Report to Congress on the Names of U.S. Navy Ships

The following is the December 16, 2021 report from the Congressional Research Service, Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress.

From the report

The names of Navy vessels have traditionally been chosen and announced by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. The rules for giving certain types of names to certain types of Navy ships have evolved over time. There have been exceptions to the Naval vessel naming rules, especially for the purpose of naming a vessel for one person when the rule for this type of vessel would have required it to be named for something else. . Some observers have perceived a breach or corruption in the naming rules for Navy vessels. Article 370 of NDAA FY2021 (HR 6395 / PL 116-283 of January 1, 2021) established a commission regarding the withdrawal and renaming of certain Ministry of Defense assets (including ships) that commemorate the Confederate States of America or anyone who has served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.

For the types of ships currently purchased for the Navy, or recently purchased for the Navy, the naming rules can be summarized as follows:

  • The first and second SSBN-826-class guided ballistic missile (SSBN) submarines were named Columbia (in honor of the District of Columbia) and Wisconsin. The Navy has not set out the naming rule for this class of ships.
  • Until recently, Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN-774) were generally named States, but the four most recently named Virginia-class ships were instead named in honor of former sub – US Navy attack marines.
  • Of the Navy’s 15 most recently appointed aircraft carriers, 10 were named for former US presidents and 2 for members of Congress.
  • The destroyers are named after deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, including Secretaries of the Navy.
  • The first three frigates of the FFG-62 class were named Constellation, Congress and Chesapeake, in honor of three of the first six US Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794. The Navy did not state the rule of denomination for this class of ships.
  • Coastal Combatant Ships (LCS) were named after cities and communities of regional significance.
  • Amphibious Assault Ships are named for important battles in which the US Marines played a leading role and for famous US Navy ships that were not named for the battles.
  • The San Antonio-class amphibious ships (LPD-17) are named after major U.S. cities and communities, and towns and communities attacked on September 11, 2001.
  • The John Lewis Class Oil Tankers (TAO-205) are named after people who fought for civil and human rights.
  • Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) is named after small towns in America.
  • Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESD) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESB) are named after famous names or places of historical significance to the United States Marines.
  • Navajo Class Towing, Rescue and Rescue Vessels (TATS-6) are named after prominent Native Americans or Native American tribes.

Download the document here.

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