WASHINGTON — Recently enacted bans by the Marines and Navy on Confederate flags and materials may be overturned depending on the outcome of a new Defense Department review that would set uniform policy for such matters, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Thursday.
McCarthy made the remarks – and then clarified them to make clear no decision has been made on a Defense Department-wide policy — during a briefing he had for reporters on new Army initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion across the force.
Some of the initial Army steps for “Project Inclusion” are no longer including official photos or boxes to identify race for officer selection boards beginning August 2020. Warrant officer and noncommissioned officer board processes are being reviewed to determine if they will have those changes.
Army Col. Carl Wojtaszek told Pentagon reporters that a study last year showed differing results when photos of candidates are available.
He said that when the photo is not included, the board members’ scores are more closely aligned, it took them less time to vote on each soldier and “the outcomes for minorities and women improved.”
The Army also will conduct an examination of possible racial disparity within its justice system, with a focus on AWOL cases, urinalysis results, sexual assault, and sexual harassment to determine whether a trend for bias exists, officials said. McCarthy said he expects a report back in 60 days.
McCarthy revealed the existence of the new service-wide review on Confederate materials, and responded to questions about efforts to change the name of 10 bases named after Confederate officers, when asked why the Army seemed to have stopped its momentum in following the leads of the Marines and Navy.
“Obviously the Commander-in-Chief (President Trump) put out specific guidance related to bases,” McCarthy said. Trump said he opposed any name changes and would veto any legislation containing name changes.
McCarthy also said regarding rebel flags and materials the Pentagon is “looking at what is the uniform policy for confederate symbols, we’re working with the office of the secretary of defense on a policy related to that.”
The policy will be uniform across the service branches, McCarthy said — superseding what the Marines and Navy are doing. That means it could revert those branches to fewer restrictions, maintain what they are enacting, or expand the restrictions.
The Marine Corps banned the display of the Confederate flag and other similar symbols at the beginning of June. The Navy had begun steps to direct the removal of Confederate symbols but has not finalized or enacted the steps. On Thursday, Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, announced a new task force will examine service policies and “identify and remove racial barriers and improve inclusion within the Navy.”
Earlier this month, Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, banned the Confederate flag, saying it is “a painful reminder of the hate, bigotry, treason, and devaluation of humanity.”
Army Regulation 600-20 allows commanders to make decisions on symbols that “are not conducive to good order and discipline” and remove them if they see fit, officials told reporters Thursday.