The Army announced several measures on Thursday to reduce the possibility of racial bias within its promotions and military justice systems, but banning Confederate flags and renaming posts bearing the names of Confederate military commanders will have to wait — possibly for a Pentagon-wide order.
“We are advisers,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville during a press conference. “And we pass that military advice to our civilian leaders, and they are working through that and trying to come up with a long-term and enduring policy.”
“We certainly have some ideas on the best ways to do this, whether its the symbology of certain things or taking a look at what the names of certain posts should be,” McConville added.
In early June, Army leaders and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said they were open to a discussion on renaming Army posts that bear the names of Confederate commanders. But President Donald Trump tweeted on June 10 that his administration “will not even consider” the move.
That apparently doesn’t mean the idea is dead. Congress could ultimately push the issue forward, even as the Army waits for a Defense Department-wide policy.
“There’s a lot of discussions up in the Congress about this effort, about potentially a bipartisan panel that would go through this,” said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “And in the Department of Defense, Secretary Esper wants us to look at all of these challenges that are potentially in front of us, and have deliberate conversations so we can provide the best recommendations as possible.”
In the coming months, Army senior leaders will be visiting installations around the force to speak with soldiers and have “uncomfortable conversations” with troops about race, diversity, equity and inclusion, McCarthy said. Those talks will inform Army policies going forward.
But other services didn’t wait for Congress and the Pentagon to craft policies on banning Confederate flags.
The Marine Corps instituted an official policy banning Confederate flags earlier this month. Then the Navy followed suit when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday directed his staff to draft an order that banned the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces and work areas on Navy bases, ships, subs and aircraft.
There are at least 10 Army posts named for prominent military leaders of the Confederacy during the Civil War, including Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, and Fort Benning in Georgia.
Other buildings and locations at other military installations also bear the names of prominent Confederate figures. But the Army is the only service with installations named after Confederate leaders, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The Navy, meanwhile, 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.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer