Navy Task Force Calls for Changing Ship Names that Honor Confederacy

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USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) conducts a high-speed turn
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) conducts a high-speed turn alongside the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) before a pass in review as part of the Republic of Korea (ROK) International Fleet Review (IFR) 2018, Oct. 11, 2018. (Brandon Martin/U.S. Navy)

The Navy needs to modernize the way it names ships, buildings and streets, and the service should rename assets that honor the Confederacy, a task force designed to identify problematic policies recommended this week.

The recommendation is one of nearly 60 presented to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday in a new 141-page report released Wednesday from Task Force One Navy. Gilday ordered the creation of the task force in July following the death last May of George Floyd, a Black man who died in the hands of law enforcement, prompting nationwide protests about racism and police brutality.

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Task Force One Navy was directed to identify and dismantle barriers of inequality. The group, led by Rear Adm. Alvin Holsey, who recently commanded Carrier Strike Group 1, held hundreds of listening sessions and focus groups ahead of releasing their recommendations to the CNO.

The group found the Navy lacks a consolidated database or process for reviewing the names of ships, streets, buildings and other assets to ensure they reflect the service's core values.

"This initiative is an opportunity to honor and name Navy assets for Naval heroes from all classes, races, genders and backgrounds," their report states.

It notes that members of Congress and the media have identified ship names that have ties to the Confederacy or white-supremacist ideologies. The names of two warships -- that of the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis and the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville -- faced new scrutiny last summer following the push to rename 10 Army installations that honor Confederate leaders.

As retired Lt. Cmdr. Reuben Keith Green noted last year in U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine, Stennis had a long record of championing white supremacy.

"Most sailors -- and Navy leaders -- have little idea of his background, but the Navy, as an institution, has a moral obligation to know," Green argued. "And, it should act."

The Chancellorsville, named for the major 1863 Civil War battle, was won by the Confederacy.

The task force says the Navy needs to initiate a systematic review to identify any assets that honor the Confederacy or are named for "racist, derogatory or culturally insensitive persons, events or language."

"Renaming recommendations and decisions should be consistent with current naming authorities, policies and practices, with a focus on honoring persons of historically underrepresented demographics, including racial minorities, women and enlisted members," the recommendations state.

The Navy should create a committee, it adds, that will produce a database where names of ships, streets and buildings can be reviewed. It will likely require installation commanders to provide lists of buildings and streets on their bases that are named for people.

The committee can then coordinate with ethics and history experts to identify problematic names and propose replacements.

Ultimately, the task force wrote, the CNO and Navy secretary could make naming decisions that reflect diversity and inclusion in the next six to 12 months.

Gilday says he's committed to seeing Task Force One Navy's recommendations carried out.

"Our Navy must continue to remove barriers to service, and most importantly, be a shining example of a workforce centered on respect, inclusive of all," the CNO said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Navy Ship Names Could Fall Under Pentagon's New Diversity Review

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