Who could have seen this coming?

Readers of this blog, that’s who.

The RFQ contract has been awarded.  And, just as we predicted here, before the time for submitting bids had closed, LMI was awarded the contract.  How is it we knew that LMI was wired to get the contract?  Because LMI employees were talking about it before the bids were due.

Here’s what else we are hearing: The result of the study is also wired. The result will be a recommendation that sea year on commercial vessels be ended and that Military Sealift Command be tasked with taking on most, if not all, of sea year training for the Academy. In fact, two sources in government are telling us that MSC has already been asked to determine what the cost would be to train 200 Academy midshipmen at a time.

I’ll have some thoughts as to how the regiment of midshipmen can steer this ship back on the proper track in the days to follow.

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  1. This is beyond belief. May as well proceed from this point forward knowing that the “students” will be sent to MSC. We are very interested in your proposals to SEND THEM BACK ON COMMERCIAL VESSELS!

  2. So, you can now get better training at a state school?! Not sure how accreditation can be maintained at this point. So sad for all involved. Huge governmental failure on all levels.

  3. More govt boondoggles
    The best part of KP was the commercial real-world experience wherre there were no govt employees set to inculcate govt employee mentality.

    The only possibility at this point is to resurrect the USMS and make it into a real service again and have all KP grads have USMS jobs automatically offered to them upon graduation. Make the USMS take over MSC, rather than the other way around, If USMS is a real service then KP grads can run it and take the helm of MARAD.

  4. I just reviewed the LMI CONSULTING website and found NO indication that they are qualified to perform a “culture study” at a federal maritime academy. So, what is up here?

  5. I have seen no evidence that sailing on MSC, State or Navy ships is any better than commercial US Maritime vessels. This is all smoke screen and spin.
    Rogo 61

  6. If Kings Point is to remain one of the 5 federal service academies it needs to focus on the federal service its graduates are performing to justify its cost to the taxpayers. If all it is is a preparatory institution for the commercial maritime industry then what separates it from the state schools? The U.S. Maritime Service needs restore an operational component where KP grads are the source man our federal ships whether they’re MSC, RRF or NOAA.

    • Brian, there are several things that separate Kings Point from the state schools. First of all, every single graduate from KP has a service obligation (approximately 225 per year). The last year for which I’ve seen data regarding the state schools (2013), the six schools combined produced approximately 70 graduates with a service obligation. Kings Pointers are trained and available through their service obligation to meet the strategic sealift and military needs of the United States. The state school students are not.

      Let’s assume that the 70 graduates are dispersed evenly among the 6 schools (i.e., roughly 12 graduates per school). MARAD is proposing to build training ships for each school at a cost of $300 million per year – $25 million per student with a service obligation. It would be far cheaper to increase the enrollment at KP by 70 students.

      In 2014, 100% of the Kings Point graduates were USCG licensed officers. According to MARAD data, 77% of those were employed in seagoing jobs (not including US Armed Forces; if you assume that all of the graduates in the armed forces were in the Navy or Coast Guard, that rate goes to 92%). That same year, only 49% of the state schools graduates were USCG licensed officers. 78% of those state school licensed officers were employed in seagoing jobs (a statistically insignificant difference from KP) (but if you include US Armed Force, that rate only goes to 80%). But remember – only a small fraction of those state school licensed graduates have a service obligation and can be counted upon to sail into harm’s way when needed for the defense of our country.

    • Fogarty, you make an excellent point regarding the US Maritime Service as it ties back to academy culture and respect. Per current USC and CFR, the USMS is a “voluntary organization” along with not being identified as one of the recognized uniformed services. The students regularly refer to the USMS as the US Mysterious Service given that the US Maritime Commission was disbanded in the 1950s. Thus, the USMS officers at school derive their positional power from their federal civilian employment and not their membership in the voluntary organization. It also begs the question of how OPM allows the USMMA to require their employees to join a voluntary organization.

