An independent commission tasked with compiling a list of Defense Department items bearing the names of Confederate troops or sympathizers is due to report its final recommendations to Congress by the end of the month, including the rebranding of two active Navy ships.
The cruiser Chancellorsville, memorializing a Confederate Civil War victory, and the oceanographic survey ship Maury, named for a Confederate navy officer, should be renamed per Navy tradition, according to the commission, with new names coming at the discretion of Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.
“The secretary of the Navy has almost always … been responsible for the naming of U.S. Navy ships, and we thought it was appropriate in this case as well,” retired Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, the commission’s vice chair, told reporters Tuesday.
The decision on the Navy ships was made early, Seidule said, in order to free up their limited time and budget to spend traveling around to Army posts to get input from soldiers, families and the local community about how to rename them.
“We felt, after going through this, that that was where we needed to put our focus and our energy,” Seidule said, as some of the nine posts recommended for renaming had carried some of those names for more than 100 years.
There was also a consideration that these posts are landmarks in their neighborhoods, while Navy ships are more transient, even shifting home ports from time to time.
“The secretary of the Navy routinely makes decisions on the names of ships, whereas the secretary of the Army, this is not something that they usually do,” Seidule added.
Since kicking off in early 2021, the Naming Commission was given until the end of fiscal 2022 ― Oct. 1 of this year ― to compile a list of items to be changed, making recommendations for new names and what to do with removed artifacts.
All told, according to commission member Lawrence Romo, the list topped out at 1,100 items, from posts and ships to monuments, building names and streets.
Among the monuments recommended for removal in part 3 of the report is a Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The statue atop of the monument should be removed. All bronze elements on the monument should be deconstructed and removed, preferably leaving the granite base and foundation in place to minimize risk of inadvertent disturbance of graves,” according to a Wednesday release, leaving the Army in charge of disposal.
The commission is also recommending that the Air Force rename Fort Fisher Recreation Area, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, as it was originally named for a Confederate installation.
The renaming effort was mandated by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, with a requirement to complete all rebranding by Jan. 1, 2024.
Congress budgeted $2.3 million for the commission’s time and efforts, according to the release, but the commission kept expenses down to a little over $600,000.
The commission estimates that the cost of removing monuments, changing signage and other renaming efforts will cost roughly $62 million.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.