Letter to Strategic Planning Committee

Discussion in 'Merchant Marine Academy - USMMA' started by Tomcat87, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. Tomcat87

    Tomcat87 Member

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    After reading the draft that the USMMA Strategic Planning Committee issued I responded to them with this letter. Wanted to post it here to read any comments some of you might have, and possibly generate some interest from those of you who have not given your input to the committee. I will cut and paste the letter from the committee followed by my letter to them in response.
    One thing. This is not meant as an attack on the committee by any means. It is meant as one persons viewpoint. It comes from someone who is new to USMMA and like the letter says has only visited campus two times. My son (2016) will be starting in July so my viewpoint is from a newbie.
    Please take the time to express your views on this subject to the Strategic Planning Committee and also to your Congressman. Hopefully we can make a difference.




    USMMA Invites Comments on the USMMA Draft Strategic Plan (2012-2017)

    We invite you to review and comment on the draft USMMA Strategic Plan (2012-2017) by July 4, 2012. The USMMA Strategic Planning process was launched on March 13, 2012 by Interim Superintendent Dr. Shashi Kumar and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood during a Town Hall meeting with midshipmen, faculty and staff. This was the beginning of an extensive outreach process to gather feedback and insights for the USMMA Five-Year Strategic Plan.

    Since that time, we have held outreach sessions with the USMMA campus community, as well as representatives from the Maritime industry, alumni, parents and leaders in the Great Neck Community. So far, we have received feedback from more than 800 people with ties to King Point, and we look forward to hearing from even more over the next few weeks.

    The Strategic Plan articulates why the Academy matters, its importance to the Nation and the values that drive its success. We want to thank those who participated in one of the outreach sessions and encourage everyone to review the draft plan as we near the end of the strategic planning process. We encourage you to forward this notice to your colleagues.

    Go to USMMA.EDU<http://www.USMMA.EDU> to review the draft USMMA Strategic Plan. Please submit comments to STRATEGICPLAN@USMMA.EDU<mailto:STRATEGICPLAN@USMMA.EDU> no later than July 4, 2012.

    Very sincerely,

    Dr. Bryna Helfer, Director of Public Engagement, USDOT
    Ms. Helen Brohl, Senior Advisor for USMMA Strategic Planning, USMMA




    Dear Sirs,
    As a parent of an incoming USMMA student I applauded and looked forward to the Strategic Plan for the academy. However after reading the draft I was thouroghly disappointed. It comes across as a typical government overview. It is very vague and deals in generalities trying to please the masses and be politically correct. What I was hoping for was an in depth plan addressing specific needs of the academy. What I read was a politically correct pamphlet covering generalities, ideals and diversity. Nothing wrong with having something like that, but that is an overview and not a strategic plan. I was hoping for specifics that addressed head on the immediate problems the campus faces. Instead of worrying about the percentage of students passing the Coast Guard exam or the advancement of the percentages of minorities in the school why aren't we first worrying about the condition of the buildings, facilities and infrastructure on campus and keeping our young men and women healthy and safe. Kings Point just had a tremendous scare with the carbon monoxide problem which emphasizes the point I am trying to make.
    As a new KP parent I can only relate my limited experiences and viewpoint as I have only visited campus twice, staying overnight one time at Melville Hall. To be very honest with you the first time I visited USMMA I was shocked. I could not believe that one of the five United States Service Academies was in the condition it was in. I have personally been to USNA and to USAFA so I thought that USMMA would be somewhat similar but on a smaller scale and probably not quite as nice due to the fact that USMMA was not DOD funded. I can understand the disparity between the three but what I found at first glance at USMMA was an aging campus, old buildings that are outdated, cracked and uneven sidewalks, a gymnassium that was smaller, older and way outdated compared to most highschool gyms in our local area, a pier that was falling apart, and a baseball field that is in very poor shape and doesn't even have an outfield fence. This was just a first look and had nothing to do with the real meat and potatoes of the campus such as infrastructure, dormatories, classrooms or labratories. Needless to say I was shocked that in the greatest country in the world one of our five national service academies was in this kind of shape. Now obviously what is truly important is the education and experience our young men and women get from attending USMMA, but the safety, atmosphere, and overall condition of campus should not have to suffer to provide those things. There is absolutely no reason, other than misplaced emphasis and priorities in funding, why this institution should not be close to what the campuses of USNA and USAFA look like. It is all based on priorities and in my opinion it is way past time that this institution get the priority it deserves to represent this country as one of its nations service academies.
    Thank you for your time and work on this very important project.
    Regards,
    _____________________
     
