Senator John Hoeven today joined U.S. Navy officials, congressional and state leaders and North Dakota residents to celebrate the christening of the USS North Dakota, a Virginia-class nuclear submarine named for the state and designed to meet the demands of the 21st Century. The ceremony, which marks the completion of the shipbuilding and formalizes its name, came on the 124th anniversary of North Dakota statehood.
Hoeven thanked everyone involved in the USS North Dakota effort, including the USS North Dakota Committee, Mandan City Commissioner and USS North Dakota Committee Chair Dot Frank; Vice Chair Bill Butcher; Bismarck-Mandan Chamber President Kelvin Hullet; Greater North Dakota President Andy Peterson; and former Navy officer and retired Judge Bob Wefald, who worked for 20 years to advance the campaign.
When he was governor, the senator worked collaboratively with state and federal officials and the USS North Dakota Committee to name a modern, high-tech naval vessel for the state of North Dakota. In the summer of 2008, he and the state's congressional delegation visited then-Secretary of the Navy Don Winter in Washington to advance the effort. An earlier USS North Dakota, a battleship, was decommissioned by the Navy in 1923 and subsequently used as a "target ship." Hearing that story, Secretary Winter was very receptive to the idea of a new, modern USS North Dakota, and a few weeks after the visit the secretary made it official.
"What followed were poster contests and a host of other efforts to help fund the state's involvement in the project," Hoeven said. "One effort that I was proud to be involved in was the sale of commemorative coins to help raise money for the cause. I, along with Admiral Bill Owen, Vice Admiral Jeff Fowler and Bob Wefald had the honor of presenting the first coin to the North Dakota Heritage Center back in 2009. Now, five years later, our vision is a reality, and the occasion is especially moving because the USS North Dakota is being christened on the anniversary of North Dakota becoming the 39th state, 124 years ago. This is another proud milestone."
The USS North Dakota incorporates the latest technological advancements, including sophisticated surveillance, reconnaissance, special operations and anti-submarine capabilities. It has a built-in reactor plant that will fuel the submarine throughout the duration of its estimated 33-year service life expectancy. The boat is slated to be commissioned in 2014. To date, this is the second ship named in honor of North Dakota. The first, the Delaware-class USS North Dakota, operated from 1910 to 1923.
In addition to Hoeven and U.S. Navy officials, also participating in the ceremony were Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Rep. Kevin Cramer, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rep. Joseph Courtney (D-Conn.) and Conn. Governor Dannel Malloy.