The Defense Department has begun to act on recommendations by the congressional Naming Commission to rename bases, posts, ships, streets, and other agency assets affiliated with the confederacy.
On Thursday, the Pentagon said in a news release that William LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, directed all agency organizations to begin full implementation of the Naming Commission recommendations. LaPlante acted at the end of a 90-day congressionally mandated waiting period after the commission, chaired by retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, released its third and final report in September.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed off on the commission's recommendations in October, and the Pentagon has a deadline of Jan. 1, 2024, to implement them.
Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said he sees no issues with the Defense Department meeting the deadline.
"Each of the services has clear instructions in terms of what it is that they need to focus on, and where [Austin] is confident that the services are and will continue to take that seriously," Ryder said Thursday at a press briefing.
The recommendations affect more than 1,100 military assets, including two naval ships and nine Army bases, and the removal of a large Confederate memorial from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Stars and Stripes reported the total cost to be $62.5 million.
The USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser named for a Civil War battle the confederates won, and the USNS Maury, an oceanographic survey ship named for confederate naval Cmdr. Matthew Fontaine Maury, are the two naval ships affected.
The nine Army bases affected are: Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Gordon, Georgia; Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Pickett, Virginia; Fort Rucker, Alabama; and Fort Lee, Virginia.
Fort Lee was named after Robert E. Lee, a graduate and former superintendent of West Point and former U.S. Army officer who resigned his commission to lead the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The Naming Commission recommended references to Lee on buildings, roads and barracks be renamed and a portrait of him in a Confederate uniform in Jefferson Hall at West Point be removed and relocated.
The commission determined images or references to Lee that "strictly reflect his U.S. Army service as superintendent at West Point, and that do not conflate his Confederate service are historical artifacts and may remain in place."
Congress created the Naming Commission in the wake of the protests over the death of George Floyd in 2020 and the subsequent focus on Confederate monuments. It was part of the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2021 fiscal year, which was vetoed by Donald Trump, leading to the first override of a veto in Trump's presidency.
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