By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer

Maryland Congressman and former Lt. Governor Anthony Brown has become more vocal about racism and diversity as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to make its presence felt on Capitol Hill.  Brown, a 30-year military veteran, was instrumental in the United States House of Representatives’ passage of the {Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act}, which started the process of renaming military bases and infrastructure that previously honored leaders of the Confederacy within one year. 

Currently, the U.S. Army has 10 bases and facilities named after leaders of the Confederacy. The Marine Corps and Navy have already banned the Confederate battle flag from all installations, ships and aircraft. This amendment clarifies those bans and expands to all services and the Department of Defense.

Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) was instrumental in the legislation created to rename military bases that honor the Confederacy and is pushing for more diversity in the armed forces. (Courtesy Photo)

The amendment was adopted by a vote of 33-23, with full bi-partisan support, and comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is facing criticism from Democrats and Republicans after reports that Russian bounties were placed on American troops fighting in Afghanistan. 

“Every day, Black soldiers work, train and live on bases named after men who fought to keep them in bondage,” said Congressman Brown in his statement.  “The cornerstone of the Confederacy was the preservation of slavery, White supremacy and the continued oppression of Black Americans”. 

The amendment mandates Secretary of Defense Mike Esper to identify bases, buildings, ranges and roads that are named for individuals who served in the political or military leadership of the Confederacy. Esper would then submit a report to Congress within 60 days of its enactment. It also recommends the Department of Defense develop a pool of candidates with links to the community for the places to be renamed. 

“Renaming bases that honor these leaders is not erasing history, but acknowledging that the cause they fought for was unjust and a scar on this country,” said Brown. “The United States military has many who should be honored with designations, those who betrayed their country do not deserve that distinction.” 

The process that will be used to rename each installation, facility or infrastructure will put the onus on Secretary Esper and the secretaries of the military departments. Those responsibilities may include establishing advisory panels with military and local allies, historians and civil rights leaders.  Those who could be under consideration as replacement names may include Medal of Honor recipients, combat heroes, trailblazing troops from minority groups or individuals with links to the community where the base is located.

“Our armed services must foster a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all Americans to serve the country they love” Brown said. “The display of the Confederate flag and related racist symbols have no place in our military.” 

As Congress was heading into its Independence Day recess, Brown was able to push through several key amendments through the House Armed Services Committee.  He helped author legislation that includes diversity initiatives and commitments to HBCUs, which would help promote diversification within the ranks as well as the career advancement of minority troops and officers.

Brown’s contention is the armed services have fallen behind in their goals of creating a military force that fully reflects this nation’s diversity. Of the 41 most senior commanders in the military, only two are Black.  Meanwhile, 43 percent of the 1.3 million men and women on active duty are people of color.

“The same inequities that follow a Black person in our neighborhoods and communities, exist in our military, impacting how a Black soldier advances, what field he specializes, how he is treated and assessed,” Brown said. “More can be done, more must be done to address these inequities and this package is an important step toward making our founding ideals – the ones our men and women in uniform fight for each day – a reality.”