The Naval Academy is deteriorating so badly, its mission to train midshipmen is under threat

Leaking pipes. Moldering walls. Condemned offices and balconies. Plumbing that can’t handle its load and a stormwater system dumping unfiltered rainwater into the Severn River. These aren’t the issues of a long-abandoned factory. They describe the current condition of the Naval Academy. Infrastructure at the naval institution in Annapolis has degraded to the point of threatening the school’s ability to train and educate midshipmen, according to a report by the Naval Audit Service. The 2018 audit, obtained by The Capital Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request, details failing buildings, classrooms and athletic facilities — which in some cases actively leak, overheat and threaten user safety. Buildings including Nimitz Library and Macdonough Hall were built decades ago but never fully updated, causing critical systems to outlive their usefulness. Auditors fear the conditions jeopardize academy accreditation, endanger midshipmen and visitors, and violate several federal laws. The report took stock of 13 unfunded maintenance or renovation projects spread among 15 facilities between March 6, 2017, and April 26, 2018. Ten of these facilities are highly important to the academy mission, according to its internal rating system. But of those 10, four rated “poor to fair” and five rated “failing to poor” at supporting the academy’s ultimate goal — to ready midshipmen for naval service. The auditors found a maintenance backlog exacerbated by steep funding cuts after the Naval Academy lost its Flagship Institution designation to the 2013 federal budget sequester. The designation promised the academy funding for both regular repairs and major renovations. To dam the deluge of problems, the Navy restored the Flagship Institution designation for the academy, Naval Postgraduate School and Naval War College. The academy will get $15 million every other year, beginning in fiscal year 2020. The Navy will also support the maintenance budget at a higher level. “USNA concurs with the findings of the audit,” Cmdr. David McKinney, a Naval Academy spokesman, said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to addressing the discrepancies in the report and with additional funding look forward to ensuring the Naval Academy remains a modern Flagship Institution for the Navy.” The Naval Academy continues to do emergency maintenance — including recent repairs to the Bancroft Hall roof and the Leahy Hall roof that was blown off during a wind storm last year, said Ed Zeigler, a spokesman for Naval District Washington. But to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, the school competes for money against other projects in the Washington, D.C., Naval District. The academy submits projects to the district, which prioritizes and passes them on to Shore Mission Integration Group, a Navy body responsible for balancing priorities at sea and on the shore. Even with the new money, it would take years to address all of the problems listed in the audit.

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