LMI report timing: Looks like a clear effort to tie Secretary Chao’s hands

In an email circulated to Academy faculty on December 23, 2016, USMMA Administration announced:

[T]he LMI Culture Audit is complete and under review by OST and MARAD. The Secretary will make an announcement regarding Sea Year on January 13, 2017.

AHEAD! An Academy ALL-HANDs will be held at some point after 13 January and certainly before 20 January. And with no other Mondays (Common Hour) in between those dates I have no idea exactly when. Will keep you posted!

Also, the Advisory Board will be meeting at the Academy on January 12-13, 2017.

But, yesterday the Academy announced that the LMI report will be released this coming Friday (January 6, 2017). The change was so sudden that until late yesterday, all the Academy could say was that the release would be either today or Friday. Something forced the Academy to move the date up by a week.

So what happened in the last 48 hours to force this move? Yesterday, it was announced that the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao will be on Wednesday, January 11, 2017.  I think a likely explanation for the change in the LMI Report release date is that MARAD wants to tie Chao’s hands before she begins the process to be confirmed as Secretary of Transportation.

Unfortunately, I think the above, and many other signs, suggest that on Friday we will see the last desperate act of the outgoing Maritime Administration as it tries to impede the return of sea year to commercial ships.  Here’s how I analyze it:

First, we all know that LMI was wired to get the contract to perform the culture study.

Second, we know that LMI’s Marlise Streitmatter, a former high ranking official in the Department of Transportation who was directly involved in the hiring of Superintendent Helis and was intimately involved in a variety of MARAD’s anti-Academy machinations (including the eviction of the USMMA-AAF, the shutting down of GMATS, the closure of Melville Hall, etc.), was involved in the study despite the evident conflict of interest. When Streitmatter was at DOT, Jaenichen reported to her for all things related to the Academy.

Third, we know that wiring a contract is done for a reason; in this case the likely reason was that MARAD had pre-ordained the result it wanted out of the culture study. It is no coincidence that the contract was wired to a company that employed Streitmatter — she had been part of the team in the past and could be counted on to continue to deliver for the team.

Fourth, we know that the Continuing Resolution that was passed in early December allows MARAD to pay for sea year expenses associated with the stand down cancellation by pilfering funds from other sources — including the Academy’s maintenance and repair budget. Other than the amount left in the budget, there is no cap on how much can be pilfered. (Secretary of Transportation Foxx had asked Congress for $7 million.)

Fifth, we know that this past Fall, MARAD asked Military Sealift Command for an estimate of the cost to have MSC handle all of the Academy’s midshipmen during sea year and was given a quote of $2 million per year.

Sixth, we know that the language in the Senate’s 2017 Maritime Authorization Act  as originally proposed — before the presidential election — looked a lot different than it did afterwards.  Recall that this Act included MARAD’s language to create a working group, dominated by representatives from state maritime schools, to recommend whether USMMA should continue to have sea year on commercial ships of change to “alternative training” (presumably state school training ships).  MARAD gave itself  90 days to put the working group in place. BUT, after the election, when the Maritime Administrator and his minions realized they were going to be gone from power in less than 90 days, the language that emerged (now incorporated in the National Defense Appropriation Act) suddenly gave the Maritime Administrator ONLY 21 DAYS to appoint the working group (and this included the weekends and Christmas and New Years holidays).

Folks, that’s a “tell.” The only reason that the timing was shortened was to ensure that MARAD Administrator Chip Jaenichen would be able to name the working group and argue that he couldn’t defer to the incoming administration because it had to be done within 21 days.  The NDAA was signed by the President on December 23, 2016. The 21st day is Friday the 13th of January, 2017.

So we know that we are facing a determined and entrenched group who are going to fight down to the last minute — until forced to let go of the reins of power — to accomplish their goals. We can disagree as to what that goal might be (I think it is to create the argument for funding state school training ships), but no one can seriously doubt that the administration is determined to dramatically alter sea year at USMMA.

All of the signs suggest that the LMI Report will be released on Friday and an announcement will be made that due to what was found in that report, sea year will remain on hold until the working group (the membership of which must be determined by January 13) issues its report (due under the legislation in September 2017). In the meantime, the Academy has more than enough money to fund sea year in whatever fashion it wants thanks to the Continuing Resolution.

Most importantly, the announcement will be made before Chao’s confirmation hearing and before she takes office in a clear attempt to tie her hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if she received some loaded (and planted by MARAD) SA/SH questions at her hearing on Wednesday designed to try to paint her in a corner. (Chao needs to be well-prepared for those questions. Among other things, she might want to point out that there are significant questions about the underlying data and defer further comment until the Self Solutions study is also released and she has an opportunity to digest both studies).

Also, don’t be surprised if you suddenly see another planted news story designed to make it look like sea year is a dangerous place for a woman. Expect to see it before Wednesday’s hearing so that Chao can be asked to comment on it. That’s how these guys roll.

