WASHINGTON – The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved legislation authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) to enhance the oversight board that supervises the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), a federal service academy that serves the entire nation by producing trained merchant mariners/military officers to meet critical national sealift needs.
Boozman was recently reappointed to serve on the USMMA Board of Visitors, the academy’s official oversight board. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors Enhancement Act, S. 2076, will improve the ability of the Board to perform critical oversight responsibilities.
“The overwhelming support of the Committee is important as we work to see this bipartisan bill enacted into law. The Academy midshipmen, including many from Arkansas, have volunteered to serve our country,” Boozman said. “We need to work hard to make sure the Academy reaches its full potential.”
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors Enhancement Act expands the board to include non-Congressional stakeholders, including alumni and representatives of the Department of Defense. The bill ensures the operation of a functional Board by guaranteeing that vacancies are promptly filled and that Board Members may continue serving until re-nominated or replaced. Finally, the legislation requires the Department of Transportation to facilitate annual Board visits to the academy and to provide full access. In short, the legislation ensures that the Board can effectively inquire into the state of morale and discipline, the curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the Academy.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Board of Visitors Enhancement Act is cosponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), who are also members of the Board of Visitors. Congressman Michael Grimm (NY-11) is sponsoring identical companion legislation, H.R. 4144, in the House of Representatives. H.R. 4144 is cosponsored by Representatives Tim Bishop (NY-01), Peter King (NY-02), Carolyn McCarthy (NY-04), Alan Nunnelee (MS-01), and Steve Israel (NY-03).
Boozman has appointed numerous Arkansans to the USMMA, and many Arkansans have graduated from the Academy and gone on to honorably serve in our armed forces. The USMMA has traditionally prepared its graduates to work on oceangoing vessels, but the Academy is expanding its curriculum to also prepare graduates for work on the inland waterways, such as the rivers that provide shipping to and from Arkansas.Academy graduates are commissioned on active duty or into a reserve unit of the Armed Services or other uniformed services of the United States and provide a guaranteed source of mariners to crew government owned surge sealift vessels when activated.