Thursday, October 16, 2014

First FOIA documents released by GSA

This is the start of the documentation stream for the GSA Freedom of Information Act request, all 44 pages of it so far. This is the FOIA from Nov. 4 of last year that the agency wanted to charge me over $10K to fulfill. Based on the invoice for charges, there was a $580 duplication fee, which should translate to just under 6,000 pages of documents since the first 100 copies are free and additional pages are 10 cents a page. The balance of the threatened fees was for associated labor and review, which would essentially mean that GSA is claiming that they were/are paying someone to work the equivalent of two full months of 40-hour weeks at $29/hr to review the materials I requested. It seems rather fishy that there would be that much documentation generated or that it would require that much work to review. Hmm, it couldn’t be a punitive fee to discourage pursuit of the information, could it?  And all we have so far is a paltry 44 pages. I suspect that the GSA documentation will be critical, but I also suspect that they will be dishonest and stingy with what is actually released, all in the interests of keeping secrets and covering for the bureaucratic apathy and incompetence endemic within the federal government.

As a review, the worksheet/invoice is here:

The GSA later claimed to waive the fees assessed to me when the agency received a similar FOIA request from Danielle Ivory of the NY Times. The request has been reclassified as a media FOIA at this point and Ms. Ivory now has control of the request and its fulfillment. Apparently the information will continue to be released in segments, as agreed upon by GSA and the NYT writer. I spoke at length with Ms. Ivory about STORIS on two occasions late last year and I have continued to send her updates. Hopefully, the details will merit some kind of story.

These issues with the GSA FOIA are discussed in previous posts. The context & submitted documents on Feb 3, 2014, the invoice for $10,266 – March 8, 2014, and the waiver of fees granted for FOIA because of a media request – April 2, 2014.

The release cover letter sent to Danielle Ivory (copied to me) is here:

The released documents are here:

GSA claims that there are no records for “copies of internal records and communications that were used to justify GSA’s decision to abandon discussions with the nonprofit STORIS Museum and Last Patrol Museums, whose expressed intentions were to obtain the ex-USCGC STORIS through the public benefit conveyance option of GSA disposal procedures for historic preservation and use as a training vessel for US Naval Sea Cadets and US Navy League Cadets.”

While the majority of the correspondence with GSA was handled by telephone by Jim Loback of the STORIS Museum, it is hardly believable that there are no GSA records or notes to be found related to any communications with STORIS Museum or any internal discussion to abandon efforts to preserve the ship. There were, indeed, internal decisions made within GSA to get rid of the ship without concern for her preservation, some of which are alluded to in the released 44 pages of documents. Common sense and known facts from our end would indicate that GSA is being dishonest. There is no surprise there.

Despite a clear requirement in the bidding criteria for the ship for a Certificate of Financial Responsibility, GSA also claims that it does not have any documentation related to COFR requirements, instead forwarding the request to the Coast Guard. It’s been pointed out several times already how helpful and forthcoming the Coast Guard has been in providing information related to STORIS and her excessing and disposal (sarcasm). We are still awaiting information from the original Coast Guard request as well as approval for release of information referred to the Coast Guard by MARAD. 

The documents released on September 30 largely consist of correspondence between property disposal manager Heather Bischoff of GSA and Jeff Beach, a civilian excess property manager at Coast Guard HQ. The correspondence (correctly) reflects a strong belief within the Coast Guard and GSA that no other state or federal agency would be interested in taking the ship through the GSA disposal process. This correspondence also involves Dr. Daniel Koski-Karell of the Environmental Management Division at CG HQ. Dr. Koski-Karell is no stranger to maritime heritage or the National Register with his professional accomplishments. His father was also a Navy veteran who served as the assistant director of construction programs for the Pacific Coast, including Alaska and he was also a Michigan native, as well. STORIS should have been appreciated as a product of Toledo and as an Alaskan legend. Dr. Koski-Karell was our contact within the Coast Guard who handled the NR nomination for STORIS, supposedly hand carrying it through the process to the National Park Service to facilitate her listing. So much for professional consideration of the ship’s history after all the effort we put into nominating the ship for National Register listing.

