The commission will discuss potential names with Army base leaders and local communities and send recommendations to Congress by Oct. 1. The Pentagon will have until early 2024 to carry out the commission’s suggestions.
“The names of our military installations should appropriately reflect the courage, values and sacrifices of our diverse military men and women, with consideration given to the local or regional significance of names and their potential to inspire and motivate our service members,” the commission said.
The list of potential names includes Dwight D. Eisenhower, former president and five-star general; Alwyn Cashe, an Army sergeant first class who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor last year; Roy Benavidez, another Medal of Honor recipient; Colin Powell, former secretary of State and Joint Chiefs chair; abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who also led Union troops in the Civil War; and Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart, recipients of the Medal of Honor and subjects of the 2001 film “Black Hawk Down.”
Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), one of the sponsors of the base-renaming language in the House, applauded the commission for choosing potential names that reflected America’s rich military history.
“I’ve long maintained that traitorous men who fought to preserve the institution of slavery and defend white supremacy do not deserve to be honored by our military, and it is long past time their names were removed from places of reverence,” Brown said in a statement.
Congress created the eight-member commission in annual defense policy legislation last year. The legislation mandates the removal of Confederate names, monuments and other honors from Defense Department property — including bases, ships, aircraft, buildings and streets — within three years.
The push to remove Confederate names from military property gained steam in the summer of 2020 after George Floyd was killed in police custody in Minneapolis and amid nationwide protests against systemic racism. In June 2020, bipartisan proposals to remove Confederate names emerged in both the House and the Senate.
But former President Donald Trump threatened to tank the defense bill if it included legislation to rename bases. He tweeted he would “not even consider” removing Confederate names from the installations, even after then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he was open to the possibility.
The defense bill — with the formation of a naming commission intact — passed the House and Senate in late 2020 with overwhelming majorities, but was vetoed by Trump in part over the issue of renaming bases. After Congress enacted the defense bill over Trump’s veto in January 2021, the Trump administration named four individuals to the commission, all of whom were removed by President Joe Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin.
Members of the commission include retired Adm. Michelle Howard — the Navy’s first female four-star admiral and the first Black woman to command a Navy ship — serving as chair, and retired Gen. Bob Neller, the former commandant of the Marine Corps.
The scope of the commission’s review includes nine Army bases named for Confederate leaders, but also includes other military property such as a pair of Navy ships, along with buildings and other memorials. The tenth military installation named after a Confederate leader — Camp Beauregard in Louisiana — falls outside of the commission’s purview, as it is a state-owned National Guard base.
Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.