Pentagon begins work to strip DOD of Confederate-linked names and items, rename 9 Army posts
Stars and Stripes January 5, 2023
The Pentagon on Thursday instructed all Defense Department organizations to begin working to remove names and items associated with the Confederacy as recommended last year by a congressional commission.
William LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, gave the order, allowing officials to begin removing or renaming Confederate-linked items and properties across the department. The order comes some three months after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed off on all the recommendations provided by the Congress-mandated Naming Commission in three reports released last year.
The Pentagon has until Jan. 1, 2024, to carry out those recommendations, which include renaming two Navy ships and nine Army installations in southern states. Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said Thursday that military officials had developed plans to begin the processes to rename and remove items, and he expected them to meet their Jan. 1 deadline.
Mandated by Congress in 2021, the Naming Commission found more than 1,100 Defense Department assets across the U.S. military’s inventories that honored the Confederacy. It determined the Pentagon would have to spend some $62.5 million to remove and rename those assets. Ryder said he did not have a separate cost estimate from the Pentagon.
The items marked for change include hundreds of signs, roads, memorials and buildings on U.S. military posts in the United States, Germany and Japan. It includes items at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., including paintings and building that honor Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, an 1829 West Point graduate who also served as the institution’s superintendent before resigning his U.S. commission to helm the Confederate Army in the Civil War. It also recommended the removal of a prominent Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The commission recommended the Navy rename the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser named for a Civil War battle that the Confederates won, and the USNS Maury, an oceanographic survey ship named for a Confederate naval commander.
While the commission declined to recommend new names for those ships, it made recommendations for the Army installations that it determined should be renamed.
Commissioners recommended to rename Fort Bragg, N.C., to Fort Liberty; Fort Polk, La., to Fort Johnson; Fort Benning, Ga., to Fort Moore; Fort Gordon, Ga., to Fort Eisenhower; Fort A.P. Hill, Va., to Fort Walker; Fort Hood, Texas, to Fort Cavazos; Fort Pickett, Va., to Fort Barfoot; Fort Rucker, Ala., to Fort Novosel; and Fort Lee, Va., to Fort Gregg-Adams. The commission estimated those name changes would cost some $21 million, with Fort Bragg’s change costing the most at about $6.3 million.
Defense officials have suggested the processes to change base names could prove tedious because they will require changes to thousands of items from buildings and road signs to business cards, letterheads and brochures. Officials have also said they would need to work with local and state officials to change signs and other items outside of the military’s gates.
In 2020, top defense officials, including then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, first began seriously considering the renaming of Army bases honoring Confederate leaders as anti-racism demonstrations spread nationwide in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May by a then-Minneapolis police officer.
The Naming Commission was established in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual must-pass defense policy bill, and the group spent 18 months studying the issue before providing its recommendations. Congress instructed Austin to pause 90 days after the commission’s reports were made public and then implement recommendations with which he agreed.