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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, directed senior defense leaders to begin changing the names of military bases and assets honoring the Confederacy, including nine Army bases. The bases named for Confederate generals are Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia, Fort Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Hood in Texas. Officials have said they would not recommend a name change for Camp Beauregard in Louisiana, which was also named for a Confederate general, because it is owned by that state’s National Guard. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, directed senior defense leaders to begin changing the names of military bases and assets honoring the Confederacy, including nine Army bases. The bases named for Confederate generals are Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia, Fort Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Hood in Texas. Officials have said they would not recommend a name change for Camp Beauregard in Louisiana, which was also named for a Confederate general, because it is owned by that state’s National Guard.  (Library of Congress)

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday directed senior defense leaders to begin changing the names of military bases and assets honoring the Confederacy, bringing the Pentagon in line with recommendations issued by a congressional commission.

Austin said he agreed with the findings of the Naming Commission, a group convened by Congress to purge the military of commemorative references to the Confederacy, and is committed to implementing the renaming plan as soon as possible.

“The installations and facilities that our department operates are … powerful public symbols of our military,” Austin wrote in a memo to senior officials. “The names of these installations and facilities should inspire all those who call them home, fully reflect the history and the values of the United States and commemorate the best of the republic that we are all sworn to protect.”

The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville sails through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville sails through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (Justin Stack/U.S. Navy)

The secretary said he established a working group to review the commission’s report, develop a plan of action and oversee the full implementation of the renaming recommendations. Defense Department leaders and the service branches must hold off until Dec. 18 to begin part of the process due to a mandatory 90-day waiting period required by Congress. Changes to the Pentagon’s memorialization and naming processes can begin immediately, however.

Commissioners spent 18 months reviewing more than 1,100 assets linked to the Confederacy, including installations, ships, monuments, symbols and paraphernalia. Their first report called for the renaming of nine Army bases: Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Lee in Virginia, Fort Pickett in Virginia, Fort Polk in Louisiana and Fort Rucker in Alabama.

The second report focused on assets at the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy, recommending West Point take down a famous portrait of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, while the third and final report addressed all other property under the jurisdiction of the Defense Department.

The list of recommended changes includes the renaming of guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville, which was recently deployed to the East Sea to carry out exercises with Japan and South Korea amid provocations by North Korea, and the stripping of the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to its base.

It is projected to cost an estimated $62.5 million to carry out the renaming work.

“The department’s implementation of the commission’s recommendations … will give proud new names that are rooted in their local communities and that honor American heroes whose valor, courage and patriotism exemplify the very best of the United States military,” Austin wrote.

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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