It’s very clear that historic preservation and saving STORIS was of no concern for the government parties involved, whether it was the Coast Guard or GSA. The primary consideration was getting rid of STORIS as soon as possible to allow the Coast Guard to get out from under the $50,000 in annual storage fees it was paying to store the ship among the MARAD fleet at Suisun Bay. In fact, while the listing for the National Register of Historic Places is acknowledged, the GSA manager, Heather Bischoff, is elated to announce that GSA discovered the Memorandum of Agreement between the Coast Guard and the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office. The MOA discussion starts around page 17. This MOA, signed in late 2006 through the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, gave the federal government the go-ahead at that time to decommission the ship once she was extensively photographed and documented through the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). This process was completed in 2006. Once the MOA was signed, it acknowledged that the ship could ultimately be destroyed by the decommissioning and retirement process, despite the recognition of her historic significance with a determined eligibility at that time for listing on the National Register. (The Coast Guard never undertook the nomination process.) Even though STORIS was later officially recognized as nationally significant with her December 31, 2012 listing on the National Register, GSA and the Coast Guard abandoned transfer discussions with STORIS Museum, choosing instead to fall back on that 2006 MOA to facilitate and expedite the excessing and sale of the ship from federal ownership. The government did not care about the ship’s history and the MOA was their “get out of jail free card.” This is, as I suspected, the reason that GSA stopped talking with Jim Loback of the STORIS Museum. Bureaucratic apathy and laziness won out over righteous, honorable and responsible stewardship of a federally owned property of national historic significance. While it may have been legal, it was certainly not moral or ethical.

The MOA is appendix D of the Environmental Assessment document to decommission STORIS and ACUSHNET. It can be viewed here:

The tremendous waste of a noble, magnificent and nationally significant historic ship aside, it is outrageous that the Coast Guard spent upwards of $300,000 to maintain STORIS on donation hold for six years at Suisun Bay, only to dump her (illegally) ASAP through GSA for $70,100 to U.S. Metals Recovery, the so-called “metals recycling firm” listed in California as a used car dealer. Coast Guard and GSA officials knew there were TWO viable nonprofits that wanted the ship after the Coast Guard had been directed to keep the ship on donation hold for all those years. No one in the federal government can argue that the sale of the ship under those circumstances effectively and responsibly recouped the government’s expenditures or honored the intention of preserving the ship following her decommissioning. Yes, the money stayed within the government, being transferred between the Coast Guard and MARAD, but that was still taxpayer money being shifted and wasted. The economic and cultural loss of STORIS as a museum ship and training vessel is beyond measure thanks to these bureaucrats.

It is important to remember that GSA should never have been involved with the disposal of STORIS (or ACUSHNET or the original MACKINAW) as all three ships displace more than 1,500 tons. Federal law (40 USC 548) mandates that ships exceeding 1,500 tons must be disposed of through the U.S. Maritime Administration.

Another key federal regulation that the government violated with the STORIS excessing was Section 3502 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of 2009. This requires that all former U.S. government ships are to be recycled domestically in the U.S. In reviewing the GSA correspondence, it appears that GSA utilizes an electronic database system to list excess property. It would appear that the requirements of the Duncan Hunter provision are not part of the “drop-down” menu system that forms the listing of properties and were therefore never considered because it wasn’t part of the pre-formatted computer layout. This scenario demonstrates and reinforces GSA’s apathy and incompetence (with Coast Guard officials in major supporting roles) in that the officials seem to have been paralyzed when they couldn’t get the computer to accept what they were entering into the system. It speaks volumes when there is no distinction between an old filing cabinet and a nationally significant historic ship based on what the computer system will or won’t accept. Just because the computer didn’t recognize the Duncan Hunter provision doesn’t excuse these bureaucrats from violating federal law, however.
Pg 38 starts discussion about excessing 55-foot aids to navigation boats from the Coast Guard inventory. Jeff Beach makes a comment about listing STORIS, “all 230 feet of her.” So he acknowledges her size is substantial in relation to the other vessels to be excessed.

Seriously, if this is the quality and quantity of information that is going to come out of GSA, there are some serious questions that need to be pressed on them. For the $10,266 they wanted to charge me, I would have expected to see documents revealing the truth behind JFK’s assassination and a copy of Barack Obama’s real birth certificate. So far, this is nothing but the same message stream repeated several times. It’s also taken 11 months to get just 44 pages of materials. This, again, from the “most transparent government in U.S. history,” a government that is wholly content with destroying STORIS, a major contributor to that very history.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nat'l Maritime Heritage Alliance supports STORIS Act

The National Maritime Heritage Alliance is stepping up to write letters of support for the STORIS Act as well. Here is a story that has run on the Council of American Maritime Museum's site. The maritime heritage funding is important and it's unfortunate that MARAD is hoarding the funding that should be going to our nation's maritime museums.

It's also very important to express our position on how STORIS was allowed to be destroyed. WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP AND BE HEARD.

I am still working through the GSA release from last week so I can post it. I just received another 92 pages from MARAD yesterday. In it, there is more information that demonstrates the numbing incompetence of the federal government, including a comment from the historic preservation officer from MARAD stating disappointment about STORIS not becoming a museum. Her feelings pale in comparison to STORIS Museum supporters. The MARAD documents will take some time to review and prepare for posting, as they left a lot of personal information in the documents that will have to be redacted out before I post.

