In 2008, Congress passed the Duncan Hunter Act, which aimed to create an environment free of sexual assault and harassment at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). This act required the Department of Transportation (DOT) to direct USMMA to prescribe a policy; conduct an annual assessment to determine the effectiveness of its policies, training, and procedures; develop action plans; and report to Congress on its progress. While the Department and USMMA have complied with the act’s requirements, the Academy has faced challenges in following through on plans and addressing issues concerning its culture.
Our 2016 review found that USMMA had not completed 15 (34 percent) of the 44 items on its 2014–2015 action plan. Furthermore, in June 2016, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) issued an accreditation warning to USMMA, partly based on its ongoing challenges in combatting sexual assault and sexual harassment. Subsequently, DOT selected the Logistics Management Institute (LMI) to conduct a cultural assessment of USMMA. LMI concluded that, although the Academy had taken actions to address the problem, the underlying climate contributing to these issues remained. LMI made several recommendations, and in response, USMMA published a “Culture Change Action Plan,” listing over 50 actions to be completed in fiscal year 2017.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 mandated that we issue a report by March 31, 2018, describing the effectiveness of USMMA’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. Specifically, our objectives will be to assess (1) the SAPR program’s policies and procedures; (2) the Department’s and USMMA’s progress and challenges in prioritizing and addressing recommendations from past studies and current action plans, including the 2017 “Culture Change Action Plan;” and (3) the Department’s and Academy’s responses to reports of sexual assault or harassment involving members of the Academy.