Congressmen push for a 'Department of the Navy and Marine Corps'

13 Apr 2009 | Pfc. Nicholas J. Neighbors

The Marine Corps is a military service branch within the Department of the Navy and since November 10, 1775, its warriors have fought at the tip of America’s military spear. Still, some believe that as a branch within the Navy department, the Marine Corps doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina hopes to change that with Congressional Bill H.R. 24, which proposes to change the title of the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.

“It’s three words. It’s symbolic, but I think it’s important,” said Jones who has been trying to push this bill since Dec. 13, 2001.

In the short time since the current bill was reintroduced Jan. 6, it currently has 200 cosponsors, which is more than this bill has ever had in its previous attempts in Congress, said George Mulvaney, a former Marine and Korean War veteran. 

The process a bill goes through to become a law starts at the House of Representatives. If the House votes “yes” to the bill becoming a law, then it is sent to the Senate where the same process occurs. If both the House and Senate agree, then the bill is sent to the president and he makes the final decision on whether or not it becomes law.

In order to speed up the lawmaking process, Jones enlisted the help of Senator, and former Marine, Pat Roberts of Kansas. Roberts introduced an identical bill, S. 504, into the Senate. This is known as a companion bill, and it speeds up the process by allowing the bill to travel through the House and Senate at the same time, Mulvaney said

In the eight years that H.R. 24 has been circulating, it has garnered a lot of support from both the military and civilians. Among the supporters are former Commandants of the Marine Corps Gen. Charles Krulak and Gen. Carl Mundy and former Secretaries of the Navy Paul Nitz and John Dalton.

Krulak cited the bill as a logical evolution in a series of legislation designed to clarify the role of the United States Marine Corps. He said he supports both its “spirit and intent.”

The National Security Act of 1947 defined the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force as four separate services with their own individual missions. Furthermore, the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 stated that each service branch commander serves equally on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, even though there are four chiefs of staff, there are still only three Departments, Mulvaney said.

If passed, the day-to-day life of Marines won’t change. The only thing that will change is the Marines will finally get the recognition they deserve, Jones said.

All bills start as an idea, and most never make it past that stage, he added. With a strong following and a lot of supporters, H.R. 24 becoming a law is starting to look more like a reality.

If Jones has his way, his eight year crusade will succeed with this Congress, and the Department of the Navy will be known as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps. If not, he said there’s always next Congress.

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