Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued guidance on Friday that effectively banned the public display of the Confederate flag on Pentagon properties.
In a memo issued to the Pentagon force, Esper said service members and civilian employees are “authorized to display or depict representational flags that promote unity and esprit de corps,” including:
• Flags of U.S. States and Territories and the District of Columbia;
• Military Service flags;
• Flag or General Officer flags;
• Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed civilian flags;
• Senior Executive Service (SES) and Military Department-specific SES flags;
• The POW/MIA flag;
• Flags of other countries, for which the United States is an ally or partner, or for official
• Flags of organizations in which the United States is a member (e.g., NATO); and
• Ceremonial, command, unit, or branch flags or guidons.
Esper’s guidance applies to public displays or depictions of flags by service members and civilian employees in “all Department of Defense work places, common access areas, and public areas,” including “but not limited to”:
• Office buildings, facilities, naval vessels, aircraft, government vehicles, hangars,
garages, ready rooms, conference rooms, individual offices, cubicles, storage rooms,
tool and equipment rooms, workshops, break rooms, kitchens/galleys, recreational
areas, commissaries, Navy and Marine Corps and Army and Air Force exchanges,
and heads/latrines/restrooms – including property and buildings off installation
leased by the Department;
• Sensitive compartmented information facilities and other secure facilities;
• Open-bay barracks, berthing areas, and common areas of barracks and bachelor
• School houses and training facilities; and
• All spaces or items in public or plain view, such as the outside areas of any
Department of Defense buildings and government-operated or public-private venture
housing (e.g., parking lots, yards, gazebos, or porches).
Esper did provide some caveats, however, allowing the Confederate flag to be displayed for educational, historical, or artistic purposes.
He said that it would not be prohibited to display or depict unauthorized flags in museum exhibits, state-issued license plates, grave sites, memorial markers, monuments, educational displays, historical displays, or works or art, where the display or depiction “cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement of the flag by the Department of Defense.”
Esper has often said he wants to keep the military “out of politics,” but has taken on a number of steps to assuage supporters of the Black Lives Matters movement in the wake of protests.
He said in his memo, “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.”
“What has always united us remains clear – our common mission, our oath to support and defend the Constitution, and our American flag. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation,” he wrote.