Coming soon: the USS Britney Spears?

posted at 9:15 am on March 13, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

That’s an exaggeration, but not by much.  The famed aircraft carrier USS Enterprise departed Sunday on its final deployment, the 22nd of its amazing career of more than 50 years.  Later this year, the Big E will return home to be decommissioned.  The US Navy has a new carrier in the works, designated CVN-80 but as yet unnamed (Enterprise is CVN-65, for those keeping score).  Given the odd decisions on naming naval ships, Mark Krikorian has begun circulating a petition to transfer the name Enterprise to CVN-80 — or find a more appropriate name than limited imaginations have suggested of late:

But after this year the U.S. Navy will no longer have an Enterprise, which is why there’s a petition to name the next planned carrier, CVN-80, the USS Enterprise. Sign it, because we’ve gotten into the habit of naming our greatest warships after politicians, and not even dead ones — one of the newest carriers is the USS George H. W. Bush. Look, I voted for the guy, and he was a whole lot better than the current occupant, but nothing named by the U.S. government — not a building, not a scholarship program, certainly not one of the greatest warships built by mankind — should be named after a living person. Except for posthumous Medal of Honor recipients, it seems to me you should be dead for 50 years, preferably 100, before your name is even eligible to be considered for a naval ship.

And while we’re naming ships after Jimmy Carter and John Murtha and Bob Hope, keep in mind there’s no USS Lexington or Yorktown or Saratoga or Midway or Khe Sanh or, if we want to name them after people, Benjamin Franklin or John Adams or Jefferson or Madison or Monroe or Jackson. There have been nearly 1,000 Marine and Navy combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan — any one of those is more appropriate as the name of a ship than the USS Gabrielle Giffords.

I recall when the first Space Shuttle was built, and Star Trek fans wanted it named Enterprise.  They succeeded, but the joke ended up being on them (well, us); the Enterprise was a test vehicle that never flew in space.

At least that name made sense, however.  It hearkened back to naval days when ships took names that represented the values of the nation that launched them — Enterprise, Intrepid, Reliant, to name a few from American and British tradition, or that honored famous military victories like Yorktown and Saratoga, as Krikorian suggests.  We named nuclear submarines after the states, which might be a little more prosaic given their funding, but at least they represented the people as a whole rather than a living politician.  Even in Star Trek, the shuttles always took the names of famous explorers or those who had died in the effort to reach into space, such as Ellison Onizuka, Gus Grissom, and Christa McAuliffe.  There wasn’t a shuttle named Jean-Luc Picard in ST:TNG.  Instead, the naming conventions of the past several years seem to express the notion that values and history matter less than self-celebration.

Let’s name CVN-80 Enterprise and continue a tradition of audacity and excellence in the carrier fleet.  But even more to the point, let’s return to a tradition of honoring the values and history of this country in the naming of our naval ships.  Stop the madness before we christen a new ship the USS Britney Spears and we all have to say, “Oops! They did it again.”

Update: The last line in the penultimate paragraph should have read “matter less” rather than “matter more.”  I’ve fixed it, thanks to Twitter follower Bcwlk.

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the USS Britney Spears

This ship sucks!!!

MaiDee on March 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM

As with the Royal Navy, the lines are too short to find a home for every great name and legacy. I like the convention where you could tell the type of vessel by the name.

Those great carrier names from World War Two are all immortal now and rightly so.

Bless them all.

lexhamfox on March 14, 2012 at 12:35 AM

Enterprise or The Eaton, after the commander of the first battle on foreign soil won by combined U.S. land and naval forces in the 1st Barbary War. The last U.S.S. Eaton was decommissioned in 1969.

profitsbeard on March 14, 2012 at 1:20 AM

The USS George H. W. Bush is more appropriate the the USS Ronald Reagan. Read your history…and know it. Of all the Nimitz class carriers, the Nimitz and the Bush are the most appropriately named of the ships.

cozmo on March 13, 2012 at 2:23 PM

I’m knocking it because GHWB’s still alive, and he didn’t do much militarily as POTUS compared to RR who fought and won the cold war.

There are other dead presidents that she could have been named after; Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson (like to see her patrolling the ME), U. Grant, etc. Then GHWB can get his due after his passing.

AH_C on March 14, 2012 at 8:04 AM

Cities and States are normally subs (save for the few cities which are San Antonio Class LPDs but there are only 4-5 of them right now).
TinCanNav on March 14, 2012 at 12:25 AM

There were the dozen of the Austin class before that. Naming submarines for cities was only in place for the 688 class attack boats. The Independence and Freedom classes of littoral ships will also be named for cities. after the class leaders.

Almost every time the navy tries to implement a system for naming ships, it gets screwed up.

AH_C on March 14, 2012 at 8:04 AM

No doubt, but when it comes to the capital ships now days, they are always on the cutting block when it comes to budgets. Having a famous persons name on the ship helps. At least Bush 41 and Ford served on carriers.

cozmo on March 14, 2012 at 8:33 AM

cozmo on March 14, 2012 at 8:33 AM

I understand that is why I said in the last 30 years. I know that they came up with this new system around the same time the Battlewaggons started going away and the Tico cruisers came into service. So they decided to move the states and cities to subs as the phased out the old Sturgeon classes (I did a training cruise on the last Sturgeon Class). Since then, with the exception of the political exceptions they have been pretty good. The political exceptions being of course things like, the Jimmy Carter (which I sort of get, he was a submariner), the Carl Vinson (nakedly political), the Gabby Gifford and the John Murtha with the San Antonio Classes (Bleh).

But you are right that they HAVE managed to screw up at least one naming scheme completely. You knwo We had a great thing going with the States being Boomer subs and the cities being fast attacks, then the Navy starts building new fast attacks and what do they do? Starts naming them after states.

TinCanNav on March 14, 2012 at 10:33 AM

You knwo We had a great thing going with the States being Boomer subs and the cities being fast attacks, then the Navy starts building new fast attacks and what do they do? Starts naming them after states.

TinCanNav on March 14, 2012 at 10:33 AM

At the end of the cold war there was a good chance that there would be no more boomers. States went from battleships to cruisers to boomers and now attack subs. No naming rules have been followed long enough to become tradition. Before CV-6 the name Enterprise had not been used on a capital ship and even then, no one was sure about the potential of the aircraft carrier. CNV-65 was named Enterprise because of the fame her immediate fore bearer fought through, and even that famous ship went to the breakers. Fans of CVN-65 are just hoping to save the island as a memorial.

Even the 688’s broke convention with the Rickover. The navy jumped on that to circumvent congress demanding a carrier be named that.

cozmo on March 14, 2012 at 11:52 AM

cozmo on March 14, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Well Rickover was much more in love with subs than floaters.

TinCanNav on March 14, 2012 at 12:03 PM