Similarly, expect the Academy Advisory Board (handpicked by DOT and Streitmatter) to announce next week that it whole-heartedly agrees with the LMI Report — thereby building momentum in support of MARAD’s decision and making it even harder (in theory) for Chao to restore sea year without being characterized as not caring about the safety of “the children” (as Jaenichen and Helis insist upon calling the young men and women who attend the Academy).

I hate to be pessimistic and I hope I’m wrong; but, this is all shaping up as a full-fledged effort to try to prevent Chao from undoing the damage that Jaenichen and his minions have inflicted on the Academy.


  1. You have to wonder if Hellis and his minions read this website. To go around acting like no one notices that the emperor has no cloths, all while he stands on the bridge of his scuttled ship is almost laughable.
    Unfortunately, there is nothing amusing about this current state of affairs. Why is it that of the last two DNC Presidents, we have constantly had to battle for our survival?

  2. Given that the recently returned midshipmen are now receiving failing grades for insufficient work on sea projects that were IMPOSSIBLE to complete on the assigned ship (one obvious example – cargo operations when forced to be on a Navy ship) even though they diligently did internet research and provided answers of what it would be like on a commercial ship IF they had been on one, tells me that the Academy will be closing in the next 18 months.

  3. Has Chao been informed of this “scandal” and where does she stand? Is there any hope Sea Year will return to normal? There are many, many mids with less than 50% of their sea days for the current term and many who will likely fail the last sea term because they weren’t given the experiences they needed to complete the sea project (grades released today). It is not working to have mids on school training ships and there are not enough MSC/Navy ships to go around. The situation is desparate to say the least! How much longer can the mids take it? Some on please stop those people before it’s too late!

    • I am considering filing a lawsuit against the DOT for breach of contract and personally against certain individuals who have used the KP cadets and the US taxpayers as pawns in a game of self interest.

      • this would have to be an A splitter who still has until July to complete their days. I have the day counts for 2018B and no one is even close to that figure.

  4. The above assessment appears to have good intelligence on the outgoing Maritime Administration’s plan to “…impede the return of the sea year to commercial ships”.

    However, with Ms. Streitmatter back-stopping the plan and the Advisory Board meeting scheduled for January 12-13, 2017 to most likely rubberstamp the LMI Report, the ducks are clearly in-line to successfully execute the Administration’s plan.

    As suggested, the situation is “shaping up as a full-fledged effort to prevent Ms. Chao from undoing the damage that Jaenichen and his minions have inflicted on the Academy.”

    Is there any way Ms. Chao could be provided with a succinct oral review of the background of the prevailing situation prior to the confirmation hearing of January 13, 2017 to avoid the Administration’s trap and allow her to defer any comments on SA/SH until the Self Solutions report is available to allow her to “…digest both studies”?

    The orchestration of report releases, dates and meetings accelerated to meet the hearing deadline to “…tie Secretary Chao’s hands” is impressive. Obviously, the Streitmatter-Jaenichen-Helis crew is quite productive when it suits their own ends.

    If “draining-the-swamp” is the new mantra in Washington what better place to start than with the DOT/MARAD bureaucratic gene pool?

  5. While HRC would not have been any better for the Academy, the reality is that Trump’s vile comments about women are going to be a problem. If Chao moves to dump the sea year stand down without some sort of “reform”, she and the new president risk leaving themselves open to an attack on the issue of him being anti-women.

    Which brings me back to what I have said many times previously–the only way this ends well for the mids is if current women mids take the lead and organize publicly against the stand down. The male mids, of course, have to be right there behind them, publicly as well, but the women have to be the one’s making the demand that sea year be restored.

    Before I hear from people about how “difficult and unfair” this is to the women mids, let me politely cut you off by saying that I know and understand that. In fact, it’s that very difficulty and unfairness that the Academy leadership is counting on to allow them to continue doing what they are doing. Because they themselves are sexists, they are very confident that the women mids are to be too scared and intimidated to stand up for themselves.

    But may I suggest that what is really “difficult and unfair” to women mids is that they, along with their male colleagues, are being deprived of the education that they were promised. What is unfair, is that they are being denied the same opportunity that women mids at the academy have had for almost 40 years, sailing on commercial ships. What I think is sexis is that Acadmey’s assumption that these tough young women are incapable of protecting themselves and handling very difficult situations.

    SASH itself is not only something that affects women, but men as well, but even using the Academy’s own numbers, as faulty as they may be, the “real world” and ” political” realities are that SASH is viewed as being a “women’s issue”. If it is men that are seen as the face and voice of opposition to the sea year stand down, the mids, both male and female, will lose.

    We are at a crossroads. If the rumors coming out of the academy today are true and the sea year stand down is extended for another 9 months at least, there may be one or two graduating classes that will never have had someone, male or female,sailing on a commercial ship.


    Obviously, this is not a step that I would ever recommend that a single female mid should ever take on her own, but there is strength in numbers. If a large group of current women mids signed on to a letter demanding the end of the stand down, it would be very difficult, if not impossible,for anyone from the Academy or MARAD to take any sort retribution against them. The point is that the women mids have to stand up publicly. There is strength in numbers and in daylight. The people running the academy like to operate in the shadows, where nobody can really see what they are doing.

