Report Calls for Full Review at USMMA and MARAD
The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) has completed a study of the U.S. Maritime Administration's policies and performance, and it includes a potentially controversial series of recommendations. The list includes a request for a review of MARAD's internal business practices, a call for greater transparency, and a series of "course corrections" for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Given MARAD's relatively small size and limited resources, NAPA suggested that if it cannot make needed changes at Kings Pont, "it should explore . . . whether there is another organization that should operate the USMMA," perhaps the Coast Guard or the Navy.
NAPA's review panel noted the efforts that MARAD has made over the last several years to work with the academy, and it suggested that it is still the school’s best option for a parent agency. However, the reviewers also found that MARAD and the Department of Transportation do not possess the same resources and experience that the service branches have for running their own institutions of higher education. USMMA's budget per student and number of staffmembers per student are lower than at West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.
NAPA asserted that if MARAD is to continue operating USMMA, it should take the following actions:
- Determine a long-term mission for the academy, including a review of whether USMMA should retain its focus on producing credentialed mariners or whether it should broaden its scope of study.
- Take a proactive approach to communicating news about USMMA to stakeholders, erring on the side of transparency.
- Conduct a thorough review of all policies at the academy.
- Ensure that the academy's top staff, including the superintendent, deputy superintendent, commandant, and academic dean, have the skills and experience required to lead an institution of higher learning and to train mariners.
- Reconsider whether the academy’s newly formed oversight panel – the Maritime Education and Training Executive Review Board (METERB) – is needed. The panel’s duties overlap with existing oversight bodies.
In a statement, MARAD said that it will “give full consideration to NAPA’s recommendations, as the Agency continues its efforts to improve its effectiveness, efficiencies, and ability to address current and evolving issues related to the maritime industry.”
NAPA also reviewed the government's portfolio of sealift programs, including the Ready Reserve Force (RRF), the Military Sealift Command Surge Sealift, the Maritime Security Program (MSP), the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement and the cargo preference program. As many of these programs were developed at different points in time and were not originally designed to work together, NAPA recommended that MARAD work with partner agencies to reassess the best mix of RRF, MSP and MSC assets to meet the Department of Defense's needs. The results of the assessment would feed into plans to recapitalize the aging Surge Sealift and RRF fleets.
MARAD is also contemplating the recapitalization of its training ships, which are specially outfitted RRF vessels used by the maritime academies to provide experience at sea for cadets. In order to take advantage of the historically low prices for used tonnage on the international market, NAPA recommended that MARAD should present Congress with an option to "buy foreign vessels in the near-term for school ship recapitalization." NAPA acknowledged that while the acquisition of used foreign ships in a down market would be cost-effective, it would also mean that the work of building replacement vessels would not go to an American shipyard.
To read NAPA’s full report, click here.