Congressmen Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) on Thursday announced a plan to introduce legislation that would keep the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point open in the event of a future government shutdown.
“Midshipmen, who are dedicated to serving our country, should not have their education interrupted by a government shutdown, which is no fault of their own,” Israel said at a press conference at the academy.
The Midshipmen Education Certainty Act would appropriate funds to keep the Merchant Marine Academy open for the duration of a future government shutdown, Israel said.
Bishop, a former administrator at Southampton College of Long Island University, called the bill “common sense.”
“We send our best and brightest to our service academies, including the Merchant Marine Academy, to train our future military leaders,” said Bishop, who is a member of the academy’s board of visitors. “We must ensure that nothing interrupts their education.”
The two congressmen said they will introduce the legislation sometime this week.
The Merchant Marine Academy, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was the only military service academy that was forced to close its doors during a government shutdown from Oct. 1 to 16.
The U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy were able to keep their doors open due to a large number of active military officers on campus who were able to continue to work under the Pay Our Military Act, which provides funding for active duty soldiers in the event of a government shutdown.
The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, according to a statement, does not have a large number of active duty soldiers on campus and could not afford to keep its doors open.
Israel and Bishop said that their proposed bill would close that loophole and allow classes at the Academy to continue in the event of a future government shutdown.
“We hope that there will never be another government shutdown,” Israel said. “But we have to plan that there will be.”
Jim Forde, a 1988 graduate of the academy, thanked the two congressmen for their support of the school.
“The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association Foundation is proud to endorse this bill to ensure no more future shutdowns of the academy,” Forde said. “We fully support all congressional efforts that enable the academy to continue to produce the top United States Merchant Mariners in the world.”