USA — Army Works to Right Wrongs at Arlington, Secretary Says

WASHINGTON — The Army is tak­ing every mea­sure pos­si­ble to fix the prob­lems at Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery, and it should con­tin­ue to man­age the nation’s “most hal­lowed ground,” Army Sec­re­tary John M. McHugh told a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee today.

The top two offi­cials in charge of ceme­tery were dis­ci­plined ear­li­er this month after an Army inves­ti­ga­tion found the cemetery’s man­age­ment to be dys­func­tion­al.

“For 146 years, the Army has proud­ly served in the admin­is­tra­tion of this hal­lowed ground,” McHugh told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “Clear­ly, we lost that com­mit­ment and that record of suc­cess. I want to pledge that the Army is doing every­thing nec­es­sary and pos­si­ble to right these unimag­in­able, unac­cept­able wrongs.”

McHugh, a for­mer con­gress­man who served as the committee’s rank­ing mem­ber before being appoint­ed Army sec­re­tary in Sep­tem­ber, out­lined the mea­sures he has tak­en since Army Inspec­tor Gen­er­al Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whit­comb issued a June 8 report iden­ti­fy­ing 76 defi­cien­cies at the ceme­tery and 101 rec­om­men­da­tions for change.

McHugh said he has ordered struc­tur­al and lead­er­ship changes, includ­ing rescind­ing “frac­tured, unman­age­able over­sight” in the cemetery’s super­in­ten­dent and deputy super­in­ten­dent and appoint­ing Kathryn Con­don, a senior Army civil­ian exec­u­tive, to a new posi­tion of exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­ter­ies Pro­gram.

The sec­re­tary also said he has estab­lished an Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery over­sight group, and an advi­so­ry com­mis­sion that is head­ed by for­mer U.S. Sens. Robert Dole and Max Cle­land, both war vet­er­ans. Vet­er­ans Affairs Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­se­ki has detailed two offi­cials with the VA’s Nation­al Ceme­tery Admin­is­tra­tion to help with the over­haul, he said.

McHugh reject­ed a sug­ges­tion that Arling­ton be turned over to the Nation­al Ceme­tery Admin­is­tra­tion. “I’m not sure it’s the fair thing to do to bur­den oth­er agen­cies with the stress­es of the Unit­ed States Army,” he said. “For over a cen­tu­ry and a half, the Army has helped to pol­ish its rep­u­ta­tion [at Arling­ton], but clear­ly that record been tar­nished. We will work as hard as pos­si­ble to [fix] what we con­sid­er an Army prob­lem.”

Near­ly half of the rough­ly 330,000 peo­ple interred at Arling­ton are Army sol­diers, McHugh not­ed. “We feel it’s impor­tant, espe­cial­ly dur­ing this time of war, that the Army stay respon­si­ble for inter­ring our fall­en heroes,” he said. “Until we’re ordered to step down, we’re going for­ward.”

McHugh also rescind­ed Army “Gen­er­al Order 13,” which was the man­age­ment author­i­ty for the ceme­tery. That order, he said, inad­ver­tent­ly led to a lack of over­sight at the ceme­tery. “There was real con­fu­sion among the agen­cies as to who had exact over­sight author­i­ties,” McHugh said. “By plac­ing every­one in charge, no one was in charge. There were no clear lines of who was in charge. What­ev­er the rea­sons, it should nev­er have hap­pened.”

Now, he said, “the lines of author­i­ty are clear from the deputy direc­tor right to my desk.”

McHugh said he also has ordered audits of all con­tracts at Arling­ton, which the report found to be rife with irreg­u­lar­i­ties. The find­ings will be turned over to Army crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tors, he said.

The IG report already was under way when he took office in Sep­tem­ber, McHugh said, and he ordered it expand­ed in Novem­ber to inves­ti­gate sev­er­al oth­er ceme­tery func­tions. He said he has tried to be trans­par­ent in pub­li­ciz­ing and fix­ing the prob­lems.

Whit­comb, who tes­ti­fied along­side McHugh, put blame with Arlington’s senior lead­ers and not its 95 employ­ees. “While our find­ings raised very seri­ous issues and require sig­nif­i­cant reme­di­al actions,” he said, “I want to make clear that Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery employ­ees work under extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high oper­a­tions tem­po with a lack of lead­er­ship and still man­age to serve our sol­diers, hon­or their fam­i­lies, and hon­or all Amer­i­cans with first-class ser­vices.”

The Army’s pri­or­i­ty at Arling­ton now is in exam­in­ing the 211 graves that the report iden­ti­fied as not match­ing up with site maps and bur­ial cards, McHugh said. The Army hopes to accept some offers of North­ern Vir­ginia-based pri­vate infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy firms to cross-check the infor­ma­tion of all of the cemetery’s graves, he said.

The Army has ver­i­fied 27 of the 211 graves as being record­ing mis­takes on site maps, mean­ing graves nev­er exist­ed in those loca­tions, he said.

Upon release of the IG report, the Army estab­lished a call cen­ter from which peo­ple could seek infor­ma­tion about the graves of loved ones. So far, McHugh said, 867 calls have been received, and the ser­vice has resolved 169 of the cas­es.

The Army also will assess mil­i­tary ceme­ter­ies out­side the Unit­ed States to find out if sim­i­lar prob­lems exist there, McHugh said. “We’re not just stop­ping at Arling­ton,” he said. “Where we find defi­cien­cies, we will address them.”

The changes so far are just the start, McHugh said. “For us, this is the begin­ning of the process, and we are going to pur­sue it to its end.”

The Army sec­re­tary said he wel­comes the committee’s con­tin­ued over­sight of the mat­ter.

“These prob­lems were com­mit­ted under the watch of the Army, and it’s the Army’s respon­si­bil­i­ty going for­ward,” McHugh said. “For all impor­tance Army places on this, Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery was some­what of a satel­lite spin­ning off in the dis­tance. The more eyes on the process, the bet­ter.”

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

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →