- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says in a letter that he has the power to name warships as he chooses, in response to a former Marine and congressman who charges he has politicized the process.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and House Armed Services Committee member, wrote Mr. Mabus to question the naming of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer after former Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The naming followed a pattern of Mr. Mabus, a former Democratic governor of Mississippi, of naming warships after Democrats and liberal activists, some of whom had little or no link to the military.

Mr. Mabus did not respond directly to Mr. Hunter. His public affairs officer spoke for him, sending a letter to Mr. Hunter which says the Navy secretary may deviate from official ship-naming conventions.

“The secretary gives careful consideration to every new ship name and is mindful of the established ship naming policy,” wrote Capt. Patrick McNally. “While the ship naming conventions provide a guideline for names, there have been a number of deviations from those conventions throughout the history of the U.S. Navy.”

Capt. McNally cited the fact that two aircraft carriers were named after members of Congress: John C. Stennis and Carl Vinson. The current convention for naming carriers is far less restrictive than for naming destroyers. Lately, carriers have been named after former commanders in chief.

Capt. McNally invited Mr. Hunter, who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, to read a research paper on the subject produced by Mr. Mabus’s staff in response to Republican complaints.

Said Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s chief of staff, “The problem with Mabus is that this decision wasn’t a one-off. If it were, there probably wouldn’t be much criticism. But for Mabus it fits a pattern of bad judgment all around, from disrespecting the Marine Corps to rewarding his friends. He wrote the book on how to politicize ship naming conventions and the USS Levin is just another chapter.”

Mr. Mabus rejected Marine Corps studies that found that all-male land combat units preformed batter than mixed-sex units. The Corps is getting ready to let women try out for direct ground combat.

In the Levin naming, the convention for guided-missile destroyers is that the individual be a deceased member of the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, including Navy secretaries. Mr. Levin did not serve in the military.

A good number of Arleigh-Burke-class honorees were/are Medal of Honor recipients. Most are historical war heroes.

A review by The Washington Times showed all but one of 71 names basically complied with the convention until the Levin decision––Winston Churchill, the fabled wartime leader of Great Britain. Some of the naval war heroes are still alive.

The Times acquired a Congressional Research Service analysis. It found that, of 318 Medal of Honor recipients in the Navy and Marine Corps, 100 have had a ship named after them; the large majority of them — 186 — have not.

Some examples of Mr. Mabus‘ ship names:

He named combat logistics supply ships after civil rights leader Medgar Evers and leftist farmworker Cesar Chavez. All previous Lewis and Clark-class cargo ships had been named for famous explorers or people who made significant contributions to the military, as called for in Navy conventions.

He named a littoral combat ship after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, who was seriously wounded in a January 2011 assassination attempt. Some Republicans said there are hundreds of wounded veterans if that is the criteria.

He named a San Diego-class docking ship after another Democrat, the late Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania. The previous nine ships had been named after U.S. cities, a park and a county, following Navy conventions.

In January Mr. Mabus again broke with past tradition. He named a fleet replenishment oiler, TAO-205, after civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat. Mr. Lewis voted for removing all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2007 and from Afghanistan in 2011. He also has favored deep cuts in military spending.

Mr. Mabus said this class hereafter will be named after civil rights and human rights activists.

Navy guidelines had said such ships are named for rivers or people instrumental to maritime and aviation design and production.

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