Defense

Commission seeks public input on new names for Confederate-named bases

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A congressionally mandated commission is seeking public input on new names for military bases and ships that bear Confederate monikers.

The Naming Commission, as the panel is informally known, put out a call on its website Monday for recommendations from the public for new names for at least 10 Army bases and two Navy ships.

“As we work with the local communities, we welcome input from the American public,” retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, the commission’s chairwoman, said in a statement. “This feedback will help us determine names that appropriately reflect our military today and recognize the courage, values and sacrifices of our military men and women.”

The commission — officially called 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 — was created by last year’s defense policy bill over the veto of then-President Trump.

After last year’s nationwide racial justice protests reinvigorated efforts to reckon with the legacy of slavery and take down monuments honoring the Confederacy, lawmakers in both parties argued that it’s far past time for the military to remove names honoring traitors who fought against the United States.

The Naming Commission’s initial focus is on Forts A.P. Hill, Bragg, Lee, Rucker, Benning, Gordon, Hood, Polk, Belvoir and Pickett, the USNS Maury, and the USS Chancellorsville.

Of the bases, only Fort Belvoir is not named after a Confederate leader. But the base was added to the list for renaming because in the 1930s, officials changed the name from Camp A. A. Humphreys, which honored a Union general, to the name of the plantation that originally sat at the site.

Another base that’s named after a Confederate military officer, Camp Beauregard, does not fall within the commission’s authority because it is owned by the Louisiana National Guard.

The Maury is an oceanographic survey ship named after a commander who resigned from the U.S. Navy to sail for the Confederacy who is also considered the “father of modern oceanography,” while the Chancellorsville is a guided-missile cruiser named after a battle won by the Confederacy.

While public attention has largely focused on the Army bases being renamed, the legislation that created the commission requires scrubbing Confederate names from any “base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, plane, weapon, equipment or any other property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense.”

Earlier this year, Howard predicted that when streets, buildings and other smaller assets are accounted for, the number of items that need to be renamed “potentially could run into the hundreds.”

Over the summer, the commission met with military commanders and community leaders “to get feedback on their process, preferences for new names and an understanding of local sensitivities,” according to Monday’s news release.

The commission’s recommendations will not be influenced by “the number of submissions received for any particular name,” but “each suggestion will be considered on its own merit,” the release added.

The commission is required to brief Congress on its progress by Oct. 1 and to submit a final report, including a list of assets to be renamed or removed and associated costs, by Oct. 1, 2022.

Tags Confederate names Donald Trump Michelle Howard naming commission

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