Posted on November 6, 2020

Esper, Amid Resignation Talk, Reportedly Working with Lawmakers to Strip Confederate Names from Bases

Ellen Mitchell, The Hill, November 5, 2020

Defense Secretary Mark Esper plans to work with lawmakers to create legislation that would remove the names of Confederate leaders from military bases, NBC News reported.

Such a move, likely to draw the ire of President Trump, also comes as Esper is expected to leave his role after the announced results of the presidential election, regardless of who wins.

Three current defense officials told NBC that Esper has already drafted a resignation letter, which comes after months of reports that pointed to Trump’s displeasure with his Pentagon chief stemming from differing views.

Esper now intends to work with Congress to put language in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to cement into law name changes at military installations, three officials said.

He also reportedly provided a written framework this week to Pentagon leaders for stripping out the Confederate names, which could possibly extend to ships and street names on bases, the officials said.


Top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, meanwhile, would not confirm such efforts, and said the Defense Department “works with Congress to provide the administration’s concerns and views regarding proposed defense-related legislation — particularly when House and Senate versions of defense bills are being reconciled and finalized.”


Since this summer, Trump has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with Esper, who broke with the president in June when he opposed using active-duty troops against protesters. {snip}

The relationship soured further in July when Esper effectively banned the display of the Confederate battle flag on Pentagon property even as Trump continued to defend its display as an issue of free speech.


Trump has frequently pushed back against moves to pull Confederate names from military bases, tweeting in June that “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

He has also threatened to veto the NDAA if the final version that reaches his desk requires name changes.