Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced on July 17 that all DOD installations would effectively ban divisive symbols, including the Confederate battle flag.
This news follows changes already made in the Marine Corps, Navy and on all installations in Japan and Korea.
DOD Drafts New Confederate Flag Policy
The new policy specifies which flags may be flown on DOD properties worldwide. The Confederate battle flag is not listed.
Flags displays are regulated on all military installations for both military and civilian personnel. They include workplaces and offices, public spaces and common access areas.
As of Friday, flags allowed to be flown on US military installations include: the US flag; POW/MIA flag; state flags; and flags of our allies. While the new policy does not specifically ban Confederate flags or other divisive flags, it does not include them on the list of approved symbols.
“I am committed to fielding the most powerful military force the world has known by strengthening the bonds of our most valuable resource — our people. That is why we honor the American flag, which is the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display,” Esper wrote in the memo, according to reporting by CNN and Politico.
In certain circumstances displays of non-authorized flags will still be allowed under several exemptions, including “museum exhibits, state-issued license plates, grave sites, memorial markers, monuments, educational displays, historical displays, or works of art, where the nature of the display or depiction cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement of the flag by the Department of Defense.”
“The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols,” wrote Esper.
According to Politico, Esper had also recently come under pressure from top defense leadership to enact this ban. Each branch of service remains free to enact their own ban on additional flags and symbols.
USMC Leads Charge for Change in DOD
Marines have proven to be the tip of the spear when it comes to banning displays of the Confederate battle flag.
In early June, USMC Commandant General David Berger issued a memo that required all Confederate flag images and items from all installation throughout the Corps.
The US Navy has also enacted a similar ban, with the Army and Air Force keeping such actions under consideration. US forces in Japan and Korea have also enacted similar bans on all installations within their sphere of influence.
New Policy Skirts Trump’s Opposition
Esper’s new policy is a revision from an earlier policy that named the Confederate flag outright as banned from all bases. Some see the changes as creating language that is more palatable to President Donald Trump.
Trump, as of July 1, promised to veto any defense spending bill should it include language banning Confederate symbols. He issued his opinion via Twitter.
The release of the DOD’s policy effectively circumvents Trump’s ability to veto the Defense Spending Authorization Bill. The president has vowed to veto any proposal that included renaming of Army bases to remove Confederate leaders.
Bases which had been considered for renaming include Fort Bragg and Fort Benning, among others.
Trump has also previously stated that flying the Confederate flag is a freedom of speech issue.
House Armed Services Committee Adds Language to NDAA Removing Confederate Symbols
In early July, the House Armed Services Committee agreed to include language removing such displays from all DOD properties as part of the defense spending authorization.
Iraq War veteran Representative Anthony Brown (D-MD) introduced the amendment to the bill which would “prohibit the public display of the Confederate battle flag at all Department of Defense property.”
The proposed language, according to NPR, has bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. Due to Trump’s public opposition to the renaming of military bases, the $704.6 billion defense spending authorization hangs in the balance. The bill includes funds for a 3% pay raise for troops.
Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) expects the bill to pass in Congress even with a Trump veto.
“Let me make a prediction: First, that provision will not change in this bill as it moves through the House and Senate. Second, let me predict, President Trump will not veto a bill that contains pay raises for our troops and crucial support for our military,” Schumer said on July 1.
With the recent news about the DOD’s effective Confederate flag ban, there has not been word about possible changes to the House Armed Services Committee’s proposals.