Report to Congress on the History of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

The following is the Aug. 1, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements. From the report This report briefly outlines the history of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, its changing relationship to the surrounding community, and its heightened importance due to military operations […]

The following is the Aug. 1, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements.

From the report

This report briefly outlines the history of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, its changing relationship to the surrounding community, and its heightened importance due to military operations in Afghanistan. The report also explains in detail the legal status of the lease of the land on which the naval station stands, the statutory and treaty authorities granted to the President with regard to any potential closure of the naval station, and the effects on such a closure that Cuba sanctions laws might have.

At the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines transitioned to administration by the United States. Of these four territories, only Cuba quickly became an independent republic. As a condition of relinquishing administration, though, the Cuban government agreed to lease three parcels of land to the United States for use as naval or coaling stations. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the sole installation established under that agreement. The two subsequent lease agreements signed in 1903 acknowledged Cuban sovereignty, but granted to the United States “complete jurisdiction and control over” the property so long as it remained occupied.

The prominence of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay rose briefly during the Haitian refugee and Cuban migrant crises of the early 1990s. At one point in late 1994, the migrant population of the naval station approached 45,000. However, by the end of January 1996, the last of these temporary residents had departed.

The naval station’s return to prominence arose due to the establishment of facilities to house a number of wartime detainees captured during military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This practice began in early 2002 with the refurbishment of some of the property formerly used to house refugees and was expanded to more substantial housing that is operated by Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, a tenant for which the naval station provides logistical support. Additional temporary facilities were eventually constructed on a disused naval station airfield for use by the military commissions created to try detainees.

The 1903 lease agreements between the governments of Cuba and the United States are controlled by the language of a 1934 treaty stipulating that the lease can only be modified or abrogated pursuant to an agreement between the United States and Cuba. The territorial limits of the naval station remain as they were in 1934, unless the United States abandons Guantanamo Bay or the two governments reach an agreement to modify its boundaries. While there appears to be no consensus on whether the President can modify the agreement alone, Congress is empowered to alter by statute the effect of the underlying 1934 treaty. There is no current law that would expressly prohibit the negotiation of lease modifications with the existing government of Cuba, but the House of Representatives passed a prohibition on carrying out such a modification without congressional approval as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 (P.L. 114-328). This prohibition has been extended in subsequent years through FY2022.

As for “abandoning” the naval station, there appears to be no statutory prohibitions against closing an overseas military installation. Nevertheless, Congress has imposed practical impediments to closing the naval station by, for example, restricting the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to foreign countries and banning their transfer to the United States. The existence of various sanctions imposed upon Cuba may also impede closing Naval Station Guantanamo Bay by making it difficult to give or sell any property to the Cuban government.

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Report to Congress on Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program

The following is the July 25, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy’s Columbia (SSBN-826) class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) program is a program to design and build a class of 12 new SSBNs to replace the Navy’s current […]

The following is the July 25, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy’s Columbia (SSBN-826) class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) program is a program to design and build a class of 12 new SSBNs to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 aging Ohio-class SSBNs. Since 2013, the Navy has consistently identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy procured the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021 and wants to procure the second boat in the class in FY2024.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $3,079.2 million (i.e., $3.1 billion) in continued procurement funding for the first Columbia-class boat and $2,778.6 million (i.e., about $2.8 billion) in advance procurement (AP) funding for subsequent boats in the class, for a combined FY2023 procurement and AP funding request of $5,857.8 million (i.e., about $5.9 billion).

The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission estimates the procurement cost of the first Columbia-class boat at $15,179.1 million (i.e., about $15.2 billion) in then-year dollars, including $6,557.6 million (i.e., about $6.6 billion) in costs for plans, meaning (essentially) the detail design/nonrecurring engineering (DD/NRE) costs for the Columbia class. (It is a long-standing Navy budgetary practice to incorporate the DD/NRE costs for a new class of ship into the total procurement cost of the first ship in the class.) Excluding costs for plans, the estimated hands-on construction cost of the first ship is $8,621.5 million (i.e., about $8.6 billion). The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission estimates the total procurement cost of a 12-ship class at $112.7 billion in then-year dollars.

