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House panel ties military project funding to base name changes

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody testifies before the House's Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., Feb. 25, 2015. (Scott M. Ash/U.S. Air Force)

Fort Lee stands to lose funding for projects unless its name is changed, according to legislation making its way through the House Appropriations Committee.

Monday night, the panel’s subcommittee that oversees spending for military and veterans’ agreed to a stipulation in the $250.9 billion FY 2021 defense authorization bill stating that funding in the bill would not be “obligated, expended, or used to construct a project located on a military installation bearing the name of a Confederate officer” except in instances where a renaming process has been initiated. There are 10 such military posts in the South, including Forts Lee, Pickett and A.P. Hill in Virginia.

It was immediately unclear how much money Fort Lee stood to lose under the stipulation.

No members of Virginia’s congressional delegation sit on that Appropriations committee. A spokesman for Rep. A. Donald McEachin, whose Fourth District includes Fort Lee, confirmed that McEachin planned to address the name issue sometime this week.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Ralph S. Northam said this week the governor supports removing the Confederate leaders’ names from all of the Virginia military installations.

The subcommittee’s action is the latest in a round of efforts on Capitol Hill to change the posts’ names following protests locally and nationally over racial inequality. Last week as part of the same authorization act, the House Armed Services Committee voted to ban display of Confederate flags on all Department of Defense property.

The Senate is mulling an amendment to its version of the spending bill that requires the posts change their names within a three-year period.

Fort Lee, established in 1917 as Camp Lee, is home to the Army’s Combined Arms Support Command; the Quartermaster, Ordinance and Transportation schools; Army Logistics University; the Sustainment Center of Excellence; and the Defense Commissary and Defense Contract Management agencies. It was renamed Fort Lee in 1950.

It was named for Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. But according to historical accounts, it was named for him not because of the Confederate ties but for the fact he was a West Point graduate and served as a colonel in the U.S. Army prior to the Civil War.

Fort Pickett, near Blackstone, was turned over from the Army to the Virginia National Guard in 1997. Prior to the changeover, it was used for infantry training; now it is home to training exercises for not only the Guard but also the Virginia State Police and local law-enforcement agencies.

Fort A.P. Hill was established in 1941 and serves as a training facility for all armed forces. It was named for Confederate Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, who was killed in Dinwiddie County by Union soldiers a week before Lee surrendered at Appomattox. It also was a host for eight national Boy Scouts of America jamborees.


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