WASHINGTON, DC — Faced with looming budget cuts that could cost three aircraft carriers as well as a host of other ships, the U.S. Navy has been courting corporate sponsorships to pay for its fleet, sources confirmed.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus first hit on the money-making idea in a staff meeting.
“I was supposed to be getting a brief on nuclear weapons safety or something but I was mostly fooling around on my Blackberry," Mabus told reporters. "That’s when I saw Xcel Energy paid $3 million to name the arena where the Minnesota Wild plays. I never heard of the Minnesota Wild but I have heard of $3 million.”
Soon after, the secretary directed the Navy to start selling naming rights for its ships and submarines like athletic venues, with Rear Admiral Albert Updike named as the program lead.
“The first contract we signed was for FFG-54, the USS Ford, which is an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate," Updike said. "It is now known as the USS Ford F-150." That deal was for three years and netted the Navy $1.4 million.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O’Malley, formerly a useless mass communications specialist, now leads the Navy's sales team.
“SSN-715, the USS Buffalo is now the USS Buffalo Wild Wings," said O'Malley, who has personally closed the most sales this month. "That was $900,000. For $1.1 million the LPD-18 is now Zatarains’ USS New Orleans.”
The Navy gets more money for surface ships since “submarines submerge and you can’t see the logos all the time,” O’Malley explained.
Many of the ships sold easily, such as the Band-Aid Brand Bandages USNS Comfort, and the USS Halyburton sponsored by Halliburton. The Wisconsin Dairy Council snapped up the USS Wisconsin Cheese even though the ship was decommissioned in 1991.
Others ships took more work. O’Malley said his best sale was the USS Theodore Roosevelt, ‘The Big Stick’ Brought to You by 84 Lumber. It took him three months to close but netted the Navy $1.8 million.
“We’re still working on some hard sales,” O’Malley reported. “We need a good fit for the Raid Pest Control people. They wanted to buy the USS Wasp but the Chief of Naval Operations killed that idea. We’re also negotiating with Oscar Meyer. We have told them more than once that they may be offering us a lot of money, but we’re not painting a Los Angeles Class submarine to look like the Wienermobile.”
And the success of the program is garnering attention in the other services. A note from Army Secretary John McHugh was leaked this week asking for cost estimates to change signs at Fort Bragg, NC from “Fort Bragg: Home of the All Americans” to “Fort Bragg: Home of Call of Duty: Black Ops II by Activision.”
If the Army does follow the Navy, Updike does offer one cautionary tale.
“We got a little ahead of ourselves early on,” he said. “We probably should have put a little more thought into Hebrew National Hot Dog’s USS Abraham Lincoln. I mean there was a lot of money involved but we obviously can’t deploy that battle group to the CENTCOM region any more, can we?”