Dettmer: New submarine’s legacy worth fighting for
Rep. Bob Dettmer
The U.S. Navy added a new member to its fleet of fast-attack submarines last month with the commissioning of the USS Minnesota in Norfolk, Va. I was proud to join two dozen other lawmakers and state officials for this historic event and also continue to work on behalf of the ship’s crew and their families in the Minnesota legislature.
The naming of a ship after our great state is truly historic; it hasn’t happened since 1907. This is only the third Navy ship named after Minnesota in American history. The first was a steam frigate sailing with Union forces during the Civil War. The second was a battleship during World War I that President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned to promote America’s rise as a global superpower.
The Minnesota will carry the legacy of our state as it sails around the world defending our freedom over the next three decades. The ship can hold 135 crewmembers and weighs 7,800 tons with top speeds of 25 knots. In a display of our modern scientific advancements, the nuclear material aboard the ship is only the size of a human fist and will generate enough energy to power the ship for its lifetime.
I joined others in touring the submarine in September as part of our visit to the naval base in Norfolk – the largest such base in the world. We met with the crew and their families, including several with Minnesota ties. I spent time listening to their stories, some very new to the Navy and some with years of experience. As lawmakers from Minnesota, we expressed our support for their mission and our gratitude on behalf of millions back home.
But among those in the legislature, support for these men and women isn’t as strong as it should be. In partnership with the Navy League of the Twin Cities – the lead sponsorship committee of the ship – I chief-authored legislation last spring to provide modest funding to support the commissioning exercises for the USS Minnesota. The Navy does not provide funding for ships to hold their commissioning ceremonies or to support families of the crew. This is left up to the individual states.
Most state governments provide small financial backing for their ships. When the USS North Dakota was commissioned, its legislature quickly passed $300,000 to support the ship. The Alaska legislature passed $400,000 to support the USS Anchorage. In New Mexico, $300,000 was allocated to support their submarine. In Minnesota, I led advocates for our ship in seeking $200,000.
A portion of the funding was intended to create an endowment for a college scholarship to be awarded each year to a crewmember or a crewmember’s family. Many states, like Missouri and Mississippi, provide scholarship endowment support for the crew of their ships.
These requests were met with a deafening silence. While state spending in this biennium will come close to $40 billion over the next two years and include wasteful spending with over $2 billion in higher taxes, funding for the Minnesota was put off by legislative leadership.
Instead, the Navy League of the Twin Cities raised the money from generous private donors from all over Minnesota to hold the commissioning ceremonies on Sept. 7. The scholarships were put on hold.
I will be authoring the bill again to provide state support for these efforts when the legislature returns for our 2014 session on Feb. 25 because we are better than what was done last session. We come together to support our men and women in uniform, even for the smallest tokens of public appreciation.
During the official commissioning ceremony, Captain John Fancher read his orders, announced the Minnesota was in commission and took command of the ship. The crew brought the ship to life that day and completed another page in Minnesota history. Our legacy will be enshrined in every mission the Minnesota completes.
Back home, we must not forget the sacrifices of our veterans and servicemembers or fall short of our responsibilities to support what they do for us. At the Capitol, I will continue to stand up for them in my capacity as a state legislator.
Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) is in his fourth term in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He represents District 39A.
Personal connection a highlight for Sen. Housley
Sen. Karin Housley
Earlier this fall, I had opportunity to join nearly 70 Minnesotans who traveled to Norfolk, Va. to take part in the commissioning of the USS Minnesota, the United States Navy’s newest and most advanced warship in active duty.
As a Minnesotan, I am proud that this impressive warship is named after our great state. It was an honor to take part in this historic ceremony.
Construction of the ship began in February of 2008 and was dubbed the “Minnesota” that July. The selection of the moniker Minnesota, designated SSN 783, honors our state’s citizens and their continued support to our nation’s military. Minnesota has a long tradition of honoring its veterans of wars past and present.
I was especially honored to be at the commissioning because my father, a Navy veteran, was a sub-mariner during the Korean War. The trip really brought all of his stories to life, and also gave me a new appreciation for those that serve.
Upon completion, submarine Minnesota will be the 10th of a projected 30 Virginia-class submarines and the third Navy ship named for the state of Minnesota.
This trip was a great opportunity for legislators to put aside political difference and honor our armed forces. I was proud to show our support for the brave men and women who operate the newly-commissioned vessel named for our state, the USS Minnesota.
Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) is in her first term in the Minnesota Senate. She represents District 39.