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Transcript: Address to the USMMA Regiment of Midshipmen, Faculty, and Staff

Monday, September 19, 2022

 Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips (USN, Ret.)
Administrator, Maritime Administration
Address to the Regiment of Midshipmen, Faculty, and Staff
September 19, 2022

Thank you for that introduction.  I’m very excited to be making my third trip to the Academy.

During this trip, I wanted to have an extended period to meet with midshipmen.  Yesterday, I was able to meet with the regimental leadership as well as victim advocates, Human Relations Officers, and representatives of the Kappa Phi Lamda, One Love, Open Seas, and Campus Culture Clubs. 

I am so proud of the initiative shown by midshipmen in forming and participating in these clubs, and in promoting and supporting an inclusive and diverse campus.  Our diversity is our strength.  And only by prioritizing diversity can we enable this Academy can draw on the talents and promise of every single member of our campus community.

We expect leaders, faculty, staff and midshipmen to uphold the value of diversity and to treat all members of the Kings Point community with respect at all times. 

During our meetings, we were able to discuss priorities for the 2022/2023 academic year, as well as issues of concern here at the Academy, including infrastructure and the budget.  I will address these issues in more detail in a moment.  


First, I’d like to thank you again for the warm welcome.  I was honored to be confirmed as the 20th Maritime Administrator and to be sworn-in only a few months ago in May of this year.  

In this position, I am leading MARAD’s efforts to support and promote our U.S. merchant marine.  I am also charged with the agency’s work on infrastructure investments, on the management of the Ready Reserve Fleet, and of course, our support of the Merchant Marine Academy.

Prior to leading MARAD, I served as the Special Assistant to the Governor of Virginia for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, where I led the development of the state’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan to guide strategies for addressing the many impending consequences of sea level rise.  

I previously served more than three decades in the U.S. Navy, as a Surface Warfare Officer, retiring as a Rear Admiral.  I had the honor to commission and command the USS MUSTIN (DDG 89), and later to command Destroyer Squadron 28, and finally Expeditionary Strike Group Two.  

My husband, who grew up in Madrid, Spain, is also a retired navy Surface Warfare Officer, and now a High School math teacher.  We’re travelers, foodies, and dog lovers—I took up sculling several years ago and spend my spare time rowing when I can. Someday, we’ll spend our summers chasing European cycling and Formula 1. But that day is still in the future for a little while. We might talk a bit more later about the adventure that brought me to the Navy.    


Each visit I make to the Academy only reconfirms what I said when I visited for graduation in June: YOU, our midshipmen, are the best that America has to offer.  And you deserve a world-class education at a world-class institution that will prepare you to excel in the lives of service you have chosen.

I know that this Academy has challenges.  And these challenges will not be solved without a sustained commitment of effort and resources to make improvements in many facets of the Academy’s operations.  

This commitment is vital because the Academy, and you, are vital to our nation.  The Academy is not only the primary source of Strategic Sealift Officers, it trains the next generation of America’s merchant mariners. 

USMMA builds leaders of exemplary character—leaders who are mentally, physically, and morally strong, even under the pressure that only someone who makes their living by the sea would know. And I can tell you from my talks with carriers, you are desperately needed in the fleet, make no mistake. 

Like the generations before you, you will sail the open seas and you will move the cargoes that keep our economy growing. And, like the generations before you, will be the ones to answer the call to move the cargoes that are essential to enabling us to defeat any adversary on any shore.

OK, that’s the bigger ‘why,’ now let’s add a few more details. 


Since the departure of Admiral Buono in June, Admiral Sue Dunlap has been providing exceptional leadership to the Academy.  I commend her for her service.

I also thank Admiral Ballard, Captain Stroud, and the senior leadership team for the transition they have led.  And I thank Laila Linares, a USMMA Class of 2006 grad, who has graciously served as our Acting Chief of Staff.

The Merchant Marine Academy superintendent is the captain of our ship, responsible for setting the tone, for advancing our institutional priorities, and for overseeing the educational program that will prepare you for your careers.

