- The Secretary of the Navy is charged with naming new US Navy ships, but there are rules to how those ships are named.
- The Navy sometimes breaks the naming rules, which is itself a tradition, a new report from the Congressional Research Service says.
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The Secretary of the Navy is in charge of naming US Navy ships, under the direction of the president and with the guidance of Congress.
But it’s not just a random choice; there have long been rules and traditions concerning how ships are named.
On Monday, the Congressional Research Service released a report on the current rules for naming ships recently obtained by the Navy and those that will be procured in the future. The report outlines the rules for naming ships for Congress, but the ultimate decision rests with the Secretary of the Navy, so of course there are exceptions.
In fact, the report says exceptions to the naming rules are as much a Navy tradition as the naming rules themselves.
Learn about the Navy’s ship-naming rules — and the exceptions — below.
The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines will replace the Ohio-class, starting to patrol in 2031. The first submarine has been named Columbia for the District of Columbia, but the Navy hasn’t publicly stated what the rule for naming this submarine class will be.
US Navy / DVIDS
The 12 submarines of the Columbia class are a shipbuilding priority. The Columbia-class Program Executive Office is on track to begin construction with USS Columbia (SSBN 826) in fiscal year 2021, deliver in fiscal year 2028, and on patrol in 2031.
The Navy doesn’t seem to have a rule for naming Seawolf-class attack submarines. The three submarines of this class still in service are the Seawolf, the Connecticut, and the Jimmy Carter — named for a fish, a state, and a president.
Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Dobbs / US Navy / DVIDS
Designed to be the world’s quietest submarines, Seawolf-class submarines are one of the Navy’s most advanced undersea warfighting platforms, and unique among US submarines.
The Jimmy Carter now serves the same secretive purpose as the USS Parche, the US Navy’s most decorated warship.
Virginia-class attack subs are supposed to be named for states, and all of them are — with the exception of the USS John Warner, a former Republican senator, a Marine, and Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki / US Navy / DVIDS
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