Better Program Management and Oversight are Required for USMMA's Efforts to Address Sexual Assault and Harassment
The Duncan Hunter Act National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 required the Secretary of Transportation and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) to address sexual assault and harassment at the Academy. Amid concerns of ongoing incidents, Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development requested that we evaluate the Academy’s efforts to prevent sexual assault and harassment and the role of the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) senior leadership in implementing the Academy’s action plans.
USMMA has made progress in implementing nine broad goals to reduce sexual assault and harassment—goals that are based on its 2009-2010 survey and included in the Academy’s initial action plan. However, none of the goals have been fully achieved. Some implemented actions have significant shortcomings, and more than a third of the actions to establish an effective Sexual Assault, Prevention, and Response (SAPR) Program remain incomplete. In addition, USMMA has not fully identified tasks, responsibilities, and timeframes for its updated action plan, which was published in March 2014. Further, since the Duncan Hunter Act took effect in October 2008, USMMA has not issued its reports for the first 4 academic program years in a timely manner. Reporting delays and other weaknesses ultimately result in Congress receiving irrelevant and potentially misleading information on survey results and action plans. Finally, OST has not designated authority or assigned responsibility for overseeing USMMA’s SAPR Program and for ensuring compliance with legislative requirements, and MARAD has not established clear lines of reporting or training requirements for key positions related to the Academy’s sexual assault and harassment prevention programs. We made nine recommendations aimed at helping the Academy achieve the goals in its original action plan, and improve the timeliness of its annual reports and its oversight of the SAPR Program. MARAD concurred with all of our recommendations.
Update: Subsequent to issuing our report, on October 24, 2014 we received a copy of USMMA's report for the 2012-2013 academic performance year dated October 17, 2014.