It must be someone who will lead with integrity, honor, intelligence, dedication, and skill—and someone who fully appreciates the unique role of the merchant marine in our nation and of this institution to the merchant marine.

Earlier this year, we engaged in a national search to identify candidates for this critical position and we had dozens of applications. 

Our highest priority, of course, is finding the right leader to meet this inflection point in the Academy’s history. And as I said before, we have a moment. Because everyone realizes the value our Merchant Marine brings to our nation and the value you bring to our Merchant Marine. And we look forward to making an announcement as soon as possible.

We are also creating additional positions here at the Academy.  One of these, as was already shared, will be of the Academy’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, to help us take deliberate steps to strengthen and support our efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion here. I’d like to point out that that position was not only recommended by the NAPA report but also by Midshipmen. And it’s your recommendations and your interest in this that we hae been able to move forward with this really quickly.  


I also want to talk about our efforts to strengthen safety for all midshipmen both afloat and ashore.  

Ensuring your safety and welfare are our highest priorities.  Every one of you must have a safe environment in which to learn—both during Sea Year and here on campus.

We will not tolerate any form of sexual violence or harassment.  We will seek to identify and remove barriers to reporting wherever they exist.  And we will support survivors.

I hope you all received the update Admiral Dunlap and I issued last week discussing the EMBARC program. If you haven’t already read this, I highly encourage you to do so. 

This update is important, so please allow me to provide a brief recap: 

In November 2021, the Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, and the Academy temporarily paused Sea Year training. 

We did this to develop and implement new policies and procedures to improve safety for cadets—and indeed for all mariners—on commercial vessels by focusing on the prevention of sexual assault and harassment and the establishment of procedures to help hold perpetrators accountable.

The policies we developed consist of two components.  And I’d particularly like to thank, as I work into this, Deputy Administrator Lucinda Lessley, who led the charge last year to put this plan together and bring it to where it is today.

First is the “Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture” (EMBARC) program, which we introduced on December 15 last year, and which set forth new requirements regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention and response that commercial carriers must adopt before they employ USMMA cadets. 

This is a key part of how we can help strengthen safety and accountability in the program. And we are grateful for the midshipmen who weighed in and shared insight to help us smartly develop and execute this program.  

Then, on December 22, 2021, USMMA issued a new Superintendent Instruction to govern USMMA’s Sea Year as well as a revised Sea Year guide that cadets carry with them when they go to sea. These policies strengthen the support we provide to YOU in many ways.  

For example, the policies require all cadets to be equipped with USMMA provisioned satellite phones while they are at sea.  You can use these phones to call the Academy or to call anyone in your support network—such as family and friends.  

We also updated the amnesty policy for midshipmen who experience or witness sexual assault or harassment, whether on shore or at sea. 

Let me pause for a moment on the amnesty policy to be clear:

Survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment as well as bystanders and witnesses who report sexual assault and sexual harassment are covered under the Academy’s amnesty policy. 

This means that if you were engaged in behavior that may be in violation of academy policies (such as underage drinking) at the time of the incident, you will not be disciplined for the policy violation by reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment.

On December 22, 2021, MARAD lifted the Sea Year pause, and initial Sea Year embarkations resumed on ships operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Navy, as well as training vessels.  

With extraordinary support from these Federal partners, those of you in the Class of 2023 are positioned to take licensing exams on time and to graduate on time.

We now have 14 companies enrolled in EMBARC.  And enrolled companies are working to increase the number of vessels carrying cadets.

Our goal remains to increase our support for a culture of respect and accountability on campus and at sea. And I can tell you, when carriers come in to see me, and they do often, and when unions come into see me, and they do often – there is support for this program. They are moving forward with it. They get it, and they’re making progress with your help. 

With your help, we are in the process of further revamping the Sea Year Guide to incorporate recommendations from a subject matter expert with whom we have been working.  

We are also strengthening our SAPR office.  We created the new position of Director within the office.  The new Director will begin on September 25 and will lead urgent efforts to review and strengthen our efforts to prevent sexual assault and harassment and again, to support survivors.

