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Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Ship Names

The following is the Aug. 27, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, 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 (SSBN-826) 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.

Since 1974, at least 20 U.S. military ships have been named for persons who were living at the time the name was announced. The most recent instance occurred on July 11, 2018, when the Navy announced that it was expanding the name of the destroyer John. S. McCain (DDG-56), originally named for Admiral John S. McCain (1884-1945) and Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. (1911-1981), to also include Senator John S. McCain III.

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.

  • “Aircraft carriers are generally named for past U.S. Presidents” USS Bill Clinton or USS BHO will cause Trump to explode.

    • Ser Arthur Dayne

      And of course since President Trump is currently President, he can direct SECNAV to name the next two carriers USS Donald Trump & USS George W Bush, and perhaps more Progressive explosions will occur than ever before.

      • tiger

        We do have a good 30 plus ex Potus to pick from.

      • Fred Gould

        Coming from the NE, I have known of Trump of over 40 years. Not worthy of having a carrier named after him. Remember the NFL owners refused his attempt to buy a team.

        • muzzleloader

          Cmon, no one is even discussing naming a CVN after Trump yet, so even bringing it up is a waste of time. As far as the NFL, Trump is far from the first individual to be spurned from being a team owner. NFL team owners consider themselves an elite clique and very obstinate in whom they let into their club.

          • On Dre

            Yea, they dont let broke mob connected hucksters into their club. Thats not rocket science. Its called good buisness.

          • muzzleloader

            Troll alert.

        • tiger

          Not any worse than calling one James Polk or Franklin Pierce…

    • Sir Bateman

      In all seriousness I sort of doubt Clinton, Obama or even George W. Bush for that matter get a CVN named after them. It seems that carriers that get named after a former President typically fit into 1 or more of 4 categories:

      * Historically noteworthy, e.g. Lincoln, Washington

      * Decorated military service, e.g. Ford, JFK

      * A war was successfully prosecuted during their administration, e.g. H.W. Bush

      * Was a prominent proponent of USN expansion, e.g. Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt

      Neither Clinton, Obama or even Bush fit into any of those categories. Other than Dubya’s time in the National Guard none ever served in the military, and all three had fairly controversial administrations to one degree or another.

      • tiger

        Being Potus is a small club of 45. Plenty of old names to pick from.

        • Sir Bateman

          Indeed, still though as Eyes open said above I’d much prefer that carriers be named after battles, e.g. Yorktown, Saratoga and famous historical ships, e.g. Enterprise, Hornet

          • tiger

            My big beef is Subs. Go back to fish names.

          • Sir Bateman

            Ohh man I couldn’t agree more, wasn’t it Rickover that was quoted as saying that “fish don’t vote”?

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            Rickover did say that, when explaining the justification for naming the 688-class Los Angeles … but in his defense he was absolutely right… He was fighting a battle internally to get the 688-class of his design, what became the Los Angeles-class design, rather than the “Conform” design.. and the support that Rickover gained by allowing the 688 to be called the Los Angeles -class (and then the rest after cities) allowed him to “win the battle” — and the LA-class was the best design in the history of undersea warfare, perhaps the most advanced military hardware outside of Trident missiles… so I have to concur, Rickover did what he had to do for the greater good, so to speak.

          • Augustine’s Lion

            The USS Tunafish

          • tiger

            I think there were a bunch of Tuna subs? Tuna, Albacore, bluefin, yellowfin…… Charlie.

          • Augustine’s Lion

            Lol tuna sub.

      • On Dre

        Obama is perfectly qualified to have a carrier named for him. Aside from made up scandals propagated by racist (birth certificate for example) he ran a very tight and proper white house.
        – He was noteworthy
        – Has as many decorations as Lincoln
        – Sucesfully prosecuted a war (so far the longest plus he gets credit for the Osama Bin Ladan raid)
        – Maintained the Navy including its airpower over Iraq and Syria.

        To deny him of his well earned dues is simply to engage in the same ol ‘secret mooslim’ Alex Jones level conspiracy theories.

        • Ser Arthur Dayne

          Are you mentally ill?

          • muzzleloader

            Yes he is.

          • On Dre

            Are you racist?
            (Hint: yes)

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            Unfortunately your retort is false logic; that is, even if I was, which I am not, it would not reduce your mental illness level. I would seek professional help in the form of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology. (Hint: Yes you should)

          • muzzleloader

            Are you a troll? Yes.