Issues for Congress for the Columbia-class program include the following:

  • the risk—due to technical challenges and/or funding-related issues—of a delay in designing and building the lead Columbia-class boat, which could put at risk the Navy’s ability to have the boat ready for its first scheduled deterrent patrol in 2031, when it is to deploy in the place of the first retiring Ohio-class SSBN;
  • the risk of cost growth in the program;
  • the potential impact of the Columbia-class program on funding that will be available for other Navy programs, including other shipbuilding programs; and
  • potential industrial-base challenges of building both Columbia-class boats and Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) at the same time.

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Report to Congress on Iran and Nuclear Weapons

The following is the July 25, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Iran and Nuclear Weapons Production. From the report Iran’s nuclear program has generated widespread concern that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons. According to U.S. intelligence assessments, Tehran has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons at some point, but has halted its nuclear […]

The following is the July 25, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Iran and Nuclear Weapons Production.

From the report

Iran’s nuclear program has generated widespread concern that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons. According to U.S. intelligence assessments, Tehran has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons at some point, but has halted its nuclear weapons program and has not mastered all of the necessary technologies for building such weapons.

Since the early 2000s, Tehran’s construction of gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facilities has been the main source of proliferation concern. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas at high speeds to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 (u-235) isotope. Such centrifuges can produce both low-enriched uranium (LEU), which can be used in nuclear power reactors, and highly enriched uranium (HEU), which is one of the two types of fissile material used in nuclear weapons. Tehran asserts that its enrichment program is meant to produce fuel for peaceful nuclear reactors.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) requires Iran to implement various restrictions on its nuclear program, as well as to accept specific monitoring and reporting requirements.

Then-President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that the United States was ending U.S. participation in the JCPOA. Following this decision, Iran stopped implementing much of this agreement, as well as JCPOA-required International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. Beginning in July 2019, the IAEA verified that some of Iran’s nuclear activities were exceeding JCPOA-mandated limits. Tehran’s subsequent expansion of the country’s enrichment program has decreased the amount of time needed for Iran to produce enough weapons-grade HEU for a nuclear weapon—an action frequently termed “breakout.”

According to official U.S. assessments, Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and has not resumed it. For example, the CIA has no evidence that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i “has made a decision to move to weaponize,” CIA Director William Burns said stated during a December 2021 Wall Street Journal interview. This program’s goal, according to U.S. officials, was to develop an implosion-style nuclear weapon for Iran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile.

The U.S. government assessed prior to the JCPOA that Tehran had not mastered all of the necessary technologies for building a nuclear weapon. Apparently confirming persisting gaps in Iran’s nuclear weapons knowledge, the 2022 U.S. Intelligence Community Annual Threat Assessment observes that “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities … necessary to produce a nuclear device.” An April 2022 State Department report contains a similar conclusion.

The JCPOA-mandated restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran-specific monitoring and reporting requirements both supplement Tehran’s obligations pursuant to the government’s comprehensive IAEA safeguards agreement. Such agreements empower the agency to detect the diversion of nuclear material from peaceful purposes, as well as to detect undeclared nuclear activities and material. These agreements also require governments to declare their entire inventory of certain nuclear materials, as well as related facilities. Safeguards include agency inspections and monitoring of declared nuclear facilities.

Prior and subsequent to the JCPOA’s January 2016 implementation, IAEA and U.S. officials expressed confidence in the ability of both the IAEA and the U.S. intelligence community to detect an Iranian breakout attempt using either Tehran’s IAEA-monitored facilities or clandestine facilities.

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Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure

The following is the July 26, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the […]

The following is the July 26, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

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Report to Congress on Hypersonic Weapons

The following is the July 20, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. […]

The following is the July 20, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics, on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S. military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.

Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part, to the advances in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.

The Pentagon’s FY2023 budget request for hypersonic research is $4.7 billion—up from $3.8 billion in the FY2022 request. The Missile Defense Agency additionally requested $225.5 million for hypersonic defense. At present, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that it may not have approved either mission requirements for the systems or long-term funding plans. Indeed, as Principal Director for Hypersonics (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) Mike White has stated, DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to assist in the evaluation of potential weapon system concepts and mission sets.

