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Analysis, discussion and opinions by members of Newsday's editorial board.

At Merchant Marine Academy, a persistent case of seasickness

An aerial view of the United States Merchant

An aerial view of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point (Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin)

If you're wondering just how big a job it will be to turn around the good ship US Merchant Marine Academy, the Kings Point institution that has had three superintendents in the past three years, consider the latest word from the General Accounting Office.

The GAO, the federal watchdog agency, previously cited the academy for overcharging midshipmen $8.1 million in fees, among many other shortcomings. GAO now says the academy has adopted 32 of its 47 recommendations for improvement--and has repaid nearly all the wrongful charges. But there's still no internal system for catching and correcting such errors. And a report in May from the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation (the agency that oversees USMMA) found that the academy lacks proper network security controls and USMMA data, including personally identifiable information, "is at high risk of exposure to hackers."

This is all just more evidence of an institution adrift.

The academy's new superintendent--the top job at Kings Point--will be Col. James Helis, an experience soldier and scholar with no maritime experience, but plenty of work ahead of him.

RELATED EDITORIAL: Helis at the helm at Merchant Marine Academy

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