The White House announced today with the first female submariners that First Lady Michelle Obama will sponsor the USS Illinois. The newest submarine "is expected to join the fleet in late 2015," according to the White House.
This is Michelle Obama's second ship, so to speak. "First Lady Michelle Obama also serves as the sponsor for the recently commissioned Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, based in Alameda, California," according to the White House.
The White House places Michelle Obama's sponsorship of the USS Illinois in context, stating "the First Lady joins a tradition of First Lady sponsorship of U.S. Navy submarines. First Lady Laura Bush is USS Texas’ (SSN 775) sponsor and christened it in 2004; First Lady Hillary Clinton is USS Columbia’s (SSN 771) sponsor and christened it in 1994. As sponsor, the First Lady will establish a special link to Illinois, her Sailors, and their families that extends throughout the life of the submarine."
Today, President Obama and the first lady met with 24 women who have been "accepted into the Navy’s nuclear submarine program after completing an intensive training program." Here's a picture, which also includes Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus:
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as sponsor of the USS ILLINOIS,” the first lady said in a press release statement. “I’m always inspired by the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the Navy, as well as the families who support them. This submarine is a tribute to the strength, courage, and determination that our Navy families exhibit every day.”
UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that there are no plans to make the USS Illinois an all female submarine.