Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday issued a directive (memo) effectively banning displays of the Confederate flag at U.S. military bases.
Esper’s memo does not specifically mention the Confederate battle flag; however, the flag does not appear on the list of acceptable flags included within the document. The memo says that the American flag is the “principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display.”
The new guidance treads carefully around President Trump’s previously stated opposition to a ban on displays of the Confederate flag by not authorizing an outright ban. Instead, displays of the Confederate flag are not allowed because it is not among the flags authorized for display.
“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” Esper wrote in the memo entitled “Public Display or Depiction of Flags in the Department of Defense” that was sent to senior Defense Department leaders and commanders.
“We must always remain focused on what unifies us: our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the Nation,” said Esper. “That is why we honor the American flag, which is the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display.”
“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,” he said. Esper’s guidance authorizes the displays of the American flag, state and territories flags, the POW-MIA flag and unit flags.
The effective ban on the Confederate flag may have avoided a direct clash with President Trump, but the renaming of Army bases named after Confederate generals still looms as a potential conflict between Trump and military leaders.
President Donald Trump has firmly opposed the renaming of bases celebrating Confederate leaders, like Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, and Fort Pickett. He tweeted last month “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”