Fort Belvoir is among four U.S. Army installations in Virginia that will be a focus of members of the commission tasked with renaming bases that honor Confederate leaders, according to a release from the Association of the U.S. Army.
Commission members will initially focus on Department of Defense installations as they plan visits over the summer and through the fall to meet with commanders and local leaders, said retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, the commission chair.
Fort Belvoir, in southern Fairfax County, has not before come up in the Confederate renaming discussion, but Howard said the commission is taking a broad look.
Belvoir was originally the name of a plantation owned by a British loyalist, Lord Fairfax, on which the post now sits. It was called Fort A.A. Humphreys when it became an Army installation in 1917. But in 1935, it went back to Belvoir at the request of a Virginia congressman who wanted to recognize the historic Belvoir plantation.
The Winchester-area community college named after Lord Fairfax is being renamed in part because he, like many large landowners of his time, owned slaves.
The other Virginia Army posts under review by the commission include Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett.
The eight-member commission, including two retired Army general officers and a former drill sergeant, was mandated by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
The law contains a detailed three-year process for renaming or removing Confederate names from U.S. military installations. Army forts named for Confederate generals have received the most attention, but the law also applies to ships, buildings, streets, parks, monuments or any other display.
As the commission continues its work, each of the services is compiling an inventory of places, streets, buildings, ships, equipment and other items named after someone who voluntarily served in the Confederacy or named to commemorate the Confederacy, Howard said.
It will “take some time” for the services to complete those lists, Howard said, adding that they could contain hundreds of places or items.
Commission members are already receiving letters from the public with suggestions for new installation names, she said. “We’re just keeping track of all the submissions and suggestions and hanging on to those until we get to the part of the process where we’re going to be looking at recommendations for a new name.”
At the conclusion of its work, the commission will develop a renaming plan and process and provide recommended new names, but the final authority lies with the Secretary of Defense, Howard said.
The commission is due to provide an initial update to the Senate and House Armed Services committees by Oct. 1, with a final report due by Oct. 1, 2022, Howard said. The defense secretary must implement the plan by Jan. 1, 2024.