Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Ship Names

May 16, 2024 1:12 PM

The following is the May 10, 2024, 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.

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 2020, Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines were named largely for states, but the most recent eight have been named for four earlier U.S. Navy attack submarines, a former Secretary of the Navy, an island, and two cities, suggesting that there is no longer a clear naming rule for the class.
  • 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, and the fourth has been named Lafayette in honor of Marquis de Lafayette and his service during the American Revolutionary War.
  • Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) were named for regionally important U.S. cities and communities.
  • Amphibious assault ships (LHAs) 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 the cities and communities that were 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.
  • The first of the Navy’s new Expeditionary Medical Ships (EMSs) has been named Bethesda to honor the history and community of health care professionals of Naval Support Activity Bethesda. The second EMS has been named Balboa to honor the legacy and commitment of Navy doctors, nurses, corpsmen, and staff of Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego.
  • 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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