Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is back again using a U.S. Navy warship as a vessel of political pandering. At a hurriedly convened Pentagon ceremony Friday, Mr. Mabus announced that the next littoral combat ship, LCS-10, would be named for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat. Mrs. Giffords recently resigned her congressional seat to focus on recovering from wounds she received in a tragic January 2011 shooting. There are many appropriate ways to honor Mrs. Giffords, but this is not one of them.
It’s obvious that generating election-year headlines is the primary motivator here. Mrs. Giffords was not a noted sponsor or co-sponsor of any major legislation related to the LCS in particular or the sea services generally. The Navy Department said she was known for “advocating for renewable energy and championing border security,” which are not exactly core Navy missions.
Mr. Mabus said Mrs. Giffords was a source of “great inspiration” who represents “the Navy and Marine Corps qualities of overcoming, adapting and coming out victorious despite great challenges.” This may be true. If Mr. Mabus visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, he could meet many wounded American servicemen who have survived these types of challenges and worse. Perhaps he could stop by Arlington National Cemetery and talk to the parents and spouses of members of the military who were deployed overseas but did not make it back. They represented the virtues of the sea services directly through voluntary personal sacrifice. Their names would serve as more appropriate monikers for U.S. warships.
This is the latest in a series of the Obama administration’s questionable, politically motivated Navy ship namings. In the past three years, vessels have been named for civil rights activist Medgar Evers, radical migrant labor leader Cesar Chavez and disgraced former Democratic Rep. John P. Murtha. This series of abuses prompted Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, to amend the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to “require a report on the policies and practices … for naming the vessels of the Navy.” By June 2012, the Defense Department must submit a report to Congress detailing current policies for ship-naming, the extent to which they vary from historical practices, and an assessment of the feasibility of establishing fixed policies for naming ships. Naming a ship after Mrs. Giffords may have been a response to this amendment, which only underscores what a cynical game it has become.
When making decisions like this, the administration ought to tack toward naval tradition and leave politics on the shore.
The Washington Times