The 3 April 2012 Fort Worth Star-Telegram had an interesting article by J.R. Labbe commemorating the countdown to the 22 September 2012 commissioning of the Navy’s newest littoral combat ship (LCS) in Galveston, the USS Fort Worth. The christening took place on 4 Dec 2010 and was reportedly “a day of tradition, patriotism and honor -- with special emphasis on tradition.” Bush 43's Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter had selected the name which was in keeping with Naval tradition. The Navy is big on tradition -- from its naming to the keel laying to the mast stepping to the christening – its been done thousands of times before -- or at least that is how things were done before the Obama Administration decided to abandoned all tradition. Instead of naming ships to honor a Service Hero, a significant Military leader or recognize a place or an event that exemplifies the character, spirit and commitment to the Service, the current SecNav, Ray Mabus has decided to substitute time-honored Navy tradition for an exercise in political pandering. Granted the Navy secretary has sole discretion in naming Naval Vessels but this guy has taken politics to a new level. I would not be at all surprised to wake up one morning to find Mabus “selling ship naming right” to Obama bundlers as if a war ship was an NFL Football stadium. Even Mabus’ Wikipedia page notes he is the target of heavy criticism from Military veterans and several members of Congress for abandoning the norms of ship naming protocol to make political statements.
In 2010, Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, named a San Antonio-class amphibious transport ship after deceased Pennsylvania Rep. John P. Murtha -- the defense appropriation's king of pay-to-play who did more to divert scarce Military resources from sorely needed service priorities to political cronies (a la Obama with Solyndra) than any politician in recent memory. Then in May 2011, he named a Lewis and Clark-class cargo ship after migrant labor leader Cesar Chavez. Rumor has it there’s a USS Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a USS Jane Fonda and a USS George Soros in our future.
Granted, Chavez and Murtha both may have once been in the military like millions of others but to be worthy of a ship to bear a person’s name they should have at least demonstrated great courage in actual combat. Then, to add insult this February Mabus decided to name the 10th LCS the USS Gabrielle Giffords after the former Arizona Democrat Congresswoman. Now she may be worthy of admiration and respect for her courage in overcoming her injuries in a January 2011 town hall shooting and she did serve on the House Armed Services Committee but she wasn't exactly any outspoken champion of the Military. In her favor she is married to a now retired Navy Captain (and former NASA astronaut) but so is my wife and no one is talking about naming a ship after her! Maybe a post office or a government building in her Tucson hometown, but a Navy man of war, are you kidding?
Every Veteran ought to be outraged by this politicizing of the Navy and demand that President Obama ask for Ray Mabus’ immediate resignation. With the average life of a Naval vessel almost 50 years, can you imagine one of your grandchildren having to serve aboard the USS Oprah Winfrey?
Than again, with the Obama Five Year Defense Program, this might be all the Navy's bankrupt Shipbuilding Program can afford so maybe a name like the USS Jon Corzine would be appropriate?
Update 24 April 2012: In a letter released today sent to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA San Diego) asks that the Navy name a ship after slain gay activist Harvey Milk who was murdered on Nov. 27, 1978, while serving as a San Francisco supervisor. Milk served in the Navy in the early 1950s but had a rather undistinguished service record.
Now granting Filner’s wishes would be right in character for Mabus who has substituted time-honored Naval ship naming tradition for an exercise in political pandering but this would take it to a new level. A USS Harvey Milk would quickly become the joke of the fleet with the ship's Motto being: “Never Leave Your Shipmates' Behinds!” Does anyone really believe sailors would be clammering to serve on this ship?