USS Minnesota Submarine Commissioned

Kathleen Hansen

Kathleen Hansen

Last month, the U.S. Navy made history for Minnesota by naming a ship after our great state. This is the third time such an honor has taken place since our nation was founded. The newest Virginia-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine in our naval fleet is the USS Minnesota, a 377-foot-long, 7,800-ton ship capable of carrying over 130 crew members and traveling for months at a time underwater. The Minnesota was commissioned into use on September 7 in front of thousands at Norfolk, Virginia, the largest naval base in the world. Many dignitaries were on hand for this traditional “handing off” of the ship to its crewmembers, including U.S. Senators Klobuchar and Franken, as well as dozens of Minnesota lawmakers. Governor Mark Dayton, however, was visibly absent from the exercises in Norfolk.

The Minnesota will travel the globe as part of America’s global security presence, protecting liberty wherever needed. Thousands of crew members will serve on the ship over its 35-plus-year year lifetime, all with ties back to our great state.

Historically, the next most recent ship to bear the name Minnesota was in 1906, when a battleship was constructed just prior to World War I as part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet.” Similar to our global presence today, the United States faced an uncertain place in the world in the early 1900s. This period marked the beginning of our rise to world super-power status and naval dominance that would later peak during World War II.

The first USS Minnesota was an iron-clad steam frigate ship that fought in an important battle at the beginning of the Civil War. This time marked Minnesota’s entry into the United States as a new state. Minnesota was also the first state to send troops to support the Union when President Lincoln put out the call for help.

Minnesota’s elected officials should have done more to support the Minnesota and its crew over the last two years. Traditionally, when a ship is named after a state, the legislature of that state passes funding to pay the costs of the commissioning ceremonies and to support the crewmembers’ families. For example, when the USS North Dakota was named, leaders at their capitol quickly voted to pay for the commissioning and for a scholarship for family members of the crew. The same was true in Missouri, Alaska, and elsewhere, all within the last year. These funds are traditional because commissioning and support for families is not covered by the U.S. Navy or Department of Defense. U.S. Navy policy is that costs associated with honoring a state’s name falls on the leaders of that state.

Last spring, Minnesota Democrats killed legislation that would have awarded $200,000 to help cover the commissioning and scholarships for children of crewmembers. This was a modest proposal, amounting to .00005 of the total two-year state budget of approximately $40 billion. Instead, the committee making arrangements for these activities was forced to raise the money privately from individual donors. Minnesota’s Democratic legislative leaders embarrassed our state in front of the nation by refusing to approve this bipartisan bill for our sailors and their families.

In spite of the Democrats’ thoughtlessness, the Minnesota and its crew are equipped with the most modern, top-of-the-line equipment available to attack submarines today. May they travel safely and may we always be vigilant of the sacrifices they make for our freedom.