US Admiral Refuses To Send SASH Report To Congress
By John Konrad (gCaptain) Last month gCaptain reported NY Maritime College president Rear Admiral Mike Alfultis, USMS attempted to hide an external review report that contains evidence of racism and sexual harassment at his college. The leaked copy of the report was subsequently released to the students but it contained numerous redactions. Today we learned that Alfultis, a federally appointed Rear Admiral in the US Maritime Service, has refused to share the report with Congress despite receiving over $1.6 Billion in Federal Aid for the college between 2018 and 2022.
“The college is strange. Because you are required by the US Coast Guard (USCG) to wear a uniform and are subject to USCG rules when working aboard the school’s ship, cadets report incidents to the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) uniformed officers, not the campus police like at other colleges,” said one NY Maritime alumnus who’s afraid that her rape and assault may be in the report.
The report in question was written by a committee of respected alumni and academic leaders – Including the former Commandant of Cadets at the US Coast Guard Academy and Deputy Director of Student Development at the US Naval Academy – tasked with looking at accountability, leadership, discrimination, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Harassment (SASH) on campus.
The report claims the Regimental and Cadet Officers – who report to the dean of leadership and Commandant of Cadets Captain Catie Hanft – “lead through fear” rather than through respect, punish sexual harassment victims, and washes out a disproportionately high proportion of women and minorities. The report also claims that Committee members received many reports that sexual harassment and racial harassment do not receive the proper treatment from either the Regiment or the administration, and people aren’t held accountable for their behavior.
“The circumstance surrounding this (NY Maritime) report is troubling. In its publicly released versions, NY Maritime college redacted seemingly important portions of the report associated with sexual harassment, sexual assault, and racial harassment. That certainly went beyond shielding names for privacy. The Academy even refuses to share the unredacted version with me as well,” said Carbajal in a Congressional hearing last month. “The report states that the committee has found that across the board there are issues regarding how racial and sexual harassment or claims of sexual assault are handled. I can only imagine what’s in the redacted portions.”
Carbajal estimates the school received $1.6 billion in Federal funding from 2018 to 2022, will soon take delivery of a $300 million training ship, and has asked for significant Federal help in recapitalizing infrastructure projects which Carbajal calls “short-sighted.”
Can An American Admiral Refuse Congress?
Alfultis is both the President of the College, a state position, and a Rear Admiral in the US Maritime Service, a federal appointment under the authority of the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the United States Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg.
How can an actively commissioned flag officer appointed by the US Federal government refuse congress? We could not find that answer.
Pete Buttigieg’s Response
We asked the US Department of Transportation and the US Maritime Administration this question and received the following response.
“MARAD applauds any and all efforts that work to improve the safety of cadets and of all mariners at sea and ashore. Like the college mentions in their report, we must be proactive, and we must eliminate any barriers that prevent the reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said a MARAD spokesperson. “We must also expand support for survivors, and expand policies that will help hold perpetrators accountable. Safety at sea remains our north star, and we offer our support and partnership in the collective endeavor to build a stronger culture for our maritime industry.”
When asked how a recalcitrant NY Maritime can receive federal funds without MARAD oversight, acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley responded that her administration is looking at MARAD policies and procedures to strengthen title six oversight over the State Maritime Academies.
Lessley said she is particularly concerned about NY Maritime being the federal custodian of a new National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV) ship, a dual-purpose ship that is essential for national security and must be kept in a state of readiness for use by MARAD and the US Navy.
In the hearing Lessley also suggested that MARAD is overwhelmed by this task while also trying to manage changes at the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in the wake of the Midshipman X scandal where a 19-year-old college student, was allegedly raped by a 60-year-old officer aboard a Maersk container ship.
US Navy Response
A US Navy officer familiar with the situation told gCaptain they are unsure how the Navy would react to this report if asked by Congress to investigate. The importance of NY Maritime College and the new NSMV to national security was, however, made clear by US Navy supporters in Congress.
“When Mike Alfultis from NY Maritime first came to my office to raise the pressing need to recapitalize our state training ship fleet, it was clear that this was an unprecedented opportunity not just to bolster our maritime workforce but to revitalize our domestic shipbuilding,” said Joe Courtney Chairman of the US Navy Committee on Seapower in a December statement. “Today’s milestone is a culmination of that effort—from the initial work that we did on the Seapower Subcommittee to establish this program in law and the work done since to get it funded and started.”
Despite the fact that a large number of NY Maritime college graduates join the US Navy, Military Sealift Command, Naval shipyards, or naval defense contractors the US Naval Academy (USNA) and Naval War College traditionally do not have a close working relationship with the nation’s largest maritime academies. This lack of connection between the US Maritime Service and US Navy is part of the reason why the US Navy is failing to build and maintain working ships.
