Your Tax Dollars Pay for Private Security at Confederate Cemeteries

After white supremacist violence boiled over in Charlottesville last year, Confederate monuments started falling across the country — some by official decree, and others at the hands of activists tired of waiting.

In this era, keeping monuments that glorify slaveholders and the men who fought for them feels especially violating. And for black residents of the South, being forced to walk past such monuments on the way to work, school and other destinations served as a painful reminder of a historical era the United States has yet to fully reckon with.

Take action: Join Care2 activists calling on the VA to explain why it’s spending millions on private security instead of veterans.

The controversy over Confederate memorials sparked concerns across the country that said monuments might be vandalized — which they were. Cities took various measures to address this concern, including moving or covering monuments, posting guards or taking them down altogether.

The Department of Veterans Affairs took this to extremes, as a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the AP reveals.

And the VA didn’t just post guards — it paid millions to a private security company to provide 24/7 monitoring in at least eight Confederate cemeteries, most of which were located in the North. These cemeteries are small and primarily contain the graves of prisoners of war who died in custody, with modest markers that commemorate the dead but certainly don’t glorify the Civil War. In other words, they weren’t exactly high-value targets.

VA officials told NPR that the agency has an “obligation to protect the federal property it administers, along with cemetery staff and visitors paying respect to those interred at our sites.” Okay, sure, but that doesn’t explain the use of private security rather than government employees to provide that security. After all, private security is generally much more expensive — and much less accountable.

The money to cover this added security is coming from the National Cemetery Administration, which is funded with public money. This entity is responsible for maintaining, improving and protecting 136 national cemeteries. In case you’re curious, the NCA doesn’t oversee the country’s most famous military cemetery, Arlington – that facility is administered by the Department of Defense.

The first year’s contract with the security company was $2.3 million, and the agency says it may add security to other sites to address concerns about vandalism.

While the necessity of these guards is definitely arguable — there haven’t been any incidents at the cemeteries involved since guards were posted, but that may just mean no one was interested in vandalizing those cemeteries — the potential for cost overruns is the bigger concern. Private security services are costly, but they also like to rack up more money on their contracts; does this mean that the contract will expand to more cemeteries? How long should the government pay for guards?

Cemeteries should certainly be protected from desecration, and it should be noted that of the vandalism — or editorial, depending on how you look at it — incidents following Charlottesville, the vast majority did not involve cemeteries. Those incidents that did primarily targeted statues and monuments, not actual graves.

And if you’ve spent much time in your local cemetery, you might be surprised — there are often a few Confederate graves lurking in any cemetery dating back to the mid-late 1800s!

Is posting private security the best use of these resources, or would it be more appropriate to revisit the value of having prominent Confederate monuments at sites where people may be visiting for peace and contemplation?

Take Action

Sign our petition asking the VA to explain why it’s wasting millions guarding Confederate graves.

Photo credit: William/Creative Commons

26 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad A3 months ago

Thank you.

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MilliSiteProbs M
MilliSiteProbs M3 months ago

Well, sorry to put it bluntly s.e. smith, but if the radical left-wing bigots would quit destroying, smashing (or whatever term you wish to use) the grave sites stones/monuments of the long gone deceased veterans no matter what war they fought in almost 200 years ago, then the taxpayer funded security would not be required.

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Terri S
Terri S3 months ago

I'll bet at least 80% of the Confederate soldiers never owned a slave. They were too poor. Why are their memorials and graves being desecrated, but the Washington and Jefferson monuments, Mount Vernon, Monticello, the city of Washington,DC, and the state of Washington are still standing?? Both of these men owned slaves!!

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Debbi W
Debbi W3 months ago

I agree with Christine K. IF confederate cemeteries must have security, then it follows that those security personnel should be veterans. At least the money would be going for a good cause, help our veterans.

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Shirley S
Shirley S3 months ago

noted

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Janet B
Janet B3 months ago

Thanks

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

TYFS

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Anne M
Anne M3 months ago

Pretty bad if you need security at any kind of cemetery... - Let the dead rest in peace...

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Don Z
Don Z3 months ago

The domestic terrorists who are destroying public and private property such as monuments and graves need to be heavily fined and jailed.

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Christine K
Christine K3 months ago

They could employ veterans for this job...at least maybe the ones that care about the traitors.

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