Monthly Archives: April 2012

“Recruiting” for Albany Medical College – Military Affinity Group

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Reunion Weekend in Albany. We launch our Military Affinity Group (MAG) this weekend.

Alums with military service join our MAG (the first in a US medical school, to my knowledge) for camaraderie, to support AMC students enrolled in military medical scholarship programs, and to inculcate a culture of philanthropy to College and to military enrolled. We’re seeing a nice amount of interest.

Tomorrow, Sunday morning: “Your Morning Cup of Joe with MAG (Military Affinity Group)”.

In September, we will sponsor a panel “Medicine in Uniform” to inform military scholarship enrollees, other medical students who might be considering uniformed service as an MD.

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Director, Naval History and Heritage Command Steps Down

In last week’s post, I detailed the most damning portions of the Navy Inspector General inspection of the Naval History and Heritage Command – portions that told how the Command was failing in the most important parts of its mission, the restoration and preservation of documents, artifacts and other materials central to the history of our Navy.

A consensus of some colleagues here was that such a report would typically lead to a CO’s being relieved of his or her command.

Instead, Rear Admiral DeLoach today announced that he was “voluntarily stepping down” from his post as NAVHISTHERITAGECOM Director. As reported by the Naval History Foundation, Admiral DeLoach made this statement:

“I shared with my command today that I will be voluntarily stepping down as their director. The turnover process with the new director will commence May 1 and end prior to May 15. When I took this job in 2008, I was tasked by the Chief of Naval Operations with fixing an organization that had fallen into obscurity for a variety of reasons and to rebuild it into a viable Echelon II command capable of executing its mission and making naval history ‘come alive’ for the Navy and the American public. Since then, the revived Naval History and Heritage Command has made tremendous improvements in collecting, preserving, protecting, and making available the history of the Navy as noted by the recent Blue Ribbon Panel.
 
While I am very impressed with the strides that this team has made in preserving and telling the history of the world’s finest Navy, I believe it’s time for a new leader to expand on recent progress and deal with the challenges before us. I am proud of the men and women of the History and Heritage Command and incredibly grateful for the opportunity to lead them. We have been on a long journey together over the past 4 years, and would not be as far along as we are without the dedication and commitment of everyone at NHHC.
 
My successor will bring a new infusion of energy to the command to continue on our journey into the future. The past four years at NHHC has tested every aspect of my professional talents and leadership and I am confident of the legacy of change and the connection with our Navy that I leave to my successor.”
 

I’ll try to find the report of the Blue Ribbon Panel (of which I was unaware) DeLoach mentioned in his statement.

We should all hope that the highest levels of Navy leadership have been awakened to the sad plight the Navy’s premier historical establishment, and will find ways to fund it properly, even in times of austere military budgets. Our naval leaders should never forget the age-old caution that those who forget their history are doomed to relive it (or at least the bad parts of it…).

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

Navy Inspector General’s Report on the Naval History and Heritage Command – Part II

Last week, I wrote about the parts of the IG inspection that showed NHHC programs that were assessed as “on track” or “needing work”. These are largely “military” requirements like sexual harassment training, suicide prevention and physical training programs.

Today I’m going to discuss programs the IG team judged as “off track” or not meeting required standards. Inasmuch as some of these programs relate to the central historico-preservationist mission of NHHC, their “off track” status is very troubling.

First is the matter of “Facilities, Environmental and Safety”: the IG’s report notes that the Command “occupies approximately 230,000 square feet (SF) of geographically and functionally dispersed facilities at the Washington Navy Yard (WNY).  … With the exception of 19,136 SF in Building 200, their facilities and office spaces at the WNY are inadequate to support NAVHISHERITAGECOM’s historic preservation mission and administrative requirements of the staff [emphasis mine]. The report goes on in the next paragraph “NAVHISTHERITAGECOM’s storage and preservation activities require temperature and humidity controls that are uniquely demanding and almost entirely unmet [emphasis mine]. Consequently, the history and heritage of the United States Navy is in jeopardy [emphasis mine]. Some of the paintings, documents and artifacts are sensitive to fluctuations in humidity, temperature or both. … this combination provides the ideal environment for the development of mold, which can irreparably damage sensitive artifacts and documents. With some material, such as acetate based film, the media itself is subject to breakdown as a direct result of uncontrolled temperature and humidity conditions.” In the next paragraph of the report, “Many storage facilities have no air conditioning (A/C) or humidity controls. Many of the building envelops are subject to moisture problems from roofing, gutters, wall penetrations, old masonry joints and lack of moisture barriers. As a consequence, water intrusion problems overwhelm the natural dehumidification provided by the A/C systems.

The report goes on to mention that WNY Public Works and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington have initiated studies an projects in 2011 to address some of the facility deficiencies at WNY, and that “[a] few projects are underway to address some of the most critical facility deficiencies, but not all of the projects that resulted from the studies were funded.” This portion of the report concludes, “The long range solution to correct all the facility issues will take significant time and funding and will be in funding competition with operational priorities” [emphasis mine].

