Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday signed off on a plan to strip any mention of the Confederacy from U.S. military bases, including renaming the Army’s legendary Fort Bragg and Fort Hood, in a process that critics said was a prime example of “woke” attitudes in President Biden’s Pentagon.
Mr. Austin, whose endorsement of the plan was widely expected, said the changes would be implemented “as soon as possible.”
The report that recommends the stripping of all references to Confederate figures arrived at Mr. Austin’s desk 18 months after Congress mandated a Naming Commission to review the issue.
The three-part report, which included consultations with historians and local communities, covered U.S. Army posts named after former Confederate generals such as Braxton Bragg and John Bell Hood; items named for Confederates at the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy; and other Confederate-linked items within the Department of Defense.
“I concur with all of the Naming Commission’s recommendations, including the renaming plan,” Mr. Austin wrote in a memo for senior military leaders. “I am committed to implementing all of the Commission’s recommendations as soon as possible.”
The move to change the base names has proven to be a political football. President Trump vowed to block the name changes while in office, saying they were a denial of American history and military tradition, but Congress overruled his veto of the massive annual defense authorization bill in late 2020 that created the renaming panel — the only veto override of Mr. Trump’s term in office.
More rebrandings are in store: The independent commission also is backing changes to two Navy ships — the USS Chancellorsville and the USNS Maury — and a host of monuments and tributes on military bases, the service academies at West Point and Annapolis and other sites that honor the Confederacy.
The Defense Department won’t begin implementing the renaming plan before the expiration of a 90-day waiting period that was required under the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Naming Commission recommended new names for nine Army posts. They include Fort Gordon, Georgia, which will be renamed Fort Eisenhower after the former president and five-star general. Fort Benning, Georgia, will be renamed Fort Moore in honor of Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia Moore.
“Secretary Austin is grateful for the work of the Commission and thanks them for their dedicated efforts and recommendations,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Mr. Austin told Pentagon officials to immediately begin changing the process used to choose names and memorialize historical figures on military installations because those topics are not subject to the congressional waiting period.
The Defense Department will dip into its funds to implement the recommendations from the Naming Commission, Secretary Austin wrote in the memo.
“The Commission’s thorough and historically-informed work has put the department on the path to meet congressional intent, and to remove from U.S. military facilities all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy,” Mr. Austin wrote.
The commission estimated that renaming the nine U.S. Army posts that honor Confederate officers would cost a total of $21 million if the installations rebrand everything from welcome marquees and street signs to water towers and hospital doors, The Associated Press reported in August. Removing every vestige of Confederate-related names and memorials would cost the taxpayer about triple that amount, according to projections.