Ship boat

Report to Congress on United States Navy Ship Names

The following is the Congressional Research Service report from September 14, 2022, Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress.

From the report

The names of Navy ships have traditionally been selected 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 Navy ship naming rules, particularly for the purpose of naming a ship for one person when the rule for that type of ship would have required it to be named for something else. Some observers perceived a breakdown or corruption of Navy ship naming rules. Section 370 of the NDAA FY2021 (HR 6395/PL 116-283 dated January 1, 2021) established a commission regarding the removal and renaming of certain Department of Defense assets (including vessels) that commemorate the Confederate States of America or anyone who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.

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

  • The first and the second SSBN-826-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) have been appointed District of Colombia and Wisconsin. The Navy has not stated the naming rule for this class of ships.
  • Until recently, Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN-774) have generally been named for states, but the four most recently named Virginia-class boats were instead named for former US Navy attack submarines.
  • Among the Navy’s last 15 appointees aircraft carrier10 were nominated for former US presidents and 2 for members of Congress.
  • Destroyers are named after deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including Secretaries of the Navy.
  • The first three FFG-62 class frigates have been appointed Constellation, Congressand Chesapeakein honor of three of the first six United States Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794. The Navy has not stated the naming rule for this class of ship.
  • Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) were named for U.S. cities and communities of regional significance.
  • Amphibious assault ships are named for significant battles in which U.S. Marines played a prominent role and for famous U.S. Navy ships that were not named for battles.
  • San Antonio-class amphibious ships (LPD-17) are named after major American cities and communities and cities and communities attacked on September 11, 2001.
  • John Lewis-class oilers (TAO-205) are named after people who fought for civil and human rights.
  • Expeditionary Rapid Transport (EPF) are named after small American towns.
  • Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESD) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESB) are named after famous names or places of historical significance to U.S. Marines.
  • Navajo-class towing, salvage and salvage vessels (TATS-6) are named after prominent Native Americans or Native American tribes.

Download the document here.