  7. Well, since this is “known” why not confront DOT, MARAD, and ADMIN with this info, and there should be another independent survey done alongside this one, which seems to be rigged (to use a Trump term). Has this info been passed to the BOV? What is the source? Accreditdation is surely to be hurt in any case, because without sea year, the academic side is going to suffer, if not already, and snowball down the slippery slope that has been created. At the least weekly updates are needed, at the most, a live meeting on campus is needed.

  8. When I was in the government consulting business in Washington (aka Beltway Bandit / Highway Helper) LMI was known as the “Army” version of the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA). I agree with the comments above, LMI doesn’t have any credentials in analyzing institutional culture, let alone an ability to meet the requirements of the RFQ (Request for Quotation). In fact, it is interesting that MARAD is taking this contracting approach, as an RFQ is really for cut and dried standard services — like taking out the trash, grounds maintenance or similar services in which there is a very tightly defined group of activities to be performed on a scheduled basis that can be accurately costed out.

    The normal contracting approach for what the Statement of Work (SOW) calls for would be through a Request for PROPOSALS (RFP). In this process the offerors provide a detailed proposal of how they are going to accomplish the SOW, identifying specific methodologies & etc. along with a detailed budget. Of course, this approach takes time to put a contract in place and argues for a much longer time-frame for the contractor to accomplish the desired task.

    Further, the schedule for this contract is very limited. The contractor really has 30 days to do the research and write the initial report for review by MARAD. So, in reality we are talking about 2, nor more than 3, weeks of research, a week of report writing and 30 days for MARAD to review the report and have LMI make the changes to the report that MARAD wants.

    Finally, note that LMI’s dedication to “quality” references meeting ISO 9001 standards for quality. One only has to have spent a little time in ISO-land to understand that their definition of quality is not so much of quality (e.g. a Yugo vs. a Rolls-Royce) but of consistency. Thus, in ISO-land, the Yugo may have higher quality than Rolls-Royce if Yugo produces a uniformly rotten vehicle 99% of the time while Rolls-Royce produces a consistently outstanding vehicle only 95% of the time. Finally, LMI indicates a high percentage of client “satisfaction” without noting on the same page that its clients are 100% U.S. Government Public Sector entities.

    The bottom line here is that MARAD is spending more taxpayer dollars to give them a fig leaf provided by an independent third party consultant whose only customers are government entities.

    • Your comments regarding performance are spot on. No way can LMI perform the Tasks (C), within 60 days, i.e., the Period of Performance (F), cited in the SOW. And, the small print regarding the Final Report under Deliverables, (E) is nothing more than an open-ended ‘target of opportunity” for LMI to extend the work. The small print is like the side=effect warning on a prescription bottle. To a critical reviewer, the SOW isn’t even much of a fig leaf.

  9. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) applied the following criteria in evaluating the USMMA:
    1)Mission and Goals
    2)Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal
    3)Institutional Review
    4)Leadership and Governance
    7)Institutional Assessment
    8)Student Admissions and Retention
    9)Student Support Services
    10) Faculty
    11) Educational Offerings
    12) General Education
    13) Related Institutional Activities
    14) Assessment of Student Learning

    The MSCHE concluded that “In the team’s judgment, the institution does not meet the standard” for the following five criteria:

    2) Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal
    3) Institutional Review
    4) Leadership and Governance
    5) Administration
    9) Student Support Services

    The deficient areas cited are clearly management responsibilities and are a direct reflection of a lack of leadership by the Maritime Administrator and Superintendent, USMMA. Moreover, that same lack of leadership can be directly transposed to the prevailing SA/SH issue.

    However, neither SA/SH concerns nor the Sea Year Program was a factor in placing the USMMA on an accreditation warning status. The accreditation warning was based on the five management deficiencies noted above.

    In a classical ‘bait and switch” move, USMMA management created a diversion by suspending the Sea Year Program and awarding a contract to Logistics Management Institute (before the time for submitting bids was closed) to perform an “independent cultural assessment” of the USMMA to “determine the root causes of SA/SH and other inappropriate behaviors that have persisted both on campus and during the Sea Year.” What is really required is an independent, impartial and objective assessment of USMMA management to determine the effectiveness of current Academy leadership.

