Thursday, March 18, 2004


Move afoot to name secretary of Navy/Marine Corps

By Otto Kreisher

3:24 p.m. March 18, 2004

WASHINGTON – Defying 206 years of history and tradition, a move is gaining momentum to change the title of the secretary of the Navy to recognize his role as manager of two distinct armed services.

A bill to change the title to "secretary of the Navy and the Marine Corps" received ringing endorsements at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday. Both witnesses and committee members said the change would be a symbolic but important shift reflecting the reality that the Marines are much more than the "sea soldiers" they were in the 18th century.

"The whole issue is that the Marine Corps has been designated by past congresses as the fourth armed service," said the bill's author, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. "It is not part of the Navy."

"This team has worked together from the Revolution to the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," said committee chairman Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon. "But while both teams have made tremendous contributions to the cause of freedom, only one service is recognized in the title of the secretary."

Hunter, an Army veteran, said in a statement he supported the bill, as did all of the committee members present, except Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., whose San Diego district is home to thousands of sailors and Marines. Davis said she looked forward to discussing the issue with her constituents.

Witnesses included retired Gen. Carl Mundy, a past Marine Corps commandant; retired Navy Adm. Stansfield Turner, and Dan Howard, a former Marine and undersecretary of the Navy who briefly served as acting secretary. All strongly supported the proposed change.

"The present title is confusing, represents only two-thirds of the uniformed members of the (Navy) department and is inconsistent with the status of the four armed services in the Department of Defense," Mundy said.

The change "acknowledges the reality of life," Turner said. "The secretary has two components in his department." Turner noted that the commandant does not report to the chief of naval operations, but to the secretary. While recognizing the status of the Marine Corps, he said, "this doesn't take anything away from the Navy."

Howard said the "largely symbolic change is important in its own right. It would allow the secretary to present himself as the equal sponsor of both services."

"This is a change we would make for the warfighters, not the bureaucrats," Howard said.

Jones and all of the witnesses said the change in title would not affect the Navy secretary's authority or any of the legal functions of his department, but would give the Marines the equal status they have earned in more than a century of fighting ashore.

A spokesman said Navy Secretary Gordon England is "honored to be serving both the Navy and the Marine Corps" and would "leave to others" to decide what his title should be.

The name change was endorsed by the Fleet Reserve Association, which represents active and retired Navy personnel, and the Marine Corps Association.

Jones's bill passed the House two years ago but the Senate did not act on it. Committee members believe a key to Senate action would be the position taken by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, R-Va. Warner served as an enlisted sailor in World War II, as a Marine officer in the Korean War and as Navy secretary in 1972-74.

Warner's spokesman did not return phone calls Wednesday.

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