Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller announced the first four members of an eight-person commission that will begin the process of renaming military bases named after Confederate military leaders. The renaming of bases was a key part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
President Trump had vetoed NDAA citing the bases’ renaming and the language around the 1996 Communications Act, Section 230 which were folded into it. However, that veto was overridden by Congress on December 28, 2020, in a 322-87 vote. On January 1, 2021, the Senate had also overridden the president’s veto in an 81-13 vote.
The commission appointed by Miller thus far includes Joshua Whitehouse, the White House liaison to the Defense Department; Earl Matthews, a former acting Army general counsel; Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Ann G. Johnston; and White House official Sean McLean.
Under the provisions of the NDAA, the Pentagon had 45 days to name its share of the commission’s members.
Acting Secretary Miller swiftly designated his appointees. If the DoD had waited until January 20, the choices would have been up to the Biden administration to make.
The remaining four members of the commission will be appointed by the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. Thus, Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Jack Reed (D-RI) as well as Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mike Rogers (R-AL) will each appoint one member of the commission.
The commission has three years to rename the bases named after Confederate leaders. Furthermore, it will oversee the removal of any Confederate names, symbols, monuments, and other honors from military buildings, streets, ships, aircraft, weapons, and equipment. Grave markers will not be altered or removed.
The commission must meet for the first time within 60 days of the NDAA having become law.
As mandated by the NDAA, by October 1, 2022, the commission must submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees specifying its progress and suggesting courses of action. Once the report is submitted, the Pentagon will have until 2024 to rename the items based on the commission’s plan.
The commission’s report must include a list of items (bases, ships, etc.) to be removed or renamed, the costs associated with the removal or renaming, as well as the requirements used to nominate and rename the items in question.
The commission is expected to ask for input from state and local communities. Nevertheless, the commission isn’t tasked with proposing suggestions for renaming the military bases. However, the Army and/or DoD can come up with a renaming process and that will no doubt include the input from state and local communities.
President-elect Joe Biden has gone on record as being totally behind the move to rename the bases honoring Confederate military leaders. He could order an acceleration of the process, by use of executive authority, and order the names of the bases in question removed immediately.
Some of the Army’s largest bases are named after Confederates including Ft. Bragg, NC, Ft. Hood, TX, Fort Benning, GA, and Ft. Polk, LA among others.