As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it might consider questions about the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic stability and arms control. Potential questions include the following:

  • What mission(s) will hypersonic weapons be used for? Are hypersonic weapons the most cost-effective means of executing these potential missions? How will they be incorporated into joint operational doctrine and concepts?
  • Given the lack of defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, how should Congress evaluate funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs or the balance of funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies, and supporting test infrastructure? Is an acceleration of research on hypersonic weapons, enabling technologies, or hypersonic missile defense options both necessary and technologically feasible?
  • How, if at all, will the fielding of hypersonic weapons affect strategic stability?
  • Is there a need for risk-mitigation measures, such as expanding New START, negotiating new multilateral arms control agreements, or undertaking transparency and confidence-building activities?

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Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement

The following is the July 7, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 64 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements […]

The following is the July 7, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 64 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The total of 64 FRCs includes 58 for domestic use and 6 for use by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Congress has fully funded the procurement of 11 NSCs—three more than the 8 in the Coast Guard’s POR—including the 10th and 11th in FY2018, which (like the 9th NSC) were not requested by the Coast Guard. In FY2020, Congress provided $100.5 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 12th NSC, so as to preserve the option of procuring a 12th NSC while the Coast Guard evaluates its future needs. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $60.0 million in procurement funding for the NSC program. This request does not include further funding for a 12th NSC; it does include funding for closing out NSC procurement activities and transitioning to sustainment of in-service NSCs. Nine NSCs have entered service; the ninth was commissioned into service on March 19, 2021. The 10th is scheduled for delivery in 2023.

OPCs are to be less expensive and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC program and the Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. (The PSC program is covered in another CRS report.) The Coast Guard’s FY2020 budget submission estimated the total acquisition cost of the 25 ships at $10.270 billion, or an average of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The first four OPCs are being built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL. The Coast Guard held a full and open competition for a new contract to build the next 11 OPCs (numbers 5 through 15). On June 30, 2022, the Coast Guard announced that it had awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract to Austal USA of Mobile, AL, to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs). The initial award is valued at $208.3 million and supports detail design and procurement of LLTM for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $650.0 million in procurement funding for the 5th OPC, LLTM for the 6th, and other program costs.

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. The Coast Guard’s FY2020 budget submission estimated the total acquisition cost of the 58 cutters intended for domestic use at $3.748.1 billion, or an average of about $65 million per cutter. A total of 64 FRCs were funded through FY2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget did not request funding for the procurement of additional FRCs. In acting on the Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget, Congress added $130 million in FRC procurement funding for the construction of up to two additional FRCs and associated class-wide activities. If built, the two additional FRCs would be the 65th and 66th FRCs. As of July 7, 2022, 48 FRCs have been commissioned into service. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $16.0 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request does not include funding for any additional FRCs.

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GAO Report on Hypersonic Missile Defense

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development. What GAO Found The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued […]

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development.

What GAO Found

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued to fall short of its goals for asset deliveries and testing. For example, MDA successfully delivered many of the planned interceptors and conducted developmental and operational cybersecurity testing for MDS elements; however, MDA did not conduct any planned system-level cybersecurity tests—leaving MDA without knowledge of its systems’ vulnerabilities and contributing to programmatic delays. The shortfalls to planned system-level tests were partially attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDA’s efforts to address hypersonic threats include the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) and Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). These efforts represent technologies that have considerable risks, but MDA has not taken necessary steps to reduce risks and ensure appropriate oversight from the Department of Defense (DOD) or stakeholder involvement.

  • GPI is a missile designed to shoot down a hypersonic weapon in the middle
    (or glide phase) of its flight. Contrary to a DOD directive with which MDA has
    aligned its effort, at the time of our review, MDA did not plan to obtain an
    independent technological risk assessment to determine the maturity of the
    technologies before proceeding with development. In addition, MDA did not
    plan to obtain an independent cost estimate.
  • HBTSS is a concept of space-based sensors to track the unique flight path of
    a hypersonic weapon. However, MDA has not adequately coordinated the
    HBTSS effort with DOD’s Space Development Agency and Space Force.

