McHugh Cites Major Improvements at Arlington National Cemetery

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2011 — Sec­re­tary of the Army John M. McHugh today released a report to Con­gress, updat­ing improve­ments made at Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery more than a year after he oust­ed the cemetery’s lead­er­ship and made sweep­ing changes in its struc­ture and over­sight.

Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
Each grave in Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery, Va., was dec­o­rat­ed with an Amer­i­can flag on Memo­r­i­al Day, May 30, 2011.
U.S. Army pho­to by Antho­ny Walk­er
Click to enlarge

“In just over a year, the cemetery’s new man­age­ment team has made major progress in rec­on­cil­ing decades’ worth of paper records with phys­i­cal grave­side inspec­tions to regain account­abil­i­ty,” McHugh wrote in a let­ter to mem­bers of Con­gress. “They have put in place new poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to pro­tect against and pre­vent the type of errors uncov­ered in the Army’s pre­vi­ous inves­ti­ga­tions,” the let­ter says. “Equip­ment and train­ing have been mod­ern­ized, con­tract­ing pro­ce­dures revamped, a his­toric part­ner­ship cre­at­ed with the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs, the work­force improved and rein­vig­o­rat­ed, and ongo­ing out­reach and infor­ma­tion has been pro­vid­ed to fam­i­ly mem­bers and the Amer­i­can pub­lic.”

McHugh pro­vid­ed the report to con­gres­sion­al over­sight com­mit­tees in response to leg­is­la­tion seek­ing the sta­tus of reforms he direct­ed. In com­pil­ing the report, McHugh direct­ed the Army’s inspec­tor gen­er­al to again inspect the facil­i­ty to deter­mine com­pli­ance.

An ear­li­er inspec­tor gen­er­al report, also ordered by McHugh, found fail­ures in man­age­ment and over­sight that con­tributed to the loss of account­abil­i­ty, lack of prop­er automa­tion, inef­fec­tive con­tract com­pli­ance and a dys­func­tion­al work­force.

“Per­haps most impor­tant, the inspec­tor gen­er­al found the mis­man­age­ment that exist­ed pri­or to these changes no longer exists,” he told Con­gress yes­ter­day. “And that sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made in all aspects of the cemetery’s per­for­mance, account­abil­i­ty and mod­ern­iza­tion.

“We’re con­fi­dent that the Army is on the right path toward repair­ing the cemetery’s fail­ures and restor­ing the con­fi­dence of Con­gress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he added.

McHugh not­ed that even while mak­ing mas­sive improve­ments in the cemetery’s man­age­ment and over­sight, the pace of 27 to 30 funer­al ser­vices per day — many with full mil­i­tary hon­ors — has not abat­ed.

“Since 1864, the Unit­ed States Army has been stew­ard of this, the country’s only active mil­i­tary shrine,” he said. “I believe this report will demon­strate the Army’s stead­fast com­mit­ment to repair­ing what was bro­ken in the past, and ensur­ing America’s con­tin­ued con­fi­dence in the oper­a­tion of its most hal­lowed ground.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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