Coast Guard Academy establishing new grants office

New London — The Coast Guard Academy on Monday formally will establish an office solely dedicated to applying for and administering educational research grants, which is expected to bring in more money and expand the projects that cadets and faculty work on.

It will be the first of any service academy to establish such an office, according to Coast Guard officials.

The office, officially called Sponsored Projects and Research Incorporated, will operate separately from the academy with its own board of directors. Its status as a 501(c)(3) is pending. A consultant who has helped the academy set up the office will run it until the board finds a permanent director, Coast Guard officials said. The 2015 Coast Guard Authorization Act gave the head of the Coast Guard the authority to establish such an entity.

"It gives us more flexibility to apply widely for research grants in the same way that other colleges do, where presently we're doing it through what is, in effect, the federal government," said Capt. Greg Hall, senior associate dean at the academy.

Generally, research projects at the academy have been paid for with non-appropriated federal funds. That's limited the number of projects — there's usually about a handful ongoing at any given time — because of the administrative burden, Hall said, which will now be handled by the new grants office.

The academy's Alumni Association has spent about $150,000 on a feasibility study and to cover startup costs associated with the new office, according to its president, retired Coast Guard Capt. Andrea Marcille. The association hired Harvest Development Group LLC, a business consulting firm based in Middletown, to conduct the feasibility study, which found that the new grants office should "quickly" become sustainable, according to the company's President Sondra Lintelmann-Dellaripa. The firm previously had helped the academy write grants for a summer program.

"I realized that they were leaving a lot of money on the table, that there was not a coordinated effort," Lintelmann-Dellaripa said.

She added that grantors will see the office as a "much more cohesive effort" for targeting research money, and that "goes a long way for building credibility."

Capt. Rich Sanders, head of the academy's science department, said the new office will raise the quality of cadets' educational experience and help faculty become better researchers. His department has a number of ongoing research projects, including a corrosion study of the battleship USS Arizona, which was bombed during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

Sanders said about 50 percent of his operating expenses, or about $500,000, comes from grants.  Like other academic departments at the academy, the science department heavily emphasizes research that supports the overall Coast Guard.

"If we can fill a niche for the Coast Guard, or provide an academic service to a problem that the Coast Guard needs solved, that's what we're doing," Sanders said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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