Enclosed is a e-mail correspondence sent to the Project Lead, Mr. Taras Lyssenko of A and T Recovery from Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) underwater archaeology branch after months of avoidance. A response letter with documentation will be published by the USS Lexington Aircraft Recovery Team which will demonstrate that NHHC is factually inaccurate. More to follow very soon...
"Good Afternoon Mr. Lyssenko,
Thank you for your email. Shortly after our office initiated Step 3 of the review process for your permit application, you indicated that you were separately seeking Secretary of the Navy’s consideration of your proposal as a Navy operation. As we have previously noted, a single activity cannot be both a permitted action and a Navy action. Therefore, consideration of your permit application was put on pause; this also coincided with our office suspending operations to move our laboratory and collection. However, your permit request has since been re-initiated and is under active consideration.
Our permit guidelines do recommend that a permit application is submitted at least 120 days prior to the activity, but not that a determination would be made in such time and that depending on the complexity of the project the permit evaluation may take more than 120 days (Permit Guidelines, page 2). While we cannot offer an exact timeline, we are actively working on your application. At the conclusion of step 3, our office will provide you with either a notification that we will be entering the consultation phase (step 4), or that we have questions and/or revisions that would need to be made to the proposed action in order for your permit application to move forward.
Application Review Process
1. Application submitted to NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch. Applicant receives confirmation of receipt.
2. NHHC Preliminary Review Phase. NHHC undertakes a preliminary review of the application to assess jurisdiction over the proposed activity, appropriateness of application track (standard permit or Special Use permit), and completeness, including fulfilment of the required principal investigator (PI) credentials. Applicant is notified of application status and any requirements pending prior to a full review being initiated.
3. NHHC Internal Review Phase. NHHC evaluates content of complete application.
4. Consultation Phase (if applicable).
5. Deputy Director Review & Determination.
6. Conditional Issuance of Permit. Signed permit sent to applicant.
7. Permit Validation. Countersigned permit received by NHHC and sent to consulting parties (if applicable). Applicant notified of receipt of countersigned permit and issued permission to commence activities.
UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGY BRANCH
NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
805 Kidder Breese St, SE, Washington, D.C. 20374-5060
Dear Dr. Neyland,
In early February, 2023 I met with Secretary Del Toro, Secretary of the US Navy, and his senior military advisor Captain Mattingly. I clearly explained that we believe what we are proposing for the recovery of TBD Devastator aircraft would be considered as a “gift” to the United States Navy. Therefore, it would have to be approved by the Secretary of the US Navy. I believe, Captain Mattingly contacted Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) shortly after I spoke with him. The conversation reflected what I had stated in my letter (attached) to Secretary Del Toro of August 22, 2022.
On February 9, 2023, I received an email from your office that stated:
“As noted yesterday, the Navy has concluded its review of your submitted proposal as a possible Navy action and has elected not to proceed with its further consideration.
Pending confirmation from you that you desire for us to treat your submission as a permit application, we will initiate our substantive review of your application. As part of this review, NHHC will also consider curation of (a) possible recovered aircraft resulting from the permitted activity. Should the questions you reference have to do with the permitting process itself, we are certainly in a position to address those. However, until your permit application has been evaluated for its content, and we provide you with a response, we are not in a position to discuss its merits.
For purposes of clarity, and as stated in the published application guidelines, the application review process is presented below. We are currently initiating step 3. At the conclusion of step 3 you can expect our office to provide you with either a notification that we will be entering the consultation phase (step 4), or that we have questions and/or revisions that would need to be made to the proposed action in order for your permit application to move forward. During the consultation phase (step 4) significant stakeholders, such as the Government of Australia, will be asked to provide comment.”
I responded on February 10, 2023 (see my email of February 10, 2023) that we confirmed for your office to “treat” our submission as a “permit application.” Therefore, on that date, the issue was resolved.
Your office responded to my email on February 28, 2023, stating: “By regulation, the Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command is responsible for the management of sunken military craft under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy. Evaluation of your submission as a proposal for Navy action was afforded careful consideration by the Director, pursuant to NHHC consultation with SUPSALV and Australian authorities. That process is now complete, and the Director requested that the Underwater Archaeology Branch convey to you his determination that the Navy will not proceed with further consideration of your submission as a proposal.
Our office is now responsible for coordinating your submission as a permit application. Thank you for confirming that you wish for your submission of Oct 25, 2022, as amended, to constitute your permit application in full and that we should proceed with its evaluation. This will require some time given the extent of what is being proposed.
"Your office’s email of February 28, 2023, you or your staff used the term “as amended.” The “as amended” refers to the recovery plan prepared in coordination with Phoenix International, which removed Navy salvage involvement. I submitted that amendment on/or about January 13, 2023.
Additionally, the Secretary of the Navy’s staff informed me that Secretary Del Toro was meeting with director Cox to discuss the subject matter the week of February 17, 2023, over a week before your email of February 28, 2023.
The statement in your email of June 29, 2023: “Thank you for your email. Shortly after our office initiated Step 3 of the review process for your permit application, you indicated that you were separately seeking Secretary of the Navy’s consideration of your proposal as a Navy operation. As we have previously noted, a single activity cannot be both a permitted action and a Navy action. Therefore, consideration of your permit application was put on pause;…” does not make sense, because by February 28, 2023 you were well aware of my interactions with the Secretary of the Navy and his staff, and it had been by determined by your office and agreed by us as how to proceed. If you are now claiming that you were not aware, there are some serious communication problems within the United States Navy, at least within the Naval History and Heritage Command.
In the email of February 28, 2023, you informed me that you were proceeding. At no time between February 28, 2023 and your June 29, 2023 response to my email to you on June 21, 2023 did you or your staff make any attempt to inform me or our team of your “pause.” It was well understood by all parties involved at the time you sent your email of February 28, 2023, what would be the role (s) of the US Navy in regard to the project. What you are claiming now is unacceptable behavior by staff of any federal agency of the United States of America.
As for your “office suspending operations to move our laboratory and collection”, being in the private world I have no understanding of such a comment. If I were to say such a thing to any of my clientele, I would be out of business. However, in the email from your office on February 9, 2023 it was stated: “the Navy has concluded its review of your submitted proposal as a possible Navy action…” That statement clearly implies that your staff, perhaps you, fully read the proposal that we submitted to Underwater Archeology, Naval History and Heritage Command on October 25, 2022. After eight months, you and your staff should have a comprehensive understanding of what we are proposing.
It is well understood by you and your staff that we have assembled a highly-professional, world-class team fully capable of the work of recovery of the aircraft, through their conservation (possible restoration). The aircraft have been the most sought-after historic aviation artifacts by the directors of almost every aviation museum in the world, to include the National Naval Aviation Museum. The director of the Naval History and Heritage Command has used the term “Holy Grail” when referring to them. The aircraft need to be removed from the marine environment that is destroying them. The time has come for your agency, in keeping with the mission statement of the Naval History and Heritage Command, to support the recovery and presentation of these aircraft for the American public. If nothing else, approve our permit application predicated on the securing of funding, just as it is done with every other governmental permit.
I can provide you with all the documentation I have mentioned in this email upon request.
Thank you for your time.
Taras C. Lyssenko
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