  2. Ashore

    Ashore Member

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    Thoughtful concern which I hope will stimulate others.
     
  3. Sailing15

    Sailing15 New Member

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    I agree- the letter represents thoughtful input

    After reading the original posting on this thread, I finally reviewed the Strategic Plan draft. I am not sure of classic Strategic Plan structure, but it did seem to be missing substance. So, I reviewed the 2010 Report by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Capital Improvements Advisory Panle entitled "USMMA: Red Sky in the Morning (http://www.marad.dot.gov/news_room_landing_page/news_blue_ribbon/blue_ribbon_panel.htm.)

    This document provides much of the substance that is lacking from the Strategic Plan but it is clear that recommendation #1 from this report suggests that the Strategic Plan "links industry and U.S. National defense needs to Academy captial improvements". Then it should be supported by "thorough analysis of the future demands for merchant mariners and a detailed facility needs assessment." Althought the Strategic Plan draft supplies some good information on goals, strategies and how to measure success, it does not supply information on why they shoud exist (lining to industry and defense) as suggested. Perhaps, more indepth thorough analysis will be forthcoming as supportive documentation, but it seems that, this should also be spelled out in the Strategic Plan.
     
  4. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    One of the problems I see in any plan is that the US Maritime Industry is not what it once was, and is largely Flag of Convenience or smaller service vessels or construction vessels serving the US Offshore Energy Industry.
     
  5. pk214

    pk214 New Member

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    My DS accepted his appointment, Class of 2016. I recently participated in a strategy meeting hosted by the USMMA National Parents Association. I was shocked by the many negative comments voiced by the parents about how bad things are at the academy. After researching many of their concerns, I am hopeful that the USMMA Strategic Plan will address the following issues quickly and without undue delay.

    • Permanent superintendent - someone personable and with strong leadership abilities
    • Deteriorating facilities - new dock, all barracks to include reliable electricity, hot water, and air conditioning, updated mess hall with new chefs and healthier meals
    • Quality Professors - who speak good English and that enjoy teaching our sons and daughters to be the very best
    • Training vessel - one that compliments today’s maritime engineering and technology systems

    This respected and highly admired institution has been neglected for too long. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently toured the campus and saw firsthand the poor conditions that exist at Kings Point. I hope that all parents will write their senators, congressmen and Secretary of Transportation LaHood and show their support in restoring the academy quickly and in providing much needed financial support.

    My wife and I are so very proud of our son and pray for his success and safety as he embraces these new opportunities. We urge all of you to give the USMMA the attention is needs today and for the long term.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012
  6. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    I don't know that a training vessel is a real priority at KP. The most recent KINGS POINTER was neither that advanced nor representative of what is out there in the fleet today. The KINGS POINTER that was there during my tenure as a cadet was even less relevant; however it did give cadets a basic platform for vessel handling in the deck department and a small diesel plant for the engineers. It did not, however, play a large role in any class work. I believe that the labs (both deck and engine) were far more important than the training ship. Until such time as Mallory Pier is renovated, it would be pointless to spend money on a training vessel.

    Sea Year provides the cadets with the hands on experience with the vessels that they will hopefully be working on once they do get out of school. To spend money on a training vessel just to have one is pointless, given the type of program at KP.

