WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2011 — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has directed that the Air Force report back to him in 30 days on disciplinary action taken against employees at the Dover Port Mortuary in Delaware.
Panetta asked Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley to update him on the Air Force review of disciplinary action taken against employees who last year filed complaints about how some service member remains were handled at the facility, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters today.
The Air Force inspector general and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel — an independent federal “watchdog” agency — investigated the charges. A former commander and two other mortuary officials were disciplined as a result of the investigation, Defense Department officials said.
The Air Force implemented multiple corrective actions as a result of the investigation, officials said.
Little noted the Office of Special Counsel also is reviewing past disciplinary actions and current procedures at the mortuary. The OSC’s work is still ongoing, and the Air Force report will proceed in parallel, the press secretary added.
“The Air Force report won’t and shouldn’t go final until the OSC report is complete,” Little said.
During a Nov. 10 news conference, Panetta said he wants special attention paid to possible management reprisals taken against those employees.
“As someone who voted for the whistleblower legislation, I directed Secretary Donley to report back to me … to ensure that all appropriate action has been taken,” Panetta said.
The defense secretary also emphasized that one of the military’s most profound obligations is to treat service members’ remains with dignity and respect.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)