        • Sir Bateman

          Noteworthy for being the first African American President, but that’s about it, he’s certainly not as noteworthy as say George Washington, Lincoln or even FDR.

          While he’s well within his right to claim a degree of credit for the death of Bin Laden on a broader strategic level his foreign policy can’t be described as anything but a disaster. Afghanistan at minimum was in as bad a shape when he left office as when he entered. There’s no question that Iraq was in worse shape when he left office as compared to when he entered office. Even he described the U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war as the biggest regret of his administration. His handling of the usage of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria, more specifically going along with Putin’s claim to remove the Assad regime’s chemical weapons was in poor judgment.

          Maintaining “the Navy including its airpower over Iraq and Syria” strikes me as a rather irrelevant if not bizarre reason to name a carrier after a particular President. I mean the same argument could be made about Bush II, or about LBJ and Nixon vis-a-vis Southeast Asia.

          • On Dre

            Whats noteworthy is that the level of blantant racism he had as a headwind into the office. Remember birth certifcate dramas and the racist cheerleaders who brought it forward?

            Iraq and Afgainistan were not his doing. Remember before the Iraq invasion when people said it was going to be a quagmire only to have thier patriotism questioned (often by the same folks who pushed birth cert theories…hmmm wonder if there is a connection there). Afgainistain was better under his watch simply because he didnt take his eyes off it like Bush jr. did.
            Syria, Obama, via the USN, destroyed thousands of barrels of gas weapons. Your assertion that he defered to Putin is pure fabrication (coming from the ‘birth cert’ and “iraq has WMDs” side of politics proves you have a track record of BS).
            Reagan wore an army uniform and made movies…still has a carrier so some allegience to carrier avaiation is not a pre req.
            Obama served two terms scandal free and with honor. Whatever presidental honors are due he should recieve.

          • MWhite

            “Blatant racism”…Ah the tiresome race card. Can’t back up your argument, so pull it out of the deck. Discussion over. Sorry, you’re conveniently forgetting what a lying narcissist he is. Benghazi/video, “if you like your doctor…”, pulling out of Iraq and leaving a vacuum for the “junior varsity’ ISIS to fill, billions in pay-offs to Iran, a refusal to call Islamic terror…Islamic terror, million of shovel ready jobs, on and on and on…all thanks to a feckless amateur who can’t bear the thought that not everyone thinks he’s pretty. His political career was birthed in the living room of a domestic terrorist (William Ayers) and, for 20 years, he sat in the pew every Sunday at a church pastored by a hate-filled racist (Jeremiah Wright). And he says he “never had the chance to serve.” Right…a walk to the nearest recruiting station would have solved that…but he was too busy getting potted out of his mind at Occidental.

          • muzzleloader

            Wet put!

          • Sir Bateman

            Again you bring up issues that are immaterial to the issue at hand. While the criticisms that Obama faced were at times wholly uncalled for and undoubtedly routed in bigotry, his noteworthiness simply doesn’t rise to the level of Presidents like Washington or Lincoln, both of whom are consistently rated as one of the top 2 or 3 U.S. Presidents of all time.

            While there’s no doubt that Obama is entitled to proudly proclaim that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, it’s irrelevant, his administration’s broader foreign policy is still very much a disaster. He may not have taken “his eyes off” Afghanistan, whatever that means, but the U.S. was no closer to victory there when he left office as when he entered. Again he was 100% correct that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was foolish but again it was in worse shape when he left office as compared to when he entered office.* Additionally the overthrow of Gaddafi, which he supported, has proven to be as disastrous as Bush II’s overthrow of Saddam. While significant quantities of Syrian chemical weapons were destroyed the fact that Assad appears to have subsequently gassed his own people multiple times proves that Obama was swindled by Assad and Putin.

            As for Reagan, while his military career borders on almost being insignificant, he did serve in the armed forces. More important is the fact that he was a huge advocate of the armed forces and more specifically the USN, i.e. the 600-ship Navy, during his time as President. He expended significant political capital in reversing the numerical and material decline in the armed forces, including the USN. To be even more specific he was a big advocate of carrier based naval aviation. None of this is true of Obama, in fact when Romney brought up the issue of the decline in the DOD’s force structure during one of their debates Obama flippantly brushed it off by making a quip about horses and bayonets.

            I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, and he admittedly served as President during a difficult time, but I don’t believe his accomplishments, either before or during his Presidency, rise to the level of naming a CVN after him.

            At any rate with the possible exception of Lincoln and Washington I personally don’t think any President ranks having a CVN named after them. As I said in another post if it were up to me I’d go back to naming carriers after noteworthy battles and famous ships, e.g. Yorktown, Saratoga, Midway, Enterprise, Hornet, etc.

            *(On a related note, the PBS program Frontline had a really interesting episode on the implosion of Iraq titled “Losing Iraq”, if you get a chance I suggest you check it out)

          • muzzleloader

            Scandal free?? Rofl!!

          • Robert W. Anderson

            No more President names for carriers. Unless we have another President who FOUGHT for the country. There is no reason to have half the country hating the name of a U.S. Navy warship.
            Keep politics out of ship names.
            There are more then enough decisive battles and American’s who won Valor awards to more than cover any number of ships.

        • Augustine’s Lion

          Love that one category
          – noteworthy
          Yeah. He was noteworthy alright. 😒

        • tiger

          Qualified? Sure. The praise? Debatable. A Nobel prize was hardly well earned.

    • Robert W. Anderson

      Aircraft carriers are not generally named after Presidents. You should do research before you make comments about a subject you don’t understand. The practice of naming ships for Presidents has to stop. Ships names should not come from list of politicians, unless they have
      fought for their country. And I mean FOUGHT, not just has a uniform on.

  • Eyes open

    I am one that thinks we should name carriers like they were before; after battle sites, not presidents. Naming them after presidents makes them a political statement.

    • Ser Arthur Dayne

      I agree, I actually favor the Brits system , using cool names. HMS Dragon, HMS Ambush, HMS Invincible, etc. Definitely need to get back to the names of our carriers of past wars & heroic ships etc. We need less Carl Vinsons & John Stennis’s and more Lexington & Yorktown & Saratogas & Hornets etc.

      • bob

        My personal favorite Royal Navy ship; HMS Battleaxe, bound to strike fear into the hearts of all married men. What else but a visit from your Mother-in-Law would cause such consternation!!

      • Secundius

        How about “K 193, HMS Buttercup” a “Flower” class Corvette used in WWII, similar to the “Buckley” class Destroyer Escort used by the US Navy. But was powered by a Triple Expansion Steam Engine, instead of a Turbo-Electric Drive powerplant…

        • Ser Arthur Dayne

          How Bout Not?

  • jetcal1

    Go back to traditional naming criteria.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    As stupid as the naming policy has become, that stupidity will probably result in a REAL ‘pink submarine’ being built one day!

    • Fred Gould

      Already been one back in WWII. Not enough time to put a coat of grey over the red lead. The Japanese were that close.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    We need to name the first FREMM or NSC -based FFG (X) the USS Defiant and then name the remaining Defiant-class FFGs awesome names like the USS Dangerous, Daring, Damaging, Predator, Pulverizer, Punisher, etc. II all seriousness, USS Defiant would make an awesome FFG name/class, especially if the FFGX is as badace as it could&should be.

  • RobM1981

    Out:
    Battle sites
    Admirable qualities (Enterprise excepted)
    Aquatic critters
    Historic names, like Constellation, Shangri La, etc.
    Key historic figures like Franklin, Hancock, Adams, Hamilton, etc.
    Historic names that were felt to give enough recognition to politicians, as a group, like President, Congress, etc.

    Retain:
    States
    Cities
    Naval/Marine heroes
    Major politicians like Lincoln and Washington

    Add:
    Any POTUS who ever wore the uniform, barring RM Nixon
    Any SecNav who ever captured the fancy of the Congress
    Any congress person who requires recognition to keep the shaft greased
    Civil rights leaders

    Coming:
    Major “bundlers…”

    • Refguy

      Except for the first Enterprise, all have been named for famous ships. What’s wrong with naming ships for previous famous ships?

      • RobM1981

        You misunderstood me. There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just “out of fashion.” I think it’s a shame that we don’t have a Franklin, etc. We manage to squeak a few in. There’s an LHD named Bonhomme Richard, which is part of the Wasp class, so there’s another one. Yorktown was a CG, and maybe the name will be re-used.

        Enterprise is not the only glorious name from the past. Maybe there will be another Sammy B?

        WWII generated so many spectacular examples of courage and bravery for the USN, it created a wealth of ships with glorious histories. Why lose those? Will there be another Saratoga? Another Holland?

