WASHINGTON — A North Carolina congressman wants to change the Department of the Navy’s name so that Marines, including those at two bases in his district, get full credit for their importance to national defense.

A bill proposed this week by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., would rename the agency to “The Department of the Navy and Marine Corps.” He says the change would clarify the corps’ position as the fourth major defense branch, instead of implying that the Marines are somehow below the Army, Air Force and Navy.

“There isn’t a subordinate relationship between the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marines Corps,” Jones said. “They are equivalent parts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and it is time that the Department of the Navy recognizes their equal status.”

Jones has brought up the issue in the last two legislative sessions, only to see the proposal stall in committee hearings before the full House of Representatives could vote on the measure.

Marine Corps officials had no comment on the legislation. Capt. Kevin Wensing, spokesman for Navy Secretary Gordon England, said the secretary has deflected the issue in the past, saying that he is honored to serve no matter what the department’s name is.

But Wensing said England frequently jokes that Marines he has spoken with are opposed to the new name.

“They think he should be ‘Secretary of the Marine Corps and Navy,’” he said. “They want top billing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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