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Army leaders to make decision on Confederate flags ‘soon’

Army leadership is assessing a policy that could ban Confederate flags similar to what the Navy and Marine Corps have now established, and will make an announcement “soon,” a defense official said on background.

The official added that Army leaders will also decide how to proceed with the debate surrounding renaming installations currently bearing the names of Confederate generals after dealing with the issue of Confederate flags. The Army has 10 military installations named after Confederate generals.

Military.com first reported that Army leaders were reviewing the Marine Corps’ policy banning Confederate flags and considering a similar move.

The Marine Corps instituted an official policy banning Confederate flags on Friday after originally raising the issue in February.

The Navy followed suit on Tuesday, when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday directed his staff to draft an order that will ban the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces and work areas on Navy bases, ships, subs and aircraft.

Early this week, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said through their spokespeople that they were open to possibly renaming the service’s installations currently named after Confederate leaders.

“The secretary of defense and secretary of the Army are open to a bi-partisan discussion on the topic,” said Col. Sunset R. Belinsky in a statement Monday afternoon.

The action comes in the wake of the death in police custody of George Floyd, a black man prosecutors say was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer, which sparked nationwide protests.

Iraq War veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., was one notable voice calling for each military service to prohibit the display of Confederate flags.

“The Army should demonstrate moral leadership in acting swiftly to prohibit the public display of the Confederate Battle Flag, rather than waiting on Congress to force such action,” Duckworth wrote in a letter Monday to the Army secretary and chief of staff.

An official for Duckworth’s office said on background that while her letter focused primarily on the display of Confederate flags, the “precise ask is a bit broader."

The official pointed Army times to a section of Duckworth’s letter where she asked that Army leaders “eliminate any honors that could reasonably be interpreted as commemorating or celebrating any enemy force, foreign or domestic, that engaged in armed conflict against the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Other U.S. military departments don’t have similar installations named after Confederate leaders, as the Army does, according to the Congressional Research Service.

However, the Navy did name one of its warships, the Chancellorsville, after a Confederate victory during the Civil War. It is believed to be the sole Navy ship on active duty named in honor of the Confederacy, according to Navy Times.

A Navy spokesperson declined to comment to Navy Times as to whether the sea service planned to change the vessel’s name.

The Army’s own openness to potentially renaming installations is an apparent reversal from earlier this year, when service officials told Army Times in February that there were “no plans to rename any street or installation, including those named for Confederate generals.”

Those officials said in a statement at the time that the naming of those sites was “done in a spirit of reconciliation, not to demonstrate support for any particular cause or ideology.”

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