  6. Secretary Chao, (aka Mrs. McConnell) is a smart, experienced Cabinet Secretary with more access to whatever power base she needs to ensure her hands are free to do whatever she feels is necessary. Also her understanding of the USMMA, it’s programs, community and stakeholders predates her nomination, etc. I trust she and whoever the new Maritime Administrator ends up being can and will “drain this swamp.” Also while there are issues clearly cited in the report that seem to support Jaenichen, Helis, Dunlap et. al’s desired narrative there is a lot in it that is exceptionally damning to the leadership that has been in place for 4+ years while these issues have festered, and grown. They should and I predict all will be gone before summer, if not sooner. The smart move for all of them would be to tender their resignation now and clear the decks for the incoming administration, so they can address things such as fixing the culture of fear of being retaliated against for either reporting issues or not parroting the party line. I could go on, but there’s really nothing left to say that I don’t think those resignations and replacements can happen fast enough to give me hope the vessel that is my Alma Mater is being righted and returned to a proper course.

  7. It is my understanding that Secretary Foxx, based on the findings of the LMI report (posted online today), has approved a phased restoration of commercial sea Year once the they meet the criteria that was established by the industry and MARAD. It appears that your theories are false and you were wrong.

    • Not exactly Paula. Foxx has said that sea year will be restored after commercial shipping companies are credentialed. And the credentialing process looks designed to delay things for years. The LMI report specifically raises the specter of replacing sea year on commercial ships with training on training ships. LMI also suggests that all midshipmen who want to be deep sea sailors should be trained on MSC ships.

      I’ll admit that my expectation that the administration would try to limit sea year to MSC and state school ships didn’t happen. And I’m glad to be wrong about that. But I wasn’t wrong about the reason for the timing of the meeting or the fact that the administration is trying to tie the incoming administration’s hands. In fact, both Helis and Rodriguez made a point in yesterdays meeting of trying to tell the midshipmen that what they were doing was cast in stone and could not be changed. Helis said anyone who believed otherwise was delusional. Fortunately, I think Helis is only deluding himself.

  8. I read thru the report and it looks like LMI used a fairly small sample size to draw their conclusions. 50 midshipmen would be ~ less than 5% of the total KP population (although the % of female midshipmen would have been higher) and the # of alumni interviewed would be far far less a %. Thinking back to a recent book on behavioral economics that discussed how drawing conclusions from small sample size and then applying as 100% truth can potentially lead to the wrong conclusions.

    • As addressed with the DADGR (?) reports which Helis likes to quote, this one is also statistically flawed, and it is purely anectodal in nature. In the Scientific community it would never be published.

      Helis however is academically and intellectually bankrupt and uses flawed studies to support the conclusions he, MARAD Chipp, and Mike Rodriquez dictated. They have sold their soul, their reputation while decimating the academic reputation of the school they were entrusted to lead. Their legacy is being the trio that led the first Federal Service Acedmy to be put on Academic Probation (AcPro). #LeadershipFailure

  9. Let me congratulate KPS and the USMMA AAF. I may post more when I have a greater chance to digest the LMI report, but the gist of it is that Sea Year on commercial ships will b restored. I suspect that without the constant pressure from those 2 groups, our mids might b sailing on the Kings Pointer or.standing still on the Ready Resetve Ships for the next few years. Thank You. Now let’s just ask one question every day-/ when will it actually happen. Keep up the pressure.

    Now is also the time to really deal with SASH issues. The best way to do it is to get MORE WOMEN AT SEA on commercial ships.


  10. My last comment really should be listed under the January 7 blog comment dealing with the actual Friday release of the LMI report,

  11. Given the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act that includes wording giving State Maritime Schools the authority to determine the content of USMMA Sea Year, it doesn’t look good… Hope we can get some help from incoming DOT Sec.

    • I think it is important to understand that the working group established by the NDAA has no decision-making authority. All it can do is make a report to Congress.

      Also, while I’m not happy with the language of the NDAA, the final language was weakened from its original language, which had the working group assessing “whether the United States Merchant Marine Academy should continue with sea year training on privately owned vessels or change its curricula to provide alternative training.” That language was replaced with “assess all other feasible changes to Sea Year training at the Academy, and corresponding changes to curricula, to improve prevention of and response to incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other inappropriate conduct” AND an additional section was added to the NDAA that compelled MARAD to create the criteria that allows the resumption of sea year on commercial vessels.

      Those two changes indicate strong Congressional intent to have sea year on commercial vessels. In the meeting on Friday, Helis and gang tried to sell the restoration of sea year as something that they were implementing. The fact is, Congress mandated it.

      • Great points Andy. Let’s also keep in mind that the Executive Branch also issues rules and regulations as to how to implement laws which Congress passes. Chao can essentially ignore the provision in question as long as she wants by not signing off on any implementation of it. Doubtful the Senate, led by McConnell (Chao’s husband) will slap her wrists if she does not implement it in a manner in which Jaenichen, Rodriquez or Helis intended for it to be. Yes, Foxx can issue regulations before he leaves, doubtful he will. He’s too busy looking for a job than to mess with this.

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