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Immediate Release

Readout of Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks' Pre-Commencement Round Table Meeting With U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Students

Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon provided the following readout:

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks met via Zoom today with 10 U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Midshipmen ahead of her June 17 commencement address, to discuss their experiences at the academy, share in their stories, and learn more about their expectations for their future military service. 

During the conversation, Deputy Secretary Hicks thanked the midshipmen for their decision to support U.S. national security and their dedication to the nation. The midshipmen will commission as ensigns and second lieutenants in all branches of the nation’s armed forces.  

The assembled midshipmen shared some of their most inspiring moments at the Merchant Marine Academy, to include high points and challenges from their sea year, leading culture change in the maritime industry, and how they hope to use their educational experience to shape their future careers. 

Deputy Secretary Hicks will deliver the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy commencement address live from the academy grounds in Kings Point, N.Y., on Saturday, June 17, 2023. During the speech, she will reinforce the strategic imperative of public service to ensure U.S. national security, the outsized role of the U.S. Merchant Marine, and the importance of principled leadership during an era of strategic competition. The commencement event begins at 9:00 a.m. and will be live-streamed on and

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is one of five federal service academies, similar to the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, Coast Guard Academy, or the U.S. Military Academy (West Point). USMMA, however, requires more credit hours for a bachelor’s  degree than any other federal service academy. In addition, midshipmen spend a year at sea, real-world experience on working commercial and military vessels sailing across the globe. 

Graduates go on to serve in nearly all the U.S. armed forces and the U.S. Merchant Marine. The U.S. Merchant Marine is managed by the Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD). It’s composed of privately-owned, U.S.-registered merchant ships and vessels that transport passengers and cargo moving both in the U.S. and internationally.  The Merchant Marine supports international trade, disaster relief, and U.S. waterway infrastructure.

In wartime, the Merchant Marine augments the U.S. Navy to move people and supplies around the globe.