“Department of the Navy and Marine Corps,” A Dream Dashed

The measure to change the Department of the Navy to the “Department of the Navy and Marine Corps” has passed another milestone.
The House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill sponsored by North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones. HR 24 had an astounding 425 co-sponsors.

Jones and others considered this bill to be the clichéd “no brainer,” calling it a simple gesture about respect. After all, it is just a name change and why shouldn’t the Marine Corps get the respect some believe it deserves?

The Senate seems to think otherwise. Two opposed to Jones’ bill reportedly are Arizona Sen. John McCain and Virginia Sen. Jim “Women Can’t Fight” Webb.

Our guess is that the two Vietnam heroes (and Naval Academy grads, we might add) understand something about history, respect, decorum and the potential unnecessary upheaval of the change. They certainly understand the increased (and unwanted) responsibility this could heap upon the unprepared Marine Corps, a Gun Club that’s good at winning battles but challenged in other areas. Webb is a former Navy secretary, though he only served 10 short months until he stormed off the job, but that’s another topic.

The often contentious relationship between the two sea services has become legendary. While the Navy did ditch its Marine brethren at Guadalcanal (please watch “The Pacific”), the Department of the Navy has provided a safe haven for its little brother, a boy better suited to beach landings than the administrative realities of running a war department. Despite a number of self-inflicted wounds, the U.S. Navy has built and runs the most powerful navy in the world. In contrast it took the Marine Corps nearly 25 years to secure a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Would giving them the departmental title help? Maybe. A little.

As mentioned in an earlier post, a Department of the Marine Corps would have to become a functioning Department of the Marine Corps. (The legislation is brief and does not delineate duties.) The many responsibilities the Navy has been covering would probably go over to the new department, which means new people and tremendous responsibility for the Marines in short order. While the Corps might pull it off, it would take the boys away from their core (read: sole) competency – war.

The Senate’s version of the bill, S 504, has four co-sponsors and was introduced by Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts during February 2009. It has been in committee since its introduction. Our guess— it’s dead, which means the push for a departmental name change may be over, at least for another year. (Longer if we’re lucky.)

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