Biden Finally Nominates Maritime Administrator

 In International Shipping, President Biden, shipping, Supply Chain

Last week, President Biden announced his intention to nominate Ann Phillips as Administrator of the United States Maritime Administration at the Department of Transportation.

According to the White House release, “Ann Phillips is a leader in the field of coastal resilience and climate impact on national security at the regional, national and international level.”

Yes, leader in the field of “climate impact” makes this sounds like a nominee to tout the political talking point of climate change and push the Democratic Party’s policies they justify through the fear of global warming.

There are those who have voiced doubt over Phillips’ qualifications for the job at hand. In a FreightWaves article, John Gallagher writes:

But with advising and assisting the secretary of Transportation on commercial maritime matters one of the primary responsibilities of the maritime administrator, maritime officials contacted by FreightWaves questioned if she has the experience to help manage the current supply chain crisis affecting the domestic maritime sector.

“She looks like she would have been more suited for a position at [Environmental Protection Agency] or [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration],” said one source who declined to be identified, “especially given that this [supply chain] issue is not going away for a while.”

With the way the left uses cancel culture to go after those who dare disagree with – let alone criticize – it, it’s no surprise someone questioning Phillips’s qualifications might choose not to reveal his or her identity. There’s also the fact that maritime officials will have to work with Phillips, assuming her nomination is confirmed, and questioning someone’s qualifications is not the strongest way to begin a working relationship with her.

I, on the other hand, have no trouble saying what I think. I believe Ann Phillips to be exponentially more qualified to be Administrator of the United States Maritime Administration at the Department of Transportation than Pete Buttigieg is to be Secretary of Transportation. Unfortunately, that’s not a high bar to clear. At all. But more on that later. Phillips actually does have maritime experience.

The White House lists in her experience the following:

Prior to her current appointment, Ann Phillips served nearly 31 years on active duty in the United States Navy, retiring as a Rear Admiral. Her final Flag command was as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, including 14 ships and 10 subordinate commands – all the Amphibious Expeditionary Forces on the East Coast of the United States. Earlier she served on the Chief of Naval Operations’ Staff as Deputy Director and then Director of Surface Warfare Division, had the honor to commission and command USS MUSTIN (DDG 89), and to command Destroyer Squadron 28.

No Supply Chain Experience

I find Phillips 31-year career in the Navy impressive, but do notice a lack of experience in commercial shipping. Her current appointment, mentioned above, doesn’t show any supply chain experience, let alone expertise, either. Here’s how the White House press release describes it:

In her current appointment as the first Special Assistant to the Governor of Virginia for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, she is building a collaborative, whole of government and community approach to address the impact of coastal flooding across the Commonwealth, including the development of Virginia’s first Coastal Resilience Master Plan. In particular, she coordinates across Federal, State, local and other partners to create equitable strategies to address rising waters and climate impact to federal, maritime, and other critical coastal infrastructure assets in Virginia.

Captain John Konrad also notices her lack of experience and writes about it in an excellent gCaptain article:

Phillips is a highly decorated Navy leader with a long list of accomplishments and is highly respected by everyone gCaptain has interviewed. She was head of the Navy’s Climate Change Task Force and is a highly sought after consultant on climate security issues. She holds an MBA. She was chairman of a local government Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience project. She once captained a Navy warship. The appointment looks great on paper except for one kinda big problem. This is not a warship position. It’s a commercial shipping appointment and she has zero experience aboard any commercial ships. She does not even have experience leading navy military sealift ships.

Concerns over a lack of supply chain experience are understandable as national headlines and TV news are drawing everyone’s attention to the supply chain with the keywords “crisis,” “bottlenecks,” and “inflation” never forgotten to be emphasized.

I can also understand some having concern over Phillips’s apparent lack of experience in the rail, road, and air aspects of the job, as Gallagher’s FreightWaves article immediately follows its section about the doubters of Phillips’s qualifications with the following:

MarAd, which is part of the Department of Transportation, points out that of the more than 300 U.S. ports, many of them have “complicated elements that integrate water, rail, road and even airborne transportation modes. MarAd is committed to efficiently managing each and every piece of this intermodal transportation network, ensuring its role as a key contributor to our nation’s economic and national security posture.”

I don’t know how much exposure Phillips has to these other forms of transportation and the logistics involved with them. There certainly will be a learning curve. Fully learning and understanding commercial shipping and the supply chain, with all its challenges, will certainly be an ongoing challenge. However, as long as I’m not judging by President Biden’s past appointees, I have no reason to doubt Phillips’s ability to handle the job.

Biden Doesn’t Care About Shipping

I’m actually more concerned by the Biden Administration’s apathy when it comes to shipping and the nation’s supply chain. Oh yes, now President Biden cares about those things. Now that it’s a convenient distraction from the array of failures we’ve been seeing from this administration and a scapegoat as the cause of inflation, President Biden acts like he cares about it. However, gCaptain points out just how much Biden has ignored shipping and the supply chain to this point:

Biden appointed no ship owners to his cabinet, he closed the White House maritime desk, and delayed his MARAD appointment for 278 days. The Biden administration seemigly cares so little about shipping they have even forgot to recall critical republican appointed delegates to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.

This “supply chain crisis” is not something that suddenly hit. It has been going on literally the entirety of Biden’s presidency. I posted an alert to shippers in Universal Cargo’s blog in December of 2020 that talked about crisis at the ports, ships backed up and waiting at anchor there, and a lack of trucks and truckers, among other issues causing shippers to expect delays and fees with getting their goods. Sound familiar?

Additionally, if President Biden cared about shipping, he wouldn’t have appointed Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation. I don’t care about the secretary’s two-month-long paternity leave because it makes no difference whether he’s on the job or not. By opening his mouth, Buttigieg has proven his lack of understanding about the supply chain and the economy. But that’s what you get when you appoint people to positions of power in exchange for dropping out of a political race and endorsing you at a critical moment.

Joe Biden himself spoke of Pete Buttigieg’s complete lack of experience while on the campaign trail before making the aforementioned deal with the then presidential hopeful. In the next blog, we’ll look at Buttigieg’s words that prove him unqualified as Secretary of Transportation.

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Photo of Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore