Report to Congress on Navy Ship Names

March 2, 2023 11:14 AM

The following is the March 1, 2023 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.

Section 370 of the FY2021 NDAA (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021) established a commission, commonly referred to as the Naming Commission, regarding the removal and renaming of certain Department of Defense assets (including ships) that commemorate the Confederate States of America (CFA) or any person who served voluntarily with the CFA. The Naming Commission released its recommendations in August and September 2022. Consistent with one of the commission’s recommendations, the Navy on February 27, 2023, announced that the cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) would be renamed the USS Robert Smalls.

Names for Navy ship types currently or recently procured for the Navy include the following:

  • The first and second SSBN-826 class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) have been named District of Columbia and Wisconsin.
  • Until recently, Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines have generally been named for states, but the four most recently named Virginia-class boats have instead been named in honor of earlier U.S. Navy attack submarines.
  • Of the Navy’s 15 most recently named aircraft carriers, 10 have been 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.
  • The first three FFG-62 class frigates have been named Constellation, Congress, and Chesapeake, in honor of three of the first six U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794.
  • Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) were named for regionally important U.S. cities and communities.
  • Amphibious assault ships are being named for U.S. Marine Corps battles, early U.S. Navy sailing ships, or aircraft carriers from World War II.
  • 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 are being named for people who fought for civil rights and human rights.
  • Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPFs) are being named for small U.S. cities.
  • Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs) are being named for famous names or places of historical significance to U.S. Marines.
  • Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ships are being named for prominent Native Americans or Native American tribes.

Download the document here.

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