On September 2, 2016, thirteen Congressmen, including Congressman Peter King, the chairman of the Academy’s Board of Visitors, wrote to DOT, MARAD and USMMA and asked fourteen questions. They requested a response within five business days. It has now been more than a month and . . . crickets.
At homecoming, when Maritime Administrator Jaenichen and Superintendent Helis met with the board of the USMMAAAF, they stated that the response had been written by MARAD and approved by the Department of Transportation but that the response required approval by the White House, which was reviewing the response at that time. Well it’s been almost two weeks since then and . . . crickets.
How does the Academy administration expect to build a climate of trust and respect when it disrespects Congress and won’t trust it with information that it needs to properly fulfill its oversight role?
I’m sure that one month later, Congress has many more questions, such as, “How is it that the word was out that LMI was wired to get the contract for the RFQ before the deadline for submitting bids had even closed?” Here are the unanswered questions Congress asked a month ago:
1. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) issued a warning to the Academy requiring it take actions to address deficiencies in five of fourteen standards. What steps has the Academy taken to date to address these requirements? How long does the Academy anticipate it will take to address the MSCHE requirements?
2. When were requirements identified by the MSCHE Evaluation Team in April 2016 reported to USMMA administrators? What actions did USMMA administrators take, between when they were notified about these requirements and when the MSCHE determination was announced on June 30, 2016, to prevent USMMA from being placed on warning status?
3. What is the status of the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation process for engineers?
4. The 2016 USMMA Advisory Board Report did not identify many of the deficiencies cited in the MSCHE Evaluation Team report. What are the reasons for this discrepancy? Are there any efforts under way to make reforms to the Advisory Board as a result?
5. What data did the Academy and MARAD administrators provide to the Secretary of Transportation to inform Secretary Foxx’s decision to suspend Sea Year?
6. Why has MARAD permitted State Maritime Academy students to sail on commercial vessels from which MARAD removed USMMA Midshipmen for safety and climate concerns?
7. What planning was done with industry, faculty (including the Shipboard Training Management Office), and the Midshipmen prior to removing Midshipmen from their assigned ships? What planning was done in consultation with U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Navy regarding the impact these actions might have on the supply of licensed mariners?
8. MARAD’s Shipboard Climate Compliance Team (SCCT) has been assessing packages submitted by commercial shipping companies for compliance with MARAD’s seven requirements for Sea Year Eligibility (SYE). Please provide an explanation for the Department of Transportation’s decision not to reinstate Sea Year aboard vessels that show SYE until the recently announced independent assessment of the institutional and organizational culture at the USMMA is complete.
9. Many USMMA Midshipmen rely on Sea Year stipends to defray expenses. Will cadets assigned to training vessels be compensated for these lost wages?
10. Will there be changes made to the Sea Project grading rubric to accommodate affected Midshipmen? 11. Does MARAD require additional appropriations to fund the expenses associated with the Sea Year Stand Down? How much does MARAD project the Stand Down to cost?
12. Is MARAD considering making changes to graduation requirements so that USMMA may award degrees to Midshipmen that cannot obtain the sea days necessary for current graduation and licensure requirements? What will happen to these Midshipmen’s eligibility as commissioned active duty military?
13. Admission representatives, most of whom are parents and/or alumni, have told us that they are finding it difficult to recruit qualified applicants to USMMA for future years because of the issues pertaining to SASH and accreditation. Does MARAD have a plan in place to improve attrition and recruitment? Please provide details of that plan.
14. Are the Department of Transportation and MARAD considering plans to close the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), either temporarily or permanently?
I can’t see a single question that would require White House approval before MARAD answered it. The problem is that this administration doesn’t care. The administration is stonewalling Congress until it can get a report from LMI that justifies the decision it already made to end sea year on commercial ships — permanently.