Increased DOD oversight and involvement would reduce risk. In addition, more clearly delineated roles and responsibilities would help avoid duplication, overlap, or fragmented capabilities among MDA and other View GAO-22-105075. For more information, DOD space agencies.

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Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Ship Names

The following is the June 13, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress. Names for Navy ships traditionally have been chosen and announced by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. Rules for giving certain types of names to […]

The following is the June 13, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress.

Names for Navy ships traditionally have been chosen and announced by the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. Rules for giving certain types of names to certain types of Navy ships have evolved over time. 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. Some observers have perceived a breakdown in, or corruption of, the rules for naming Navy ships. Section 370 of the FY2021 NDAA (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021) established a commission regarding the removal and renaming of certain assets of the Department of Defense (including ships) that commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.

For ship types now being procured for the Navy, or recently procured for the Navy, naming rules can be summarized as follows:

  • The first and second SSBN-826 class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) have been named District of Columbia and Wisconsin. The Navy has not stated the naming rule for this class of ships.
  • Until recently, Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines have generally been named for states, but the four most recently named Virginia-class boats have instead been named in honor of earlier U.S. Navy attack submarines.
  • Of the Navy’s 15 most recently named aircraft carriers, 10 have been named for past U.S. Presidents and 2 for Members of Congress.
  • Destroyers are being named for deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including Secretaries of the Navy.
  • The first three FFG-62 class frigates have been named Constellation, Congress, and Chesapeake, in honor of three of the first six U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794. The Navy has not stated the naming rule for this class of ships.
  • Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) were named for regionally important U.S. cities and communities.
  • Amphibious assault ships are being named for important battles in which U.S. Marines played a prominent part and for famous earlier U.S. Navy ships that were not named for battles.
  • San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious ships are being named for major U.S. cities and communities and cities and communities attacked on September 11, 2001.
  • John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers are being named for people who fought for civil rights and human rights.
  • Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPFs) are being named for small U.S. cities.
  • Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs) are being named for famous names or places of historical significance to U.S. Marines.
  • Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ships are being named for prominent Native Americans or Native American tribes.

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Keel Laid For Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine District of Columbia

After inspecting the engraved plate with her welded initials, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) declared the keel laid for the future USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826). The ceremony marks the ceremonial construction start of the first in a new class of ballistic missile submarine that’s expected to commission in 2027. “Though this is not the […]

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) approves the welding of her initials onto a metal plate at a ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, 2022. EB Photo

After inspecting the engraved plate with her welded initials, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) declared the keel laid for the future USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826).

The ceremony marks the ceremonial construction start of the first in a new class of ballistic missile submarine that’s expected to commission in 2027.

“Though this is not the first time a U.S. Navy vessel has been named Columbia, this is the first time that the name has been used to specifically commemorate the District of Columbia. The Columbia class will be the largest, most capable and most advanced submarine produced by our nation,” Norton said in her remarks during the ceremony.

Norton added the district is home to about 30,000 veterans now and almost 200,000 D.C. residents have served in the armed forces since World War I.

District of Columbia ship insignia

It was appropriate, “the Navy would be recognizing the people of the District of Columbia,” she said.
“It is fitting that it recognizes what will become the 51st state.”

Building the 12 boomers in the District of Columbia-class has been the Navy’s top priority for the last decade. Preliminary design work on the 520-foot long, 20,000-ton ballistic missile submarine started in 2007. The class will replace the Ohio class ballistic missile submarines as the nation’s number one strategic deterrent starting with District of Columbia’s first patrol in 2031.

The Columba class will carry “70 percent of America’s deployed nuclear arsenal,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said at the ceremony at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island. He added the ballistic missile submarines are “the smartest investment we can make” to secure the American public,

The D.C.-class will bring to the Navy “unmatched stealth, advanced weapons systems” and a complex electric propulsion system, Adm. Daryl Caudle, a career submariner and commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said

Welder Maria Betance-Pizarro welds the initials of the sponsor of the future U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarine District of Columbia, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), onto a metal plate at a ceremony at the Electric Boat facility in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, 2022. EB Photo

Electric Boat president Kevin Graney added, District of Columbia is expected to “serve well into the 2080s” and will never have to return to a shipyard for nuclear refueling.

