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Defense Secretary excludes Confederate flag from list of flags permitted on military bases

Esper did not specifically ban the Confederate flag, instead issuing a detailed list of flags approved for display. The Confederate flag was absent.
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Defense Secretary Mark Esper attends a briefing on Enhanced Narcotics Operations at the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Florida, on July 10, 2020.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued specific guidance on what flags may be displayed in military installations on Friday, omitting the Confederate flag from the list of flags permitted without explicitly banning it.

Esper's guidance comes after military leaders encouraged him to ban Confederate flags.

Esper's memo did not specifically ban the rebel, flag, but instead provided a detailed list of types of flag approved for display, on which the confederate flag was notably absent.

The list of permitted flags includes state and territory flags, military service flags, flags of ally countries and of partner organizations like NATO among others. The guidance applies to public displays or depictions of flags by military service members and civilian employees in all Department of Defense workplaces, common access areas, and public areas.

It does not apply to public displays where the "unauthorized flags...cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement of the flag by the Department of Defense." Such displays could include museum exhibits, state-issued license plates, grave sites, monuments and works of art.

Last month after widespread protests across the country on issues of race, Esper announced a three-part approach to dealing with diversity and inclusion at the Pentagon, which includes short-term actions and two DOD boards on diversity and inclusion with both mid-term and longer-term actions expected. Among the issues the board was expected to tackle immediately was the display of the Confederate flag on military bases.

In February, the Marine Corps banned the display of the flag on its bases. While other services within the military were expected to follow suit this year, Esper halted those decisions several weeks ago, instead deciding to create a uniform policy across all branches of the military. Friday's memo outlines the details of that policy.