Duncan Hunter

Navy secretary defends his unusual picks for ship names

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has raised a few eyebrows with some of the names he has picked for naval ships.

Why, critics questioned, would he name a ship in honor of the late gay rights leader Harvey Milk or after former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when there are plenty of military heroes to choose from?

Mabus has said he is honoring people who have shown heroism, just as past navy secretaries have done. He said he believes that by looking outside the military, at times, for heroes, he can help connect people with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Mabus is officially announcing five new ship names on visits to Mississippi and Massachusetts beginning Saturday. Among the...