you an expert in that segment of the food/retail industry.

      The folks at OST “highjacked” the development of the Strategic Plan for the Academy. They completely rewrote the version submitted by the Academy and the product that emerged was more coffee table book than what the accrediting agencies require. Neither OST nor MARAD staff bothered to read and comprehend the guidelines and requirements MSCHE has long published.

      And, what did the MARAD folks learn from all of this intrusion and guidance from OST? Hire a leadership team at the Academy who would be loyal members of the MARAD leadership team, first, foremost, always. Subject matter expertise, prior significant leadership in higher education, and a background in the maritime industry? Unimportant. In effect, they dumbed down the Academy’s leadership team which is recipe for disaster in any organization.

      OST and MARAD are both flummoxed by the fact that you need real mariners to lead a maritime academy. Those folks will be graduates of Kings Point and the other maritime academies, and their different alma maters aside, they will share a strong common bond forged by education, training, and maritime experience. Their dedication and allegiance will be to the mission and not loyalty and fealty to MARAD and the US Dept of Transportation.

    • OST is the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, i.e., all the staff who work in, support and report to the Secretary. They are separate from the staffs who work in the various DOT Agencies such as Marad, FTA, FHWA, etc.

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