In March, USNI News reported the $110 billion Columbia program and the Virginia Payload Module hull module are refining modular techniques EB developed to build the early Virginia-class submarines to maximize the efficiency of assembling the complex hulls under a timeline with razor-thin margins.

Also like the Virginia-class, Electric Boat is pairing with Newport News Shipbuilding in the submarines’ construction. Jennifer Boykin, president of HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding, said the work “raised the bar on size and scope” of submarine’s modular construction. The bow and stern modules for District of Columbia will be transported by a specially-built ocean-going barge from Virginia to Electric Boat’s facility at North Kingstown, R.I.

Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) addresses at a ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, 2022. EB Photo

In 2016, then Navy Secretary of the Navy announced the first in the new class of boomers would be called Columbia after D.C., reported USNI News at the time.

On Friday, Del Toro announced the boat would officially add “District of” to the name in order to avoid an overlap in names with the existing USS Columbia (SSN-771). The Los Angeles class attack boat , named for cities in South Carolina, Illinois and Missouri, was also built at Electric Boat and commissioned in 1995. The current Columbia was originally set to leave the fleet before District of Columbia was to commission but is set to see a service life extension, USNI News understands.

While the name Columbia for a U.S. ships and aircraft is not new – at least eight U.S. ships, a Space Shuttle and the Apollo 11 command module have all shared the name – it will be the first time the name has been used to commemorate the U.S. capital.

“The District of Columbia is rich with naval history. The Washington Navy Yard is our oldest shore facility… Marines like Montford Point Marine Herman Darden and Brigadier General Anthony Henderson and sailors like Yeoman Charlotte Louise Berry Winters and Medal of Honor Recipient First Class Fireman John Rush were born and raised in D.C.,” Del Toro said.
“This is why I prefer to call D.C., not just our nation’s capital, but instead, our naval capital.”

VIDEO: Attack Submarine USS Oregon Commissions in Connecticut

The second Virginia-class Block IV nuclear attack submarine commissioned in Connecticut on Saturday. USS Oregon (SSN-793) ceremonially joined the fleet in a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London after delivering to the Navy in February – five years after the keel was laid in 2017. “The passion, grit and enthusiasm of Oregon’s crew has […]

Crewmembers attached to the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Oregon (SSN-793) man the ship during a commissioning ceremony in Groton, Conn., on May 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

The second Virginia-class Block IV nuclear attack submarine commissioned in Connecticut on Saturday.

USS Oregon (SSN-793) ceremonially joined the fleet in a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London after delivering to the Navy in February – five years after the keel was laid in 2017.

“The passion, grit and enthusiasm of Oregon’s crew has carried the ship to sea and were vital to the completion of construction and testing,” said Cmdr. Lacy Lodmell, commanding officer of USS Oregon. “This is without a doubt the finest crew I have ever had the pleasure to serve with.”

The commissioning of Oregon is the first for a Virginia-class attack submarine since the 2020 administrative action that brought USS Vermont (SSN-792) — the first Block IV boat — into the fleet during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, USNI News reported at the time. The last Block III boat, USS Delaware (SSN-791), was commissioned underway shortly before Vermont.

“This is the first in-person commissioning ceremony of a submarine in more than three years, and that’s a long time to delay celebrations like this one,” Tommy Ross, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition said during the ceremony on Saturday.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected Virginia-class sub builders General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII and delayed attack boat production at both yards.

“I think the record should be clear that despite that unprecedented disruption, you showed up for work every day and did your job,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) said during the ceremony.

The Block IV boats are planned to go out on 15 deployments and enter three planned availabilities. Virginia-class Block I, II and III submarines have four planned availabilities and 14 deployments across the life of the boats, according to the Navy.

The next Block IV boat, Montana (SSN-794) delivered in March and is set to commission next month in Norfolk, Va.