Under the rubric of “Heritage Asset Management” the IG report offers but a short and cryptic paragraph: “The command is not conducting this program in accordance with DoD FMR Vol. 4, and therefore is not compliant with proper Asset Management practices [emphasis mine]. A personnel shortfall has been identified and additional personnel are slated for hire in FY13 to alleviate the situation. Additionally, NAVHISTHERITAGECOM has no technical personnel aboard who can properly maintain the Department of the Navy Heritage Asset Management system (DONHAMS). There are plans to move the system to Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), but funding for this initiative remains a challenge.”

One other matter of concern – one that I think reflects on Command oversight – is reported in an “Issue Paper” entitled “Echelon II Safety and Occupational Health Program Responsibilities” that is part of the IG’s report. I quote the paper in parts:

PROBLEM: Naval History and Heritage Command (NAVHISTHERITAGECOM) does not have a trained safety professional or a safety and occupational health (SOH) organization established within its headquarters to perform the required safety program responsibilities of an Echelon II command.

BACKGROUND: tasked with the mission to conserve and preserve Navy history and heritage, NAVHISTHERITAGECOM is a unique Echelon II command. To fulfill its mission, NAVHISTHERITAGECOM has divisions within the headquarters organization and one tier below, conducting high risk industrial operations that are normally found at aviation depots or shipyards. These operations include forklift material handling, diving, woodworking, restoration and maintenance of vintage weapons, ship systems and aircraft. At headquarters and NAVHISTHERITAGECOM’s Detachment Boston, these functions are carried out by government civilian staff members with the assistance of interns (when available). Subordinate activities such as museums, utilize volunteers in addition to staff to perform restoration.

The report goes on “[The command] is unable to assess the effectiveness of safety programs across its enterprise… They have not conducted required Safety and Occupational health Management Evaluations of subordinate activities. A recent review of industrial hygiene survey reports dating back to July 2010 for the Naval Air Museum Pensacola (NNAMP) reveal NNAMP employed improper procedures and processes to restore vintage aircraft. … These poor work practices resulted in personnel being exposed to toxic metal dust levels in excess of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, contamination of the workplace and potentially improper environmental releases. NNAMP has shut down aircraft restoration activities to prevent adding to the hazard, and additional corrective measures are pending. Due to NAVHISTHERITAGECOM’s lack of oversight of it [sic] subordinate activities, the command did not know of these issues until August 2011.

As you can see, this portion of the Navy Inspector General’s Report appears damningly critical of the Navy’s premier historical organization. The IG assesses that it is failing to fulfill its central mission, that of successfully protecting and preserving documents and artifacts that represent our Navy’s history and heritage. Moreover, the command appears to have failed its own workers in neglecting to establish proper oversight of safety and environmental matters within the organization. To be sure, efforts appear to be in place to effect changes here, but these efforts face both organizational inertia (command and navy-wide) and the challenges of competing with operational forces for funding in a time of potential huge military funding cuts.

Next week, I hope to report a conversation with the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Public Affairs people. From them I hope to learn what the Command has done to correct matters that may have been in place when the organization became an actual naval command-  in 2008 – almost four years ago.

I encourage readers who have had experience or interactions with the Command to tell me their stories. You can do this by “Commenting” at the bottom of this post. If you prefer to protect your identity, email me at thomaslsnyder@gmail.com. I assure you that your comments will be held in strictest confidentiality.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

Navy Inspector General’s Report on the Naval History and Heritage Command – Part I

Last autumn, the Naval Inspector General carried out a command inspection of the Director, Naval History and Heritage Command. This Command is the primary collector, protector and preserver of “artifacts, documents and art that best embodies our naval history and heritage for present and future generations”. The inspection was carried out from 15 to 23 August and considered operations at the Command’s main facilities in the Washington Navy Yard and at subordinate organizations including the Cheatham Annex storage facility, the Large Cavitation Channel storage facility in Millington TN, six [of twelve] museums (National Museum of the U S Navy, U S Naval Academy Museum, Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Naval War College Museum, USS Consitution, Submarine Force Museum), the USS  Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

Retired Rear Admiral Jay DeLoach, who was appointed to head the Navy historic establishment when it was still called the Naval Historical Center became the Naval History and Heritage Command’s military “head”, though he still carries the title of “Director of Naval History”. Admiral  DeLoach is the most recent in a long list of directors both active or retired senior naval officers and civilians. Because the organization became an actual naval command only in 2008, I am not certain that previous IG inspections had ever been performed. Because of this, we do not have any baseline information to indicate the state of affairs in the Command when Admiral DeLoach became the director. I have contacted the Public Affairs Office at the command, and while my contact there is on leave this week, I have been promised a response to my inquiries about the baseline situation and many more topics.

