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Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Ship Names

The following is the Nov. 9, 2017 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, U.S. Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress.

From the report:

Names for Navy ships traditionally have been chosen and announced by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. Rules for giving certain types of names to certain types of Navy ships have evolved over time. There have been exceptions to the Navy’s ship-naming rules, particularly for the purpose of naming a ship for a person when the rule for that type of ship would have called for it to be named for something else. Some observers have perceived a breakdown in, or corruption of, the rules for naming Navy ships. On July 13, 2012, the Navy submitted to Congress a 73-page report on the Navy’s policies and practices for naming ships. For ship types now being procured for the Navy, or recently procured for the Navy, naming rules can be summarized as follows:

The first Ohio replacement ballistic missile submarine (SBNX) has been named Columbia in honor of the District of Columbia, but the Navy has not stated what the naming rule for these ships will be.
Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines are being named for states.
Aircraft carriers are generally named for past U.S. Presidents. Of the past 14, 10 were named for past U.S. Presidents, and 2 for Members of Congress.
Destroyers are being named for deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including Secretaries of the Navy.
Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) are being named for regionally important U.S. cities and communities.
Amphibious assault ships are being named for important battles in which U.S. Marines played a prominent part, and for famous earlier U.S. Navy ships that were not named for battles.
San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious ships are being named for major U.S. cities and communities, and cities and communities attacked on September 11, 2001.
John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers, previously known as TAO(X)s, are being named for people who fought for civil rights and human rights.
Lewis and Clark (TAKE-1) class cargo and ammunition ships were named for famous American explorers, trailblazers, and pioneers.
Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPFs), previously called Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs), are being named for small U.S. cities.
Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs), previously called Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) ships and Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSBs), respectively, are being named for famous names or places of historical significance to U.S. Marines.

The Navy historically has only rarely named ships for living persons. Since 1974, at least 19 U.S. military ships have been named for persons who were living at the time the name was announced. Eight of the 19 have been announced since January 2012, including three announced in 2012 and four announced in 2016. Members of the public are sometimes interested in having Navy ships named for their own states or cities, for older U.S. Navy ships (particularly those on which they or their relatives served), for battles in which they or their relatives participated, or for people they admire.

Congress has long maintained an interest in how Navy ships are named, and has influenced the naming of certain Navy ships. The Navy suggests that congressional offices wishing to express support for proposals to name a Navy ship for a specific person, place, or thing contact the office of the Secretary of the Navy to make their support known. Congress may also pass legislation relating to ship names.Measures passed by Congress in recent years regarding Navy ship names have all been sense-of-the-Congress provisions.

  • vincedc

    Just curious….how much money did it take to generate this report, and how many members of congress actually read it? Someone needs to review the thousands of reports that got to congress every year to see if they are really necessary. Personal venting because I was stuck with writing two of them before I retired, and never heard a word after they were delivered.

    • John

      And how many of these reports have been already generated in the last 5 years for this exact topic. How many changes have happened over those years to the current ‘conventions’?

      • vincedc

        Hopefully, it is in a word processor and all they had to do is change the date.

  • Sam Houston

    Ships named for “people who fought for civil rights and human rights.,” has no place in Military matters. We don’t fight for civil or human rights. We fight to uphold the Constitution and protect the Nation. Take this social justice warriror crap out of our Navy!,

    • Cato

      Dear Mr. Houston,

      I am gratified to see that chose the name of someone who remained loyal to the Union.

      I am wondering if you have any objection to the choice of John Calhoun, the principal ideological apologist for white supremacy and ardent advocate of nullification of the Union, as the name for an SSBN. Medgar Evers gave his life seeking to undo Calhoun’s legacy, so perhaps we should just call it even.



      • Ctrot

        The USS John C Calhoun has been out of commission for over 20 years, nice strawman.

      • honcho13

        “USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630), a James Madison-class fleet ballistic missile submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for John C. Calhoun (1782–1850), the Democratic legislator and statesman. John C. Calhoun was decommissioned on 28 March 1994 at Bremerton, Washington, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. Her scrapping via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington, was completed on 18 November 1994.”

        • Cato

          Dear Ctrot and honcho13,

          Fair enough, let’s go with the John Stennis, named for a Congressman who was a “virulent opponent” of desegregation, had his prosecution of three blacks overturned in 1936 for use of torture, and signed the Southern Manifesto. She’s of course still in commission, and will be for some time going forward.



  • dgc

    I wonder how much time and effort was wasted in such a silly document….

  • Bill Ridings

    We are going to run out of Virginia-class names pretty quickly…..

    • Rob C.

      Maybe they’ll go back naming them after fish again. They were decent names for WW2 submarines.

      • hollygreen9

        I still remember when subs were named after aquatic species, carriers were named after great battles, battlewagons were named after states, cruisers were named after state capitols, and destroyers were named after sailors that did something of importance (USS Sullivans named after the 5 brothers that died onboard the same ship in WW2).

  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    The only ships that should bear the name of modern politicians are garbage scows and the last time I checked, the U.S. Navy din’t have any.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    The name schemes over the decades reflects other aspects of ship and military systems procurement. Names of politicians goes to securing approval for them from areas and groups (of Congressmen) who otherwise might not favor them. Some on one side the aisle might not favor just a warship, but slap the name Cesar Chavez on it, and yes, they are OK with it and vote accordingly. That goes on with the other side as well. As for those other aspects mentioned, ships and other weapons and systems and platforms are now ‘farmed out’ to as many congressional districts and states as is possible. By that I mean components that used to be manufactured and produced in the shipyards doing the actual construction are now made in those districts and states. That all drives the costs way up but keeps all on board and mollified.

  • ming the merciful

    Well your entitled to your OPINIONS, but not your own FACTS, and Based on your use of language, and adhominime attacks, I would surmise your a graduate of one of our FINE esteemed LIBERAL INSTITUTES OF LOWER EDUCATION.
    As to you associating me with a political philosophy, well I am registered as decline to state, but I am one that DESIRES to KEEP most of my HARD EARNED MONEY and KEEPING the FACIST LEFT-WING Goverment of The People Republic Of Kalifornia, out of my Personal Life.

  • John B. Morgen

    I prefer to follow the Royal Navy’s pattern for naming warships.