Defense Secretary Mark Esper Bans Display of Confederate Flags at DoD

Melanie Arter | July 17, 2020 | 5:25pm EDT
Text Audio
00:00 00:00
Font Size
(Photo by RORY DOYLE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by RORY DOYLE/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday banned the display of Confederate flags in the Defense Department.

“We must always remain focused on what unifies us: our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the Nation. I am committed to fielding the most powerful military force the world has known by strengthening the bonds of our most valuable resource - our people,” the secretary said in an unclassified memo dated for Thursday.

“That is why we honor the American flag, which is the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display. 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,” he wrote.

In the memo, Esper does not specifically reference the Confederate flag, but he does provide guidance on the “public display or depiction” of flags at the DoD. The memo details what flags are allowed to be displayed.

“Consequently, in addition to the American flag, 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 protocol purposes; 
  • Flags of organizations in which the United States is a member ( e.g., NATO); and
  • Ceremonial, command, unit, or branch flags or guidons. 

The guidelines apply to DoD “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 quarters;  
  • 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). 

“The public display or depiction of unauthorized flags in museum exhibits, state-issued license plates, grave sites, memorial markers, monuments, educational displays, historical displays, or works of art, where the nature of the display or depiction cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement of the flag by the Department of Defense, is not prohibited,” the memo stated.

mrc merch