San Diego Union Tribune

March 19, 2004

Secretary of the Navy may fold the Marines into his official title


WASHINGTON Defying more than two centuries 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 yesterday. 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 Rep. 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 he supported the bill, as did all the committee members present except Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, whose 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.

"This is a change we would make for the war fighters, 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 equal status.