Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland’s 4th Congressional District. (Courtesy photo)

By Rep. Anthony Brown

House Armed Services Vice Chair and 30-year Army veteran, Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) applauded the bipartisan agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators on the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to remove names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia commemorating leaders of the Confederacy. The House provision was co-led by fellow veteran, Congressman Don Bacon (NE-02) and led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate. This year’s NDAA represents one of the most significant pieces of legislation to address diversity and inclusion within the Department of Defense.

The inclusion of a mandatory provision to remove commemorations of the Confederacy is a clear and resounding message from Congress that it is time for this country to move forward and reckon with one of the darkest chapters of American history. Despite President Trump’s vehement opposition and veto threat, nearly 155 years after Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Battle of Appomattox Court House and after decades of inaction our military will no longer honor men who were defeated in their racist effort to betray this country in order to defend the institution of slavery.

“National security isn’t simply defined by the planes and ships we buy — but in the values we set for our military and ourselves. We cannot ask today’s young servicewomen and men to defend our nation, while housing and training them and their families on bases honoring those who betrayed our country in order to enslave others,” said Vice Chair Anthony Brown. “The symbols and individuals that our military honors matter to troop morale and readiness. America’s proudest achievements are defined by men and women who expanded the promise of freedom. That’s the history and those are the people we should honor. This is a hard fought victory for our brave servicemembers and for a more equitable and just military.”

“I’m very glad that my provision with Representative Brown to rename military bases named for the Confederacy has made it into the final version of the defense bill — Republicans and Democrats in Congress are on the right side of history today,” said Senator Warren. “Removing the names, symbols, displays and monuments that honor the Confederacy from military property is only one step toward addressing systemic racism in our country, but it’s an important step that brings us closer to acknowledging the truth of that ugly past.”

Conferees for the FY21 NDAA have agreed to language mandating the Secretary of Defense remove designations commemorating the Confederacy. The language additionally establishes an independent commission to provide recommendations on the renaming process, assessing and listing commemorations of the Confederacy, and incorporating local sensitivities. The process for these actions should not exceed three years.

This summer, the Marine Corps and Navy banned Confederate symbols and the Confederate battle flag has been effectively banned on all military installations. However, this action only addresses a fraction of the Confederate symbols embedded within the armed forces. The U.S. Army currently has ten bases and facilities named after leaders of the Confederacy. Bases honoring Confederate leaders were designated during the height of the Jim Crow Era.

51 percent of Americans support the removal of memorials to the Confederacy. 49 percent of servicemembers said they supported renaming military bases honoring Confederate leaders, while 37 percent opposed these changes. Today’s military is the most diverse in our history, with people of color compromising more than 40 percent of the active duty armed forces.