    That said, and once the pier IS finished, however, it may be useful to provide a vessel representative of what is being used in the oil patch offshore. At least with DP2 characteristics. THESE are the kinds of vessels that will have jobs available for graduates since this is where the oil production is moving. Until there is a US maritime policy in place that addresses the dying US flag cargo carrying fleet.

    As far as English speaking professors, well, that is something neither new nor just a problem at KP.

    Detiorating facilities? Well, I do know that many improvements have been made since I attended. It wasn't that long ago that there was no air conditioning at the school. One must realize that the facilities that the cadets will be living on while at sea may likely be much less inviting than what they have at school. It is these same conditions that they will also be living in should they choose a life at sea; kind of the point of going there. As long as the facilities are clean, safe (free from CO exposure threats) and provide a minimum of creature comforts, many ammenities are not really necessary.

    I certainly agree about having a strong Superintendent, however as long as it is a political football, that won't happen. The Superintendent when I attended was pretty much considered completely ineffective, however we still graduated strong classes with capable licensed officers.
     
  7. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Off Topic:
    cmakin, If you were a young man starting over today would you go to KP?
     
  8. jasperdog

    jasperdog Member

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    Actually, I think this question is 110% on topic. I am formulating my own letter on the subject but I 150% agree the lack of substance in the draft report/plan is causing me significant concern. After spending the better part of 4 1/2 days on campus for our DS and the rest of the Class of 2012's graduation festivities the lack of real specifics, recommendations and to use a RADM Greene phrase - "an aspiration based strategic plan" along with real specific plans and requests for ~$25+M/year of Capital Improvement funds over each of the next four to six Government Fiscal Years, it's very, very hard, neigh impossible to see how the Physical plant will ever be on a par to the level it was when cmakin and I attended and graduated from the USMMA "back in the day" - early 1980's.

    Further the labs and curricula need an update so USMMA and the other State Maritime Academies here in the USA can return to being on par with other leading Maritime Training Schools in the Western World.

    Make no mistake it's still a great place to go and I'd hire anyone from the Class of 2012 - "in a heartbeat." However, it is in no way, shape or form on par with the other Federal Service Academies, especially with regard to the facilities.

    Throughout the commencement remarks by Secretary LaHood, he talked about how he was inspired by the students that were in front of him for graduation and the school's motto - Acta Non Verba. Then he promised they'd start the renovation of Mallory Pier this fall. I like all other alumni are grateful for the support of the USMMA that Mr. LaHood has voiced throughout his tenure, and for the small additions to the appropriated funding each of the past couple of years of Federal Budgets. However, I'd feel disingenuous and remiss if I didn't voice some skepticism and concern for these remarks and the recent actions over the past year by the Department of Transportation and MARAD.

    Neither Secretary LaHood nor MARAD Administrator Matsuda used their attendance at the Graduation Ceremony to talk to any of the recent (last 12 months) of issues, address any specifics in response to them, or presage any thoughts or reactions to things they've been pre-birefed about in the Strategic Plan. Not a one - for example none of the following items were mentioned by these senior political appointees: 1) The dismissal/replacement of a true hero and distinguished Alumnus as Superintendent after such a long search for "the right guy" which RADM Greene IS/WAS remains an unexplained travesty. 2) The CONTINUED DELAY in starting construction and repairs of both the Delano Hall and Mallory Pier projects. 3) The surprise, unnecessary closure GMATS on the USMMA Campus and the shut down of the NAFI that operates Melville Hall (the Officers' Club). 4) The early, and unnecessary reassignment of the T/V Kings Pointer to Texas A&M without clear identification and a timeline for a replacement and/or probably even more importantly a clear commitment by MARAD to ensure the Academy Staff has priority and access to the now necessary Cadet Billets on a priority basis over Cadets at State Academies where they have access to a school ship for their sea days. 5) The continued deterioration of the physical plant without a clear response and proactive measures to incidents like the CO poisoning incident in Third Company this spring.