NY Maritime’s provost, Dr. Jennifer Waters, who was hired in July 2020, is a former USNA Associate Dean.
USCG Fails To Respond
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) – which investigates assaults aboard American ships including the Federally owned Training Ship Empire State, which is on loan to the college – responded quickly to our initial request stating “It will likely take several days to gather the answers to your questions” That request, however, was dated April 16th and the USCG has still not responded with answers.
The following are the questions gCaptain asked the USCG:
- We have a few questions regarding the attached report about the regiment at SUNY Maritime.
- Why does the USCG continue to require state maritime academies to have a regiment?
- What are the USCG’s duties with regards to oversight of the SUNY Maritime regiment?
- Is the USCG investigating any of the assaults or rapes that maritimelegalaid.com alleges took place aboard the Training Ship Empire State?
- Will the USCG investigate the reports of SASH incidents contained in this report?
- Will a member of the CGIS or a senior USCG officer be aboard the Training Ship Empire State during the next training cruise?
- Does the USCG have any comments or clarifications to make regarding the article titled SUNY Maritime College Admiral Hides Scandalous External Review Report?
- What programs do you have in place for monitoring and investigating crimes aboard all the MARAD-owned training ships?
US Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz was at the hearing with Lessley but did not comment on Carbajal’s questions.
MARAD Rear Admiral Alfultis is a former USCG officer and a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy.
Kings Point Sentinal Responds
The fact that large sections of the report have been redacted clearly shows that little progress has been made by NY Maritime on Sexual Assault and Harassment issues since the Midshipman X scandal rocked the shipping industry last year.
Several alumni of the USMMA have contacted gCaptain with worries that a double standard exists between the one federal maritime academy, USMMA – which MARAD operates directly – and the five state academies – that operate under a MARAD mandate, receive billions in federal funding, and are run by federally appointed Admirals.
“The state schools have hired lawyer and Jones Act Lobbyist Mark Ruge of the powerful maritime law firm K&L Gates to run a lobby group called the Consortium of State Maritime Academies,” said one influential USMMA alumni we talked to. “This lobby group has helped them get billions of dollars of federal funding but has excluded USMMA from membership. Are they helping to shield Alfultis from federal oversight?”
Similar allegations of a double standard between how sexual assault complaints are managed at the state schools versus the federal academy have been presented by the USMMA alumni newsletter King’s Point Sentry published by Andrew Simpson, lawyer, and advocate.
“How it is applying the EMBARC’s Federal Sexual Assault Harassment and Discrimination standards to USMMA midshipmen but not to state maritime school students fair?” asks the Sentinal in a recent article. “State maritime schools had committed to Lessley that they would not put their students on EMBARC-eligible vessels that were not enrolled in EMBARC. SUNY Maritime’s president, Read Admiral Alfultis, specifically made this commitment on behalf of SUNY and the other state schools in a telephone call with the USMMA’s Alumni Foundation president a few weeks ago. These were statements of faux solidarity. They made the state schools appear to be supportive. But as I disclosed in yesterday’s post, MARAD had carved out 129 ships that were off-limits to USMMA midshipmen but not to state school students and the promise from the state schools did not apply to those 129 ships since those ships were not “EMBARC-eligible” according to MARAD’s website and proposed EMBARC rule.”
Between the Jones Act entanglement, lobbyists, lawyers, US Military involvement, national security concerns, billions in taxpayer spending, refusal of USCG to comment, striking journalists off invitation lists, and federally sanctioned double standards… it’s not easy to figure out exactly what is going on at NY Maritime or MARAD.
Hopefully the administration’s new chief – Ann Phillips, Commandant of the US Maritime Service – will show strong leadership and will convince her Rear Admiral to submit the documents Congress has requested.
Midshipman X Update
The big question everyone is asking – and Commandant Schultz did not address in Congress – is why the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) has not made arrests in the Midshipman X case. We have not been able to find answers to that question but we are told that Midshipman X has retained, Sanford Heisler Sharp, a nationally recognized civil rights law firm to represent her and press for justice in her case.
Individuals close to this, and other shipboard rape cases reported to CGIS, tell gCaptain that the new USCG Commandant Admiral Linda Fagan, who was confirmed by the Senate last week and will replace Schultz on June 1st, is a strong advocate for SASH reform and is fully aware of the issue.
Editors note: gCaptain was not invited by MARAD Rear Admiral Alfultis, Lessley, or Courtney to the keel-laying ceremony for the new ship. Our reporters have been removed from all MARAD and SUNY Maritime invitation lists since the resignation of Admiral Buzby in January 2021. Sources inside MARAD and SUNY Maritime tell us they have both clamped down hard on media requests and have warned staff not to talk with journalists.
Congressional Hearing Video
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