Another title for this post might be, “What happened between May 20, 2016 and June 16, 2016?”
In early August, I pointed out (here) that when the Superintendent and the Maritime Administrator testified before Congress in March 2016, there was barely a mention of a problem with SASH during sea year but plenty of discussion of addressing SASH issues at the Academy. Yet come June 16, 2016, the
stand down cancellation of sea year was announced on what was essentially an emergency basis.
Well now I can compress that timeline a little bit further. Did you know that the industry meeting on June 24, 2016 had been scheduled since at least May 20, 2016? But, as of May 20, 2016, that meeting wasn’t to address an emergency that would require a
stand down cancellation of sea year. Read this letter from Superintendent Helis to the accreditation team on May 20, 2016, in which he states,
“Recognizing the importance of improving the safety and respect of Midshipmen during the Sea Year, MARAD will convene a conference of senior leadership in the maritime industry on June 24, 2016 to address the issue. MARAD and USMMA will use the conference to begin an ongoing, unified effort to improve conditions during the Sea Year experience. Building upon our previous efforts. the USMMA will begin more detailed surveys of 100% of Midshipmen returning from Sea Year starting with the next group of Midshipmen returning in July 2016. This will help to identify incidents and provide support to those Midshipmen who require
That same day, Secretary of Transportation Foxx also wrote the accreditation team and stated:
“In June, we have scheduled high level -meetings with industry leaders to collaborate on improving conditions during the Sea Year and after graduation.”
Neither of those letters suggest a crisis and both indicate that the June 24, 2016 meeting with industry had been in the works for over a month prior to the meeting.
So, what happened between May 20, 2016 and June 16, 2016 to turn this into such a crisis that sea year had to be cancelled? DOT, MARAD and the Academy owe an answer to this question to the midshipmen, to the parents, to the industry, and to the alumni.
Was the crisis the imminent release of the accreditation report, which placed the Academy on accreditation warning due, in large part, to poor leadership at the Academy? And remember that, contrary to the statements made by the Academy and MARAD, the accreditation report did NOT suggest a problem with SASH during sea year. And my $100,000 bet is still safe.