We have also hired a new Victim Advocate and we are continuing to search for a new SARC.

We welcome any recommendations and feedback on how these new policies and procedures are working.  In fact, many, many of these policies—such as the provision of satellite phones during Sea Year—were implemented based on recommendations from your fellow midshipmen—and we want to continue to hear from you about how we can improve what we are doing.

We also encourage you to continue to share your observations on the EMBARC program via  We also encourage your observations on all other aspects of Academy life. We appreciate your honesty and candor. 


Moving to the campus grounds, while I’m told ‘old’ can be quite charming, we know you deserve more…and would prefer words like “state of the art.”  

As such, I believe we have a unique opportunity now to make a big difference. 

We are strengthening the way we manage infrastructure projects here and establishing new oversight processes.  We have hired new staff and are also recruiting a new Director of Facilities—a senior executive who will oversee all capital and maintenance projects.

As many of you may know, we have had two Senior Executives on detail from the Federal Aviation Administration leading facilities work for us since November.  First, we had Nathan Tash, and now Rebecca MacPherson. 

Rebecca is back ‘on the ground’ at the Academy this week working on multiple infrastructure projects that I have talked about today.

We thank Nathan and Rebecca—and we thank the FAA and the entire Department of Transportation, including Deputy Secretary Trottenberg – who I know some of you have met, and of course, our Secretary, Secretary Buttigieg—for the incredible support they continue to provide to the Academy.

Let me also discuss a few new initiatives, and please feel free to ask me more questions later during the Q&A.

First, let me again be clear: your safety and welfare are our highest priority, and you deserve to live and study in well-maintained residence halls. 

As such, I am pleased to announce a new program we are rolling out to help us address the many concerns regarding the dorms. 

We are aware that several of you have submitted work requests to fix issues like mold and cold showers, to no avail.  We are setting up a new tracking system for the dormitories that assures accountability on our part.  We intend to have it in place by the end of October.  

In broad terms, you can expect the following: 

•    Your complaints will be acknowledged in writing and a member of the maintenance team will conduct a site visit within 10 business days;
•    if the problem cannot be identified, the maintenance team will reach out to you for more information. 
•    finally, once the issue has been resolved, the maintenance team will send you a follow-up email explaining what was done to fix the problem.

The goal of this process is to ensure you are talking to and hearing directly from the maintenance providers, and that you are never left to wonder where your request is or if it has even been received.

We are also working to finish Lower Roosevelt field, and many of you may have noticed the new boilers being installed in Fulton-Gibbs. This will be ready by the time you get the cold weather…which by the way the weather’s looking today, might not be anytime soon.  

Over the longer term, we are also establishing a contract with a professional maintenance company who can handle a surge in maintenance efforts here, campus wide to get ahead of maintenance issues.

And then there’s Samuels Hall.  You may have noticed it has been under construction for a while. We had to stop the rehabilitation effort to address critical IT issues on campus. That has been done.  

We have largely addressed these concerns and you can expect to see an active construction site in the next month or so.  

Once the work is completed, Samuels Hall will serve as a dedicated center for simulators and will have new classroom space.  We will also have a new Main Data Center to provide IT services here.

Over the next few years, we also intend a rehab of Fulton-Gibbs so that we can extend the service life of the building and provide a better learning environment.  

That said, we also know that the Academy really needs a new academic building that can provide not only state-of-the-art classroom space, but also a new learning center.  


Again, we value your input—and we encourage your observations on all other aspects of Academy life.

Only with your continued commitment to a safe and inclusive culture can we succeed.  

I know that many of you are leading new initiatives to support culture change in this industry—you are the industry’s future and the changes you make are the most critical changes.  

Thank you for what you are doing and please do not hesitate to reach out whenever you have an idea or recommendation.  And I pledge that we will continue to seek your input when we have new proposals and ideas.

I said I’d share my personal story of joining the Navy—and I’ll do that, and then I’m happy to take some of your questions in the time we have remaining.