        • Refguy

          I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    • Robert W. Anderson

      Your add list should never have anything to do with ships of the US Navy.
      Maybe cruise ships, pleasure craft, tug boats. But not the U.S. Navy.

  • oldspyguy

    I think it’s a shame that we’re naming so many destroyers for politicians. Some who didn’t even serve in the Navy. Yet, we have no destroyer named for one of the Navy’s greatest destroyer heroes. i.e. Ernest Evans.

    • tiger

      Now that is a Damn disgrace.

    • Robert W. Anderson

      I don’t think there is much of problem with the destroyers!
      I just went over then entire list of Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers and about 97% of those
      destroyers don’t carry the names of politicians. And one of those was a former Secretary of the Navy so that’s not too bad. But then we some to the three names that are solely political Winston S. Churchill (he was a navy man too), Franklin Roosevelt, and probably the worst one Carl M. Levin. Interesting that all the politicians (except Churchhill) were/are Democrats.
      Actually the destroyers are the best for sticking to tradition. Many famous old names show up: John Paul Jones, The Sullivans, Decatur, Farrgut, Kidd, Gridley, Dewey, and Spruance. The only name that seems to be missing other than Evans would be Ruben James.

  • Alex Andrite

    Perhaps, names from the 9/11 dead, murdered ? There seems to be enough.

    With all due respect and honor.

    We do, and have, gone to war for them, past present future, have we not ?

    As we will continue to do. As I have done, as my father before me, and his.

    “Only the Dead have seen the End of War.”

    • Robert W. Anderson

      Those people need to be remembered. But as the names for warships, I think not!

      • Alex Andrite

        I agree Robert. The U.S.S. New York recently launched using re forged steel from the 9/11 buildings is plenty enough.

        • Robert W. Anderson

          At least that’s appropriate. We definitely don’t need any more Stennis’, Vinson’s, or Carter’s though.

  • Duane

    Go back to fish names for submarines.

    • vetww2

      So, we would now have a “Whale Shark, (no Whales, because they are not fish)
      A Basking Shark. plus all other of the 459 known species of sharks. BORING.

      • Duane

        Fish swim in the sea. Submarines are the only vessels that swim in the sea.

        As a sub sailor on my 637 class boat, we took great pride in our fish, made ship’s patches and cartoons illustrating our fish.

        How many crewmen of a sub take great pride in their sub named after a city or a state, and sport ship’s patches with snarling images of the State of Indiana, or the City of Pittsburg? Besides none?

        How boring!

        Especially when all the greatest subs in naval lore, as great warriors and leaders, were named after fish! Re Tang, Wahoo, Nautilus, etc. How NOT BORING.

        • NavySubNuke

          “Besides none?”
          None? Hardly. I realize the tendancy for old people is to always feel like things are so much worse today and no one understands but if you ever actually talked to a member of the ship’s crew you will find a number have a very positive relationship and feel a sense of pride to be associated with their city/state.
          Some states and cities even sponsor visits by members of the crew to see and explore the state itself and learn more about it. Others have even sent donations to the ships rec fund to purchase things like TVs and video game consoles for the officers and crew.
          Sorry the patches we wear don’t have snarling fish on them but do yourself a favor and google “USS Philadelphia patch” although she is retired now I always loved the Liberty bell on her patch. There are plenty of other great patches out there besides hers as well.

  • Robert W. Anderson

    I hope the Navy, or whatever power controls the naming of ships will stop naming ships for politicians.
    The only exception would be the U.S.S. George Herbert Walker Bush. But not because he was a politician, but because of his service as a navel aviator in World War II. We have to get back to names
    that mean something like Enterprise, Hornet, Wasp, Ranger, or even Forrestal.
    Do we really need a USS Jimmy Carter? He was in the navy, but that’s about it. No reason to name a ship after him. There are hundreds probably thousands of heroes whose names are on the list of people who have received the Navy Cross, The Distinguished Service Cross and the The Air Force Cross that could be leant to U.S. warships. And there’s always CHM awards.
    We need to return to our historic roots. Name ships after war heroes, and the sites of land and sea engagements.

  • Rob C.

    For me the naming practices of Navy are unenthusiastic.
    While Destroyers are traditionally, named for our heroes and people who fought in the navy. I’d like seem return of thematic names like “Avenger”, “America”, etc. I don’t think politically aligned names inspire people about their ships too much when they’re going into harms way.