Transcript of the NPA meeting from Sept 1, 2016

This is a link to the transcript of the meeting that Superintendent Helis and Deputy Administrator Rodriguez held with the National Parents Association on September 1, 2016.

There are too many things to pick from these 43 pages for me to highlight just one right now.  I’m not sure where to begin; and, I need to get back to my day job.  You can help out by posting important passages (with page numbers, please) in the comments.  I’ll probably elevate some of those comments to posts when I have time.



  1. MARAD has a lot of gall to send Mike Rodriguez. Perfectly qualified for the task, but to send one of our own to be the bearer of the news to take the beating. When 1/4 of the MARAD appropriation is KP, and the Honorable Chip doesn’t want to face it himself, it looks like he is hiding. Mike is being set up as the punching bag.

    Other thought, Helis is out of his element and his league. He needs to go back to writing papers. According the transcript they have been “taking data” since he came on board, but hes made 0 tangible improvements to the culture on campus, in contradiction to his congressional testimony. There is a huge difference in the political skill of our military officers from o-6 to o-7+ and he retired as an Army o-6 I do believe he means well, I just am not sure he has the skillset for this, not am I sure he has a vision for the institution.

  2. Well they certainly got grilled in solid Kings Pointer fashion but even after going through all 43 pages my reactions/concerns and high/low lights from the first 8 pages lingered and they are as follow:

    Top of Page 4: Helis’ introductory remarks: “I think the number 77; they’re going to be going in throughout the barracks. Again no this is not to watch everybody and take notes. This is in case there is an incident reported in the barracks we can potentially have videotape in case there is an intruder in the barracks we can monitor the situation. And, frankly there is also the thought that if you know you’re being watched it will deter some behaviors that we want to see ended in the barracks.”
    – Seems to be a theme “culture change” ongoing here that really doesn’t seem a wise use of cameras. I wonder how many other college campus’ have that number of cameras looking at the inside areas of dorms. I’ll speculate not many. When in my professional life I sell surveillance and security products to the college and university market, the overwhelming majority of world class institutions have open concerns about “big brother” complaints from their students and generally put cameras in places like parking lots, thoroughfares that lead to waiting areas for transit, etc; but few if any looking at students in dorm areas, their students wouldn’t stand for it.
    Bottom of Page 4 – Helis starts his “sales pitch” on SASH and the stand-down there.
    “It’s a national issue. It’s a national priority. We should be leading the way. The stand down is an Acta. We’ve talked about this, we’ve tried to work it, but we got to the point where we just could not continue with the status quo. And so the secretary made the decision that we were going to stand down from commercial shipping until we got to a place where we were more comfortable with the shipboard climate in which we were sending our midshipmen and I’m sure we will discuss that more as we go on.”

    And yet as far as I understand it, few if any of the Academy senior staff nor for that matter the Marine Engineering Department or Marine Transportation Department faculty have spent any considerable time aboard commercial, US Flag Vessels, in the last five years have they? Where’s the Acta in that? Where’s the clear, first hand insight to what the actual, typical working environment aboard commercial US Flag Vessels is that the Superintendent, a retired US Army Colonel, and the Maritime Administrator, a retired US Navy Submarine Captain (O-6) base these continued allegations and indictments of a entire industry on? My biggest fear about these guys leading these efforts and making these decisions is they have no real understanding how when you step aboard a vessel for your first underway watch as 3/M or 3 A/E you basically are thrown into the deep, fast running water and you have to swim. It’s not like the military where as a Junior Officer you have a support network and qualification program to learn your job from the senior officers and the senior non-commissioned officers make sure you don’t get them or yourself killed. That’s what they are depriving the current classes when they stand down sea year on commercial vessels and as noted it’s a defining, core element of the unique value proposition a USMMA education provides. The overall tone of the comments and approach to the stand down demonstrates to me that the DOT/MARAD and USMMA leadership are not approaching the way forward with a true appreciation of that, else there would be clearer statements and more urgency to get mids back to a fully functioning sea year that includes commercial vessels.

    “We’re putting a greater emphasis on what is referred to in a lot of literature and studies as pre cursor behaviors, climate behaviors, hazing, bullying, coercion that creates a climate in which sexual assault sexual harassment become tolerable. Military figures say that in US where there is sexiest behavior is prevalent the chances of a woman being sexually assaulted are 300% higher.”

    And yet MARAD hasn’t made drafts of requested changes to CFR 46 that are analogous to the changes DoD did to Title 10 and DHS did to Title 14 so USMMA can put in place policies, rules, etc. similar to what’s already in place at USAFA, USNA, USMA, and USCGA to address these things – “precursor behaviors” – on campus at USMMA where he and they have control of the environment in a more direct way and the reports say there’s also an issue.

    Rome is burning, where’s my fiddle – even through page 6 RADM Helis, USMS (that’s US Make-Believe Service BTW) still de-emphasizes SA/SH issues on campus and tries to tie them to sea year when he states “ The institution must take demonstrable steps in preparation for and upon return from the sea year experience. Further the pervasiveness of sexual harassment on campus must be addressed as a pressing and substantial concern that is fostered a hostile climate.” I read the accreditation report – all 51 pages 3 times and I didn’t and still don’t see that link or anything like that statement – can someone point me to the passage or passages where” I read the accreditation report – all 51 pages 3 times and I didn’t and still don’t see that link or anything like that statement – can someone point me to the passage or passages where you believe Dr. Hellis is pointing/drawing that inference or link?

    Page 7: Helis on accreditation warning status actions: “There’s not going to be much progress to announce because it’s going to be all the grunt work that has to be underneath it. So this is not something that is like watching a race. It’s going to be a long steady process. The same thing with the governance. How do we start identifying what specific functions we can transfer back to the academy and what sequence do we do that? How do we revise our SOPs? Again you’re given two years because the intent is that this is an intentional, deliberate, thought out process that the changes you put in place are going to work and that they are in the words of middle states sustainable, that these will last.”

    Really “There’s not going to be much progress to announce…” I know I’m and old fashioned, boring program management type and I agree it’s boring, often uninteresting stuff – in my business we call it “blocking and tackling” but where’s the detailed milestone plan with inch-stones that I’d think the Superintendent would want to see a report on from the team working these numerous actions in all five warning areas from on a regular basis – like every other week at his staff meeting? That’s how you make sure you don’t get 8 months down the line and find you’ve only made one-month worth of progress. I know that’s what they teach even in the DAU (Defense Acquisition University) course on how to manage these sorts of things. It’s certainly what his faculty teaches for those applicable course in Shipyard Management…. I’m not disputing his comments re: how dry and boring this can be, but he needs this along with a simple summary stoplight report for this plan that he can share both up-line and with stakeholders like the parents’ association and the Regimental Leadership so he has full buy-in and support from them along with the Board of Visitors. He especially needs it if he’s going to be able to convince Congress to make the legislative changes they need to meaningfully address the governance and fiscal management issues cited in the report.

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