    Instead, we continue to hear from "the Administration" how they understand their duty leading the DOT, how happy they are that USMMA is part of their charge, and how they are committed to making USMMA "a jewel." Last time I purchased a jewel for my wife on our Anniversary in addition to the patina of flowers (similar to the patina of annuals and flowers newly planted around campus this past weekend) that accompanied the gift, I needed to actually purchase the precious stone and have the jeweler craft a setting of precious metal to put it in. That cost money, money like I'm suggesting needs to be spent at USMMA now, and for that to happen the Strategic Plan needs substance, not general lip service. I suppose though I could have just talked about the jewelry for a couple of years and gotten my wife a nice card for a buck or two and hoped she was gong to like it....

    Another cause for concern was the scowls I noted on Administrator Matsuda's face when both the Class Valedictorian and Class President mentioned, respectfully, issues like these and their attendant concerns and frustrations they and their classmates endures and overcame during their four years at USMMA. The only way for the USMMA to reach it's potential as an institution is for all of we stakeholders, including MARAD and DOT, as well as the Students, Families, Faculty, Staff and Alumni to be intellectually forthright and honest with ourselves about the short comings and address them head on. I say again, with regard to the Physical Plant and facilities at 300 Steamboat Road, Kings Point, NY 11024 to address the current issues will take at least $25M / year of ADDITIONAL capital improvement funds per year each of the next 5-6 years. That requires specifics in the strategic plan, and a disciplined, consistent management team, vice the revolving door that has been at the entrance to the Superintendent's office for the past 4 years.

    Acta Non Verba - let's hope this time, at the very least, the construction on Mallory and Delano starts in the fall when they say it will.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012
  9. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    Yes. There were problems when I attended and there are problems now. No institution is ever perfect. I enjoy what it is I do. While I don't sail anymore, I still work in the Industry. Even with the changes now from what the industry was 30 or more years ago, I would still be happy to be part of it and am now. While I attended, I wasn't a big fan of the place and much of what went on I didn't fully understand until a few years ago. Now, I haven't been back for some 20 years or so; and my kids have decided on other career paths. I can say that it certainly shaped me for what I am now and made be a better person in more ways than education.
     
  10. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Thanks for the response. It is good to hear someone in the know say they would still do it today inspite of the problems at KP and a shrinking/changing US industry.
     
  11. cmakin

    cmakin Member

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    In all the maritime industry has been good to me. I am comfortable in just about all situations and anywhere in the world. I think nothing of getting on a plane and boarding a ship, rig or platform anywhere in the world; and often I am the only US citizen on a job.

    A lot of what I learned in Sea Year probably prepared me the most for what came after the Academy. Regimental and academic life were something that I had to endure so I could get my license and go to sea.

    That said, the difficulties of both regimental and academic programs and the often ridiculous life as a cadet back at the school also prepared me for those kind of things in the work place.

    The education offered at KP is like anything else. It is what you make of it. When I attended, like someone else who posts here, I was the ultimate Zombo. No midshipman officer positions wanted or assigned. Odd thing is, I learned more leadership that way; by watching others and their triumphs and mistakes.

    Problems at KP are nothing new. At least we had a pub (finally) onboard where we could go to and drown our sorrows on the weekends. . . . .
     
  12. Navy4ever

    Navy4ever Member

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    Well said Jasperdog! Knowledge is power! However you probably know as much as I do, that there is always information that institutions don't want out there and God help you if you have an opinion and challenge it!! The words 'outcast' and 'pariah' spring to mind.
    I thought it showed true leadership when the Valedictorian and Class President of 2012 addressed some of the issues at KP...food for thought maybe for MARAD administrator???:shake:
     
  13. KPEngineer

    KPEngineer Eternal Father ...

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    For a maritime career ... Absolutely! My only regret of my time at KP is not appreciating it when I was there.

    As far as the "strategic plan" goes ... Pshaw, are they serious?!?! I could do a better job off the top of my head in about 20 min. It is extremely thin on any real substance and the majority of it can be summed up as "scoring better on surveys". There is way more meat in these forums than there is in that plan. I will definitely be submitting comments.
     

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