The 15th Fifteenth time is a charm.

At least that's what Rep. Walter Jones is hoping, as the North Carolina Republican tries once again to get Congress to redesignate the Department of the Navy as the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.

The change would also affect the department titles, like that of the Navy secretary. of offices such as the Secretary of the Navy.

The resolution included in the draft of the annual defense authorization bill, draft House of Representatives' version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House Armed Services Committee approved passed last week. The push to rename the Navy Department bill has made it that far every year since 2001, but has always been shot down as the bill makes its way through the House and the Senate.

Jones told Marine Corps Times that he is "cautiously optimistic," the effort will pass this time around — but he is prepared to carry the fight into the future if it's not

"I have long been an advocate of giving the Marine Corps the recognition it deserves as one of the official branches of the military," said Jones, a member of the HASC House Armed Services Committee whose district includes Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. "I plan to keep fighting like a bulldog."

This isn’t the first time fight from which Jones has refused to back down. For nearly 16 years, he worked to clear the names of two Marine pilots who, in his words, were "unjustly blamed for crashing a V-22." That victory came in the form of a March letter from a top Pentagon official more than a decade and a half after the crash. 

"Even though it took well over a decade and many people didn't believe that the pilots' names would be cleared, justice was served in the end," Jones told Marine Corps Times.

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) during a interview February 6, 2013 in Washington DC. Thomas Brown/Staff
Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) during a interview February 6, 2013 in Washington DC. Thomas Brown/Staff

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C.

Photo Credit: File

This could be the year Jones nabs another long-awaited win. His proposal The bill also has seen unprecedented support in the halls of Congress. Ninety-eight percent of the House supported the bill in 2008, while 80 percent of senators supported a companion bill. In 2010, the set a House record when it hit 415 cosponsors.despite unprecedented congressional support and the approval of half a dozen former commandants, the bill has been shot down year after year. 

The idea is also backed by His bill to redesignate the Navy Department has gained the support of everyone from the Marine Corps League to the Fleet Reserve Association. Six consecutive commandants, from Gens. Al Gray through Gen. James Conway, have also voiced support for the change.

As for nd what of current Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, his spokesman said they "appreciate the spirit of the congressman's proposal." ? 

"We appreciate the spirit of the congressman’s proposal, and wWe believe it is proposed routinely out of respect for the Marine Corps," said Lt. Col. Eric Dent, Neller's the CMC’s spokesman. "But a name change alone would not fundamentally change the relationship and responsibilities the Marine Corps maintains with and within the Department of the Navy." 

Officials in the office of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus' office did not immediately respond to questions about with his opinion on the proposed change.

'Asking for an honorable mention'

Credited with each kill is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is credited with killing the idea for a Department of Navy and Marine Corps in the past.

The a veteran naval aviator who heads up the Senate Armed Services Committee  McCain has said in the past that he sees no need for the change. Whether he still agrees is unknown as  his political power has been sufficient to singlehandedly halt the effort. What actions the Arizona republican will take this year are not known as SASC members make it a point to not comment on HASC bills from the House Armed Services Committee.

Jones said he is "cautiously optimistic," the effort will pass this time around — but he is prepared to carry the fight into the future if not.

"I have long been an advocate of giving the Marine Corps the recognition it deserves as one of the official branches of the military," said Jones, a member of the House Armed Services Committee whose district includes Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. "I plan to keep fighting like a bulldog."

This isn't the first fight from which Jones has refused to back down. For 16 years he worked to clear the names of two Marine pilots who, in his words, were "unjustly blamed for crashing a V-22." That victory came in late April.

"Even though it took well over a decade and many people didn't believe that the pilots' names would be cleared, justice was served in the end," Jones told Marine Corps Times.

High-profile retired Marines like National figures such as retired Lt. Col. Oliver North and Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey have been a little more outspoken.

R. Lee Ermey, host of GunnyTime.
R. Lee Ermey, host of GunnyTime.

Retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey

Photo Credit: Courtesy Outdoor Channel

"When we die, when mama and dada get that letter of condolence, it would be kind of nice if the Marine Corps was mentioned," Ermey told Marine Corps Times in 2010. "Just change the letterhead. What's the harm in that?

"These young men and women are fighting and losing their lives for this country. We aren't asking for our own department. We are reasonable people. We are just asking for an honorable mention."

The Congressional Budget Office in 2013 determined the cost change to change the name of the department would be cost less than $500,000 a year over a period of several years. The report categorized this as having "very little effect on most U.S. Naval or Marine Corps installations since signage, service flags, and other items bearing the emblems or names of the Navy or Marine Corps generally do not reference the Department of the Navy and would not need to be replaced." 

The Marine Corps considers its birth certificate to be Continental Congress resolution penned Nov. 10, 1775. , which called for two battalions of Marines able to fight for independence at sea and on shore. But no mention of the Continental Marines was made in the Constitution, which granted the legislative branch authority to "raise and support Armies … [and] provide and maintain a Navy." Congress officially organized the Marine Corps in 1798, the same year the Navy Department of the Navy was founded. The Marine Corps Act of 1834 made the Corps a distinct service within the Navy Department. The National Security Act of 1947 defined the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force as four separate services, but it wasn't until 1979 that a Marine commandant would sit have his own seat among the Joint Chiefs of staff

For a service that prides itself on history and heritage, change has become the rule, rather than the exception, in recent years. Mabus has pushed hard to make uniforms more gender neutral and to integrate women into ground combat jobs, which the Marine Corps opposed.

Those efforts have led to a growing cry from leathernecks to create a Marine Corps secretary position.

Much of that change has centered on the role of women. Mabus last year announced his intention to boost the number of female Marines to 25 percent of the force. Just about every uniform has seen changes, from the Corps' iconic dress blues to the Navy's crackerjacks, in an effort to present a gender-neutral force. Mabus has led the hotly debated effort to open ground combat specialties to women, as well as a full review of its military occupational specialty titles to ensure they are gender neutral. Mabus earlier this year ordered the Corps to come up with a plan to integrate men and women in boot camp and Officer Candidates School, but the plan failed after it met swift and strong opposition in Congress and from Neller.

Not all change is gender-based. Counterinsurgency operations that have dominated the past 14 years of war are giving way to disaggregated operations centered on company landing teams and Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces. While these lack the evolutionary change of Lt. Gen. John Lejeune's amphibious force, many analysts feel a change of equal magnitude is on the horizon as the service looks to gain informational dominance on a technology-driven battlefield.

Marines have also seen big changes in career policies that range from NCO promotion panels to a complete overhaul of the officer promotion system. Mabus introduced a three-year career intermission program, and tripled maternity leave from six to 18 weeks (which was later pulled back to 12 weeks by the Pentagon). Major changes to the physical and combat fitness tests are also in the works.

Any changes to the Navy Department's name would still need to pass the House and the Senate. Lawmakers  When Marines will know if a new name will be added to that list of changes is anyone’s guess. House and Senate lawmakers must reconcile differences between their respective versions of the National defense authorization act before the defense bill is can be sent to the president and becomes law. This is the point at which McCain has halted the effort each year.

Congress is set to break for its summer recess on July 15, but agreement on the NDAA has not been reached until late fall in recent years.