Stay tuned and please, while you are waiting for the GSA and MARAD materials, take the time to put together a letter of support for the STORIS Act by writing any legislator on the links posted September 25 who might represent the district in which you live.

STORIS Act needs your support - Write your legislator


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke – Irish philosopher/politician

It is my understanding that MARAD is pushing back against the proposed (S)hips (TO) be (R)ecycled (I)n the (S)tates (STORIS) Act. The agency has sent out a several page letter to refute the need for such legislation.

Once again, it is important to realize that opportunities to speak up about STORIS will be few and far between at this point. STORIS and her fate can and will be easily overlooked and forgotten in current event issues like the fight against Islamic terrorists, Ebola, illegal immigration, and midterm elections. I am hoping that people are taking the time to reach out to the legislators on the various committees linked on the post of September 25. So far, only six people have clicked on the link to the letter template provided. That is not encouraging.

While the proposed legislation tackles a different set of issues, the introduction will – in a very important way – open a dialogue into STORIS herself and what happened to the ship in her own situation. There will have to be an explanation as to why the legislation is called what it is. This is an opportunity for those of us who care about STORIS to speak up and be heard.

In the interests of generating support for this legislation, a petition has been assembled. The petition and comments will be electronically forwarded to legislators to support the STORIS Act and encourage dialogue related to the sorry situation that led to the destruction of the ship.

Comments related to signatory connections to STORIS, the Coast Guard and personal feelings about the illegal excessing/destruction of the ship can be added during the signing process.

The petition is here:

Again, the contact information for the legislators who need to be encouraged is here:

Contact information for Sen. Begich’s Washington, DC, and Alaska District Offices is at the bottom of this page:

Contact Sen. Begich’s office through email at:

Members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee are listed at

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee are here:

House Armed Services members are here:

House Transportation and Infrastructure:

Duncan Hunter, the namesake of the National Defense Authorization Act language that should have made STORIS’ export illegal, is on the House T&I Committee. I think everyone should reach out to his office on behalf of STORIS.

Again, this is a chance to speak up and be heard about our feelings and disgust in regard to the utterly contemptible treatment that STORIS and her crews received at the hands of our government, the very same government the ship and her Coast Guard heroes served for over 64 years.

Throw them a line, break the ice and rock the boat.

Updates on GSA, STORIS Act

A quick update:

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the outstanding response to the post regarding the (S)hips (TO) be (R)ecycled (I)n the (S)tates Act (STORIS Act). This is a chance to speak up and be heard as far as our shared disgust for what happened to STORIS.

I also have some news in that just after 11 p.m. EDT, I was copied on an email from GSA to Danielle Ivory of the NY Times. It will be 11 months Saturday that I made the FOIA request. This marks the first release of any information from GSA related to STORIS. The documents will be posted soon after they can be reviewed and some interpretation can be written up.

As indicated, support for the STORIS Act and pressure on the legislators on the various listed committees in the post of September 25 would be greatly appreciated. It is an extremely difficult task for one or two people to take on. Over 7,500 people have seen the post about the STORIS Act.

Though the ship has been lost, there has been a lot of continued effort invested in these past few months in trying to find truth and some sense of justice for what was allowed to happen to STORIS.

While I am still waiting for major documents to be released by the government, this is a big opportunity to speak up and speak out. A template for a letter to the legislators is located here: Personalize it to suit your own specific perspective, experience and feelings. It is a Word document and can be copy/pasted into Web forms or edited to personalize it and then postal mailed, etc.

Thank you.

Sept. 30 marked 72nd anniversary of STORIS commissioning

On 30 September 1942, STORIS was officially commissioned as a cutter of the U.S. Coast Guard. She had been laid down in 1941 at the Toledo Shipbuilding Company, her design and early service life influenced by the Second World War that was raging in Europe and across the Pacific. Who could have known that this new ship would go on to become one of the most historic and accomplished cutters ever to serve the Coast Guard? STORIS’ military service career of over 64 years in active, front-line service is exceptional. She was the very last of the ships that served on the Greenland Patrol of World War II and she was the last cutter to have participated in the official Bering Sea Patrol of the Alaskan Territory. She was the flagship of the historic Summer 1957 mission to chart a deep-draft route through the Northwest Passage and Canadian Arctic and when she reached the waters near Greenland that she patrolled during WWII, she became the first American vessel to circumnavigate North America. STORIS was Queen of the Coast Guard fleet from 1991 to 2007 and wore her gold numbers with pride. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places 31 December 2012, STORIS was historically significant at a national level.

Instead of supporting the preservation of this great ship, the government allowed her to be destroyed. We deserve to know who was responsible, how this was allowed to happen and why.

Photo: STORIS underway on the Maumee River in Toledo.