    • Just to clarify, LMI was not awarded (at least not officially) the contract before bids were closed. But, apparently people within LMI knew that it was, in essence, a done deal, before the bids were closed.

  10. Some questions:

    1) Will the Vendor ask the students about potential misconduct by staff members, and guarantee anonymity to prevent reprisals? Right now a lot of students are scared of speaking out due to the perception of reprisals (i.e. being the last one to be assigned a scarce MSC or RRF sea-year spot).

    2) Does anyone else remember the discussions two years ago about Col Helis wanting the Academic Year to go to Semesters rather than tri-mesters? Abolishing Sea Year would make that easier to enact. They could even go to a 5 year program with one year being an internship ship. Lower yearly admissions to 200 with no impact on budget. After Sophomore year, students would take off a year for an internship (would be different than Sea Year because the Academy would pay Shipping Companies to take the Middies on board, and it would be on the student to identify and secure an internship). Under that system, less than 800 students (accounting for attrition that number would probably be around 700) would be at KP at any given time, which is where it is now.

    Not saying a traditional semester program is better, I like it the way it is. Why change it if it is not broken? I’m just suggesting that Colonel Helis may still be trying to get rid of the Trimester system, and he is getting rid of Sea Year to do that. Look beyond the current behavior to the future goals he has.

    3) Can we vote to have the Alumni Foundation to stop disbursing funds, and put all future donations in a trust to be given to the Academy once Helis resigns? I may vote with my checkbook and withhold future donations to the Foundation until they take a stronger stand against Helis.

    4) What impact is this having on Admissions? Are inquiries down? Are application submissions down? Are nominations down? Is the quality of applicants down? If they don’t release the gpa/test score data for the Class of 2021 next summer when 2021 starts, or if the report varies from the format from prior years and it omits certain data, then it will mean they accepted lesser-quality candidates to fill the spots.


  11. Referencing MSCHE Criteria #1-Mission and Goals, can anyone enlighten me if, unlike virtually all other colleges that the accrediting body might evaluate (save for the other Federal Academies), Kings Point’s mission is in fact established statutorily in the US Code? That is, the mission, to train Mariners—on commercial US vessels—is integral to the school’s initial charter. I have no idea if there is a statute that essentially says that, but it would make sense. The reason I ask is that many years ago there was industry anecdotes/ scuttlebutt about a past existential crisis in which the Clinton DOT sought to merge KP with USCGA. The attempt failed because of the two inconsistent missions of the respective Academies, a successful campaign and effort led by alumni in that case I don’t know if that is a true story button any event, when you get to the core mission of USMMA, it strikes me that the stand-down utterly interferes with the ability to carry it out. Is there a legal avenue to pursue in that regard?

    • Hate to say it, but at this point I would be thrilled if the Coast Guard took over the actual management of the school, so long as it’s independent mission remained the same.

  12. According to the Rand Organization’s “Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military Volume 2. Estimates for Department of Defense Service Members from the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study”, they state the following: “The majority of sexual assaults, for both the active- and reserve- component members, were perpetrated by other military personnel and occurred in military settings. 85% of active-component members and 81% of reserve-component members indicated their assailant was another member of the military. 65% of active-component members and 63% of reserve-component members indicated the assault occurred on a military installation, ship, armory, or reserve unit site. Maybe the culture/climate survey is being done in anticipation of exiting the us-flag commercial vessel shipping-based sea year program, and replacing it with an MSC-based sea year program.

  13. What’s really crazy about this process is that the end result of everything the administration does is push any potential resumption of sea year back even further. If you all remember, when it first occurred, the talk was that it might only take a few weeks to get it going again. Then it was going to be in time for the A splits. Now, with the “study” we are talking January at the earliest. Even that assume that a new administration in D.C. will pick up on this quickly and move it forward.

