WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy signaled their willingness to discuss scrapping Confederate names on forts across the country, Army Col. Sunset Belinsky said Monday evening.

They are open to having a bipartisan dialogue on renaming the bases, according to Belinsky. The Army has 10 posts named after Confederate generals across the South, including major installations at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Hood in Texas.

McCarthy, a former Army Ranger, indicated his willingness to discuss the change after weeks of protests across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who pleaded for his life as a white police officer knelt on his neck.

The Army has resisted calls to change names on installations named after officers who rebelled and fought against the U.S. government in the Civil War. 

Times and attitudes are swiftly evolving as the nation heads into its second week of protests after Floyd's death, calls for police reforms grow and locations across the country announce plans to take down or remove Confederate memorials.

McCarthy and the military as a whole became embroiled in controversy surrounding the response by police and National Guard troops to protesters last week in Washington. McCarthy oversees National Guard units in D.C. because it does not have a governor.

McCarthy acknowledged Sunday that National Guard soldiers were involved in the eviction of mostly peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square before President Donald Trump's appearance at a nearby church. Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accompanied Trump.

No guardsmen used force on the protesters, McCarthy said. Another incident involving National Guard helicopters buzzing protesters in another part of Washington is under investigation, he said. The Pentagon came close to ordering federal troops to confront protesters, according to McCarthy.

The incident prompted several former high-ranking Pentagon officials to warn that the military was being drawn into politics, risking a constitutional crisis. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis blasted Trump, saying he sought to divide, not unite Americans.

Within days, senior military officials acknowledged racial inequities in the military. Before the Lafayette Square incident, USA TODAY reported that young black airmen were twice as likely to face punishment as their white counterparts.

Several retired generals, many of whom trained and commanded at the posts in question, said they supported name changes. 

Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, one of the brightest military stars of his generation and a former director of the CIA, wrote in The Atlantic that the names should be changed.

"These bases are, after all, federal installations, home to soldiers who swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States," Petraeus wrote. "The irony of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention."

Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said the Army should deal with the issue and leave politics out of it.

“I welcome Secretary McCarthy and the Army looking at this issue," Thornberry said in a statement. "When it comes to the question of renaming installations or other assets, I believe that is something best left to the services and kept out of the political process.”

McCarthy acknowledged the racial division in a letter to soldiers and civilians June 3. 

"Our ability to defend this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic, is founded

upon a sacred trust with the American people," McCarthy said. "Racial division erodes that trust."

Last week, the Marine Corps banned the display of the Confederate battle flag. 

The Navy operates a guided-missile cruiser, the USS Chancellorsville, named after a battle the Confederates won.