June 11, 2020

Warren, Schumer, Reed Call on President Trump to Support Bipartisan Proposal in Annual Defense Bill to Rename All Bases & Other Military Assets Named for the Confederacy and Anyone Who Served in the Confederacy

Urge President Trump to Take Veto Threat Off the Table & Put Welfare of U.S. Troops Ahead of Insisting that U.S. Military Bases be Named After Confederate Soldiers Who Fought Against the United States To Preserve the Institution of Slavery

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and SASC Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sent a letter urging President Donald Trump to support the bipartisan SASC-adopted proposal to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy and anyone who voluntarily served it from bases and other property of the U.S. military.  

The amendment was adopted with strong, bipartisan support and is in keeping with the Marine Corps’ recent directive that commanders remove all public displays of the Confederate battle flag carried during the Civil War. This week, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy publicly indicated that they are “open to bipartisan discussions” to rename Army bases that honor Confederate officers who led the fight against the Union and defended the institution of slavery.

“The Confederacy remains a haunting symbol of white supremacy, Jim Crow segregation, racial terror, and the systematic subjugation of Black people, which are antithetical to the values of our military and our country,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is long past time for the United States military to cease honoring, commemorating, or otherwise celebrating those who took up arms against the United States in the Civil War, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American lives in order to preserve the institution of chattel slavery.”

Over the past weeks, the protests and demonstrations in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, as well as the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, have underlined the urgent necessity of confronting America’s history of racism against Black Americans. However, Trump recently tweeted troubling statements that he “will not even consider” renaming Confederate-named bases, claiming that they are “part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” 

“Your rejection of this proposal reflects a profound misunderstanding of this moment in our nation’s history, when Americans are demanding that we reckon with a centuries-old legacy of systemic racism and our military leaders recognize that condoning Confederate symbols undermines their mission and unit cohesion. Renaming these installations does not disrespect our military; rather, it addresses a long-standing harm and provides a long overdue opportunity to honor the sacrifices and contributions of our service members in a way that better reflects our nation’s diversity and values,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

Senator Warren announced her amendment earlier this week. SASC’s FY2021 NDAA includes a version of her amendment requiring the Pentagon to remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederate States of America and anyone who voluntarily served it from all military bases and other assets of the Department of Defense. The Pentagon must rename the assets within 3 years.

Under the provision adopted by the Committee, assets for removal are defined as any base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, plane, weapon, equipment, or any other property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense. The proposal also creates a process for identifying all military assets where the Confederacy is honored and implementing this new removal requirement.