    As the parent of a current mid, I still think we should be focusing on the basic question of the blatant disregard of the commitment made to the students by the school when they enrolled…”the world is your campus”. The stand down, even if somehow warranted, (which I don’t assume to be the case), was instituted without any semblance of a plan of action to assure that this commitment was kept. Having mids on ships that don’t sail is like having little kids hop on the old style mechanical horse rides that one used to find outside of supermarkets in the old days.

    On a personal level, my mid loves the school and the friends that he has made. He is now at sea and is thrilled. I’ve asked him if he wanted to leave, given the ongoing shenanigans and he is clear that he’s not going anywhere. He’s going to ride it out because it’s where he wants to be. (Keep in mind that he also could have attended one of the state schools on a full scholarship with no military commitment). That said, he has also made clear that there is not a single mid that he knows that has any confidence or trust in the administration. The kids will honor the commitment they made to the school and the country–but it’s clear that they don’t trust the administration to honor the commitment that was made to them.

    The arguments made here, all of which I support, regarding the “study”, the SAGR survey, the fact that this is a smokescreen to divert attention from the Middle States Report are all great. I just think from a practical ad personal view, the emphasis should be on the Academy’s unilateral disregard of the commitment made to its students.

    And yes, I am not giving my real name because the kids are scared of retaliation.

    • To you and me and most people, the delay built in by doing the study is a bug. To this administration, it is a feature. That’s the problem. They have an agenda. They have a false narrative designed to drive that agenda. And they are going to pursue that agenda to the end — Midshipmen, Congress, parents, alumni and industry be damned. The short term agenda is to end sea year on commercial ships. The long term agenda is to create the impetus to build $1.8 billion in training ships for the state schools. And they seized on a hot button issue, SA/SH, built a false narrative around it, and weaponized it against the midshipmen in an effort to promote their agenda.

      • You may be right on all counts, but that is why I think the emphasis has to be on the damage done to the mids who were falsely led to believe that they would benefit from the traditional sea year. Related thereto is the complete lack of anybody in the administration taking responsibility for their actions. In a nutshell, there are certain facts that cannot be disputedby MARAD:
        1. The same people have been running the academy for several years now.
        2. Under their watch, a service academy has had its accreditation put at risk for the first time.
        3. During that time, these same people continued to promote the traditional sea year to prospective students.
        4. They themselves acknowledge that there has supposedly been a SASH problem at the school for years (Probably true, but I don’t know if it’s worse than any other academy or school).
        5. The programs they put in place to solve the problem, by their own admission have not worked.
        6. As a result of the stand down, there are no women mids at sea on commercial ships for the first time since women were admitted into the Academy. (The sexists are thrilled)
        7. All the people in charge still have their jobs, their degrees, their commissions and their existing licenses. (The mids should be so lucky.)
        8. Mids who turned down or did not seek summer employment in the expectation of being paid to sail now have financial concerns.
        9. Not a single person who is responsible for running the school for the last few years has resigned or been fired. (So much for accountability).

        In a nutshell, only the mids, some of whom have never sailed before and who certainly are not in charge of anything administrative at the school, and who have done nothing at all to deserve this, have suffered. Everybody else is in great shape.

        That, I think, is the argument that should take priority.

        Just one man’s opinion.
        Thanks for all the good work you guys are doing.

  14. All of this is important BUT to me is not the central issue/crisis facing USMMA at this juncture. All focus should be on the accreditation review in March 2017. Without accreditation everything else does not matter. MSCHE is an independent body that has put everyone on notice that it is not happy with the leadership at USMMA. Moreover, every single thing that the leadership has done moves the institution further away from MSCHE’s requirements – not closer. Notice that MSCHE has remained silent about the bastardization of their report. I have come to believe, as crazy as it sounds, that closure of USMMA is the ultimate end goal. Why? No idea. But, no one is stopping it and no one in Congress seems to be doing a darn thing to slow down the speeding train. The midshipmen are irrelevant to absolutely everyone in a position of power in this situation – everyone.

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