By Rowan Scarborough

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The Washington Times

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, under fire from Congress and veterans for naming ships after fellow Democrats and social activists, plans to announce another round of ship names in the near future that will be more traditional, a Pentagon official tells The Washington Times.

The official said Mr. Mabus has chosen names for five surface ships - three for war heroes and two for locations. Ships typically are named after states and cities.

“I think they would be more consistent with what most people would say traditions and naming conventions are,” the official said.

Asked whether this was a response to criticism, the official said: “It isn’t. I think if you look at these five additional ships, I think you’ll see examples that are very traditional.” The official said three ships would be named after highly decorated Navy or Marine Corps personnel.

Mr. Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, broke with Navy conventions in the past three years when he named an amphibious ship, two cargo ships and a littoral combat ship after two social activists and two fellow Democrats.

“The Navy’s ship-naming process remains the subject of criticism based on several recent decisions,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, wrote to Mr. Mabus on Tuesday. He said there are still opportunities “for the Navy to show its intent to uphold the integrity and tradition of this process.”

Mr. Hunter, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine Corps officer, renewed his recommendation that the Navy name a ship after a war hero, the late Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

Sgt. Peralta received the Navy Cross for valor in smothering the blast of a grenade with his body during a 2004 raid in Fallujah, Iraq. Congress‘ 2012 budget bill urged the Navy to name a ship after him.

For years, Congress has taken a keen interest in ship-naming, an honor that travels in deployments around the world and sometimes into battle. The power to name ships resides solely with the Navy secretary.

“There have been exceptions to the Navy’s ship-naming rules, particularly for the purpose of naming a ship for a person when the rule for that type of ship would have called for it to be named for something else,” according to a Congressional Research Service report in March.

“Some observers in recent years have perceived a breakdown in, or corruption of, the rules for naming Navy ships.”

Lawmakers have begun to closely monitor Mr. Mabus‘ choice of names.

In December, senators added language to the defense budget bill that directs the defense secretary to submit a report to Congress on the process it uses for naming ships. The bill asks whether the Navy has detoured from historical practices and, if so, why.

“There have been a number of controversial ship-namings recently, and one way to deal with that is to have more input and to think more clearly about who we are going to name Navy vessels after,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.
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