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Pentagon: Renaming Bases Requires More Hill Action

Bases WR 2
Bases WR 2
Washington Report

The Defense Department says it needs added authorities from Congress to rename bases and other military property honoring Confederate leaders, according to Military Times.

The fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act created a commission for identifying such names, recommending new ones and assessing the cost of making changes. But the DoD says the language provides only the power for removing old names, not replacing them.

Consequently, Pentagon officials asked lawmakers to provide that authority as part of legislative proposals sent to Capitol Hill with the fiscal 2023 budget request.

“Although [previous legislation] contemplates that the commission may recommend that the defense secretary assign or modify names of real property, it does not authorize the secretary to implement those recommendations,” officials wrote. “Absent special legislation … this lack of clarity impedes the secretary’s ability to meet the obligation to implement the recommendations.”

The request will likely rekindle the renaming debate later this year as lawmakers work to craft a defense policy bill for fiscal 2023.

The issue caused tension two years ago between some Republicans backing then-President Donald Trump and Democrats before Congress ultimately approved the commission.

Critics argue installations and other property named for Confederate leaders have developed a history separate from their namesakes and changing the names would cause confusion.

But proponents – including several Republicans and some Pentagon leaders – say honoring those who took up arms against the U.S. is anti-American, and better names are available.

Nine Army posts honoring Confederate figures have been at the forefront of the effort. 

They are Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lee, Virginia; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The federal Naming Commission on March 17 released a list of 87 potential new names for the installations.

The list includes some National Guard ties. They reference Sgt. Henry Johnson of the New York Guard’s 369th Infantry Regiment, the Harlem Hellfighters, who earned the Medal of Honor in World War I, and T/Sgt. Frank Peregory, a Virginia Guardsmen who received the nation’s highest award for valor during World War II.

Gen. Omar Bradley, President Dwight Eisenhower and Gen. Colin Powell also made the list.

The 87 names were culled from 3,670 unique possibilities the commission received via its website and during members’ visits to the posts and surrounding communities.

The commission then issued a list of more than 750 items in its sights. Among them are streets, civil works, buildings, paintings, vessels and signs. Many are located on the installations the effort focuses on.

The commissioners plan on having more engagements with post officials and their communities about the names, according to their website. They will send their final recommendations and a renaming plan to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by Oct. 1.

The full name of the panel is the Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorate the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America.

For more information on the commission, including the two lists, go here.