Now to the Report

I find it interesting though not surprising that of the 39 programs inspected, the 11 assessed by the IG as being “on track (fully compliant)” are what I would refer to as the “military” operations of the Command – such programs as Training, Command Indoctrination, Suicide Prevention, Physical Readiness, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. A good Naval officer is certain to have his naval ducks in a row, and Admiral DeLoach gets good marks from the IG’s team here.

Nine of the Command’s 39 inspected Programs fall into the “need more attention (not fully compliant)” category. This group of Programs look like a blend of the “military” and the historico-preservation Mission of the Command, and include Strategic Planning, Command Relationships and Echelon III (Museum) Support, Legal / Ethics, Financial Management, Information Technology/Information Management/Information Assurance and Environmental Oversight. Of particular concern to this observer are these program deficits:

  • Strategic Planning: an office of strategic planning has been established, and since the IG inspection, a Strategic Plan has been promulgated. According to the IG report, the office is engaged at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level to address programming and resource allocation issues. At issue here is an “absolutely overwhelming” [IG report’s description]  backlog of archive (68 years) and art/artifact (30 years) processing and preservation. The Command estimates that 476 person-years will be required to process the archival materials, and 168  for the art and artifacts. To put more numbers on the problem, consider these: 11.3K cubic feet of paper, 10,864 reels of microfilm, 5.67 terabytes of e-data! The IG report indicated that the inspectors were “particularly concerned with the lack of proper storage for archive materials including microfilm and digital media (CD-ROMs). An industrial refrigerator purchased to store most at-risk microfilm “cannot operate properly in the high humidity environment of the archives”. The IG team recommends that the command’s Strategic Planning Office develop “effective metrics by which to evaluate progress on its prioritized mission areas”, and that a strategic communications plan that was developed actually be implemented. Most notably, the IG team also recommends that the “Navy’s Advisory Subcommittee on Naval History, which was originally established in 1956 and included eminent historians” – the charter of which expired in 2010 – be reconstituted inasmuch as no meetings of this advisory group have occurred in the past three years. [underlining mine]
  • Command Relationships and Echelon III (Museum) Support: the report is succinct: “Irregular funding exacerbated by poor communication has resulted in staff shortfalls and creates excessive budget uncertainty within lower echelons.”
  • Legal / Ethics: according to the IG’s report, the command functioned without benefit of in-house (or any?) legal council until 6 June 2011. Since then, the assigned attorney “has been building an effective program”.  Importantly, the legal office “recognizes gift acceptance and relations with Non-Federal Entities (NFEs) as a very significant practice area given [the Command’s] mission and oversight responsibilities and the number of NFEs (museums and historical foundations) that support the command and its lower echelon organizations”.  The IG recommends a re-evaluation regarding the [implied] need for additional attorneys.
  • Information Technology / Information Management / Information Assurance: the Command Information Officer is not designated in writing, and “is not utilized in his capacity as the principal Information Technology advisor to the Director”. Moreover, “[h]e does not appear to be fully integrated in command decisions concerning IT procurement to support museums and outreach programs.” The majority of his time is taken up addressing IT issues. The Information Assurance Manager is not certified and does not perform duties as outlined in the letter designating the position. 26 legacy computers need certification and accreditation in the DoD IT Portfiolio Repository. The issue here, as I interpret it, is a concern that some computers in this command may be used to access inappropriate (such as secret) materials.
  • Environmental Oversight: According to the IG report, organizations like the Naval History and Heritage Command “typically exercise program oversight of their subordinate activities, to ensure they comply with applicable navy policies, and plan program and budget sufficient resources to meet environmental, natural resource and cultural resource requirements.” These responsibilities are “misaligned in some cases”, for structural reasons not under the Command’s control. the IG reports notes “[t]his issue was brought to the attention of Chief of Naval Operations’ (OPNAV) staff for correction in the soon to be released OPNAVINST 5090.1D.”

Next Week:

Naval History and Heritage Command “Non-Compliant” Programs and the Command’s response. In a following post, I’ll put together some thoughts as a person who wholeheartedly believes in the importance of the Command’s Mission, from the standpoint of both “consumer” of the Command’s services, but also as a person with an abiding devotion to historical preservation.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder

Easter – Spring Recess This Week. Upcoming: The Navy IG’s Report on the Naval History and Heritage Command

Gina and I are in DC to spend the Easter holiday with our sons and their families. I’ll return to active posting next week.

In January, I reported preliminary results of the Navy Inspector General’s inspection of the Naval History and Heritage Command. In that post, I repeated alarms raised by the newspaper Navy Times that conditions – both working and material – at the Command and its subsidiaries were less than ideal.

The IG’s report has now been released: 8 pages of Executive Summary, 64 pages of formal report with appendix. A brief perusal of the report suggests that a goodly part of it deals with arcane Naval administrative matters like the sexual harassment training program at the Command. For the rest,  I plan to digest the report in detail over the weekend and report the essence of material relating to historical and archival material under the Command’s purview next week.

In the nonce, best wishes of this holiday season.

©2012 Thomas L Snyder