Defense Secretary Esper excludes Confederate flag from permissible symbols on military bases

Flags embody 'common mission [and] common histories,' the secretary declared.

Updated: July 17, 2020 - 1:06pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday issued guidance on the display of flags on American military installations, with the directives effectively banning the display of Confederate flags of any kind on military bases and Department of Defense properties. 

In a memo, Esper wrote that flags "are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors."

"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," Esper continued. "That is why we honor the American flag, which is the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display."

Esper in the memo outlined 10 types of flags permitted to be displayed "in all Department of Defense work places, common access areas, and public areas." Those include flags of U.S. states, civilian flags approved by the federal government, the prisoner-of-war flag, and numerous others. 

Notably missing among that list of approved symbols are any styles of Confederate flags, which have long been popular emblems in the south. The Confederate battle flag in particular has been a persistent symbol of the failed breakaway nation of slaveholding southern states that attempted to leave the United States in 1861, leading to the four-year-long Civil War. 

Concerns of that flag's depiction throughout the U.S. have been heightened in recent weeks after the death of black Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. Floyd's death spurred sustained protests and a tense national debate about race and racism in the country. 

"What has always united us remains clear – our common mission, our oath to support and defend the Constitution, and our American flag," Esper said in the memo. 

"With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation," he added.

Shop Our Store