Shutdown sidelines U.S. Merchant Marine Academy cadets

Shutdown sidelines U.S. Merchant Marine Academy cadets
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Saturday, October 5, 2013 - 9:54pm

Concerned parents of students at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York say their children were told to go on fall break several weeks early and no one knows when they'll be going back to school, thanks to the federal shutdown.

Meanwhile, it's business as usual at the other four U.S. federal academies.

The Merchant Marine Academy is operated under the U.S. Department of Transportation, while those for the Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard operate under the Department of Defense.

And in this case, that makes all the difference.

Almost all of the academy's faculty and staff are civilians who are subject to shutdown furloughs, while the majority of the staffs at the other military academies are active-duty military and are not subject to furlough, according to the academy's website.

Some parents of USMMA students worry that the shutdown could eventually delay careers, because of the academy's unique scheduling.

Adam Feinberg's son is in his second year at the academy.

"It is very tough because Kings Point has a compact curriculum. You spend three trimesters out at sea after two years of taking classes. These shutdown days cut into the sea days," Feinberg told CNN.

In a statement released last Thursday, Rear Admiral James Helis, the academy's superintendent, stated that by "swapping" the fall break, it will minimize the impact the shutdown has on students and on the academic calendar.

The academy's website says fall break was originally scheduled for November 1-11. The rescheduled break started Friday and will last until October 14. So what is the plan if the federal shutdown lasts past that date?

"While we hope the shutdown will be resolved by the end of the newly-scheduled break, if the shutdown is still in place, we will be forced to shut down the Academy on October 15," the website stated.

In his statement, Helis said the leadership of the academy and the DOT are working on options to address a long-term federal shutdown in the event that happens.

According to the academy's website, 225 midshipmen are currently at sea and will be allowed to continue their training. When those sailors complete their sea training, the academy will bring them back to campus, or to their homes, depending on the status of the government shutdown at that time.

Calls to the Merchant Marine Academy were not immediately returned on Saturday.

The Merchant Marine transports cargo and passengers in domestic waters during peace time, and during war is an auxiliary of the U.S. Navy and can be called to transport military cargo and supplies.

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