Congress Passes Defense Bills Requiring Renaming of Confederate Bases, Setting Up Possible Veto Showdown
Should Congress require the renaming of military bases named after Confederates?
What’s the story?
- Both chambers of Congress this week passed competing versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2021, each of which would rename military bases named for former Confederates, by veto-proof majorities.
- President Donald Trump, who previously threatened to veto the NDAA over the base renaming provisions, tweeted:
“I spoke to highly respected (Chairman) Senator @JimInhofe, who has informed me that he WILL NOT be changing the names of our great Military bases and Forts, places from which we won two World Wars (and more!) Like me, Jim is not a believer in “Cancel Culture”.
- The House & Senate will now form a conference committee to iron out differences between their bills with the goal of producing a final version of the NDAA that is approved by Congress & signed into law.
- It’s unclear whether the conference committee will look to remove the renaming provisions or strike a compromise between the House & Senate bills, which differed in their approach to the issue.
- Whatever approach the conference committee takes, it will likely be September or October before Congress passes the final version of the NDAA. And if the final version of the NDAA gets similarly broad bipartisan approval as the initial bills (295-125 in the House & 86-14 in the Senate), it would demonstrate that Congress could override any veto threatened by the president.
What would the bills do?
- The Senate bill would establish a commission to study & develop an implementation plan, cost estimate, and criteria for renaming military assets named for Confederates. The plan would include a mechanism for collecting & incorporating local input into the naming or renaming of Dept. of Defense assets, and would take effect three years after this bill’s enactment. (It would also exempt grave markers from the removal requirement.)
- The House bill would require a panel to rename military assets named for Confederates within one year of enactment. It would also outline criteria for renaming the bases, including after deceased servicemembers who were recognized for the bravery, served at the installation, were from the state or community where the base is located, or servicemembers who were members of minority groups who overcame prejudice.
What could be renamed?
- Fort Rucker, Alabama serves as the primary flight training school for all Army Aviators, and it’s named for Confederate Colonel Edmund Rucker.
- Fort Benning, Georgia serves as a major active duty base & is home to the armor & infantry schools, the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, plus Airborne & Ranger training units. It’s named for Confederate Brigadier General Henry Benning, who was one of the leaders of Georgia’s secession convention & strongly advocated for preserving slavery.
- Fort Gordon, Georgia serves as the home of the Army Signal Corps & the Cyber Corps. It’s named for Confederate Major General John Brown Gordon, who was one of the South’s most reliable generals, opposed Reconstruction as a Democratic lawmaker in the U.S. Senate & as Governor of Georgia, and was alleged to be a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Camp Beauregard, Louisiana serves as a training facility for the Louisiana National Guard and provides support to the DOD. It’s named for Confederate General Pierre Gusatve Toutant-Beauregard, who was one of the South’s most successful generals & after the war evolved from being overtly racist to advocating for black civil rights & voting rights.
- Fort Polk, Louisiana serves as a training facility and is home to the Joint Readiness Training Center, along with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division. It’s named after Confederate Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk who was a relatively unsuccessful general & was killed in combat during the Atlanta Campaign, but gained notoriety because of his pre-war job as an Episcopal Bishop in Louisiana.
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina is the largest military installation in the world by population, as it serves as a major active duty base for the XVIII Airborne Corps (including the 82nd Airborne Division), the 1st Special Forces Command, and is the headquarters of the Army Rangers. It’s named for Mexican-American War veteran and Confederate General Braxton Bragg, who owned slaves at his plantation and is widely considered to be one of the Civil War’s worst generals.
- Fort Hood, Texas is one of the largest military installations in the world by size & population, and serves as home to the 1st Cavalry Division. It’s named after Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, who after some successes early in the war was on the receiving end of decisive defeats at the hands of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.
- Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia is a training & maneuver center, and is used by all branches of the U.S. military. It’s named for Confederate Lieutenant General A.P. Hill, who was one of the more highly regarded generals from either side of the Civil War before he was killed in action at Petersburg, Virginia.
- Fort Lee, Virginia is home to the Combined Arms Support Command/Sustainment Center of Excellence, plus the Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation Schools. It’s named after Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee, who served 32 years in the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War, led the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to some successes that ranked him among the Civil War’s top generals. Lee was a slaveowner who expressed some ambivalence toward the institution of slavery, but after the Civil War generally opposed Reconstruction & efforts toward racial equality.
- Fort Pickett, Virginia is home to the Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center and is controlled by the Virginia National Guard. It’s named after Confederate Major General George Pickett, who was a career U.S. Army officer prior to the Civil War and is best remembered for leading the unsuccessful “Pickett’s Charge” at the Battle of Gettysburg.
- The USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) is a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser in the U.S. Navy. It’s named for the Battle of Chancellorsville, which was fought near the village of Chancellorsville in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Chancellorsville was a tactical victory for the Confederates and historians regard it as General Robert E. Lee’s “perfect battle” because his decision to divide his forces despite being outnumbered 2-to-1 by Union forces led to victory. It’s also regarded as a Pyrrhic victory because the Confederate forces suffered severe casualties, including the death of Lt. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, which hurt the Confederate cause two months later at the Battle of Gettysburg ― a Union victory that decisively turned the tide of the Civil War.
- The USNS Maury (T-AGS-66) is a Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship. It's named after Commander Matthew Maury, the "Father of Modern Oceanography", who resigned from the U.S. Navy to join the Confederacy. Maury spent most of the Civil War in Europe acquiring ships & supplies for the Confederacy and trying to persuade other nations to intervene to stop the Civil War. He also designed a naval mine that destroyed numerous Union vessels.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bobby Pilch / Public Domain)
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