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Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting

Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting
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Members of a congressionally mandated commission tasked with planning how to rename Confederate-named military bases were sworn-in Tuesday at the group’s first meeting, the Army said.

The first meeting, which was held virtually, included discussion about the commission’s “organization and important duties,” Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith said in a statement.

The Army has been designated by Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | 'Swift' return to Iran deal possible, US says US adds 12 fighter jets to protect Afghanistan withdrawal Austin tight lipped on whether to take sexual assault cases out of commanders' hands MORE to be the Pentagon’s liaison to the commission, according to the statement.

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The panel, officially called the “Commission on the Naming of Items of the Department of Defense that Commemorates the Confederate States of America or Any Person Who Served Voluntarily with the Confederate States of America,” was created by last year’s defense policy bill.

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE vetoed the bill in part over the commission, but Congress overrode the veto for the only time during his presidency.

The commission is tasked with planning how to rename or remove “names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia” on Defense Department property that honor the Confederacy. The Pentagon is required to carry out the commission’s plan within three years.

While the Army’s 10 bases named after Confederate leaders have gotten the most public attention, the bill requires renaming any “base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, plane, weapon, equipment or any other property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense.”

The commission is composed of four members appointed by Austin and four appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

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Last month, Austin appointed retired Adm. Michelle Howard, a former vice chief of naval operations and the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, professor emeritus of history at West Point and Kori Schake, a former State and Defense department official who is now director of foreign and defense policy studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) selected retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, the first Black graduate of West Point to serve as head of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) chose veteran Jerry Buchanan, a Tulsa businessman.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, selected fellow committee member Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.).

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) had named Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch, a former director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, but Bunch had to withdraw for personal reasons. A committee spokesperson said Smith is vetting a new choice.

Under the bill, the commission must brief Congress on its progress by Oct. 1. The commission’s final report on a list of assets to be renamed or removed and associated costs is due by Oct. 1, 2022.

Updated at 9:47 p.m. March 3