For only the third time in history, a U.S. Navy ship will bear the name of our great state when the USS Minnesota is officially commissioned on Sept. 7, 2013.
This 377-foot-long, Virginia-class, nuclear-powered submarine will be the most advanced warship in the Navy. It is capable of carrying a crew of 135 for months at a time as part of the great fleet protecting Americans around the world. The naming by the Navy is a tremendous honor; there hasn’t had a ship named after Minnesota since 1907.
Since the Navy leaves the costs of commissioning exercises up to the states to cover, we state legislators have a responsibility to help direct support for the event.
I was disappointed, therefore, when legislative leaders this session refused to consider a small appropriation to support our state’s legacy during the commissioning process in September. Whenever a new ship is built and is given its name, crew members and their families take part in its final stages before it becomes an active vessel. Once the ship sets sail, the crew spends months away from loved ones and makes tremendous sacrifices. The volunteer military members who defend our freedoms deserve a small amount of public support to say “thank you.”
Most states support their ships through the legislative process. I authored a bill to provide $200,000 to the committee working to make arrangements for the USS Minnesota as a small token of our appreciation for the ship and its crew — but this bill never got through the political process in St. Paul. At the same time, a $40 billion state budget was passed that included wasteful spending and higher taxes. For perspective, the ship will defend America over the next 35 years, and during that time, our state will pass 17 budgets and spend at least $640 billion (if current spending stays flat).
In North Dakota, $300,000 was approved quickly to support that state’s ship. Alaska’s lawmakers provided $400,000 to support the launch of the USS Anchorage. States provide support for ships that bear their names because it is an honor for their residents.
A portion of the funding in my bill was also intended to create an endowment for a college scholarship to be awarded each year to a crew member or a crew member’s family. Many states, such as Missouri and Mississippi, go above and beyond to provide scholarship endowment support for the crews of their ships. This initiative has been unfortunately put on hold as the committee has been forced to raise the commissioning funding through private donations.
While I am disappointed in our state’s elected leaders for not prioritizing such an important request, I am also asking you to join me in offering support for the crew and their families as the USS Minnesota is commissioned. You can provide a tax-deductible donation through the Twin Cities Council of the U.S. Navy League’s website.
Bob Dettmer, a Republican from Forest Lake, is a member of the Minnesota House.