WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- The Army says at least 200 remains in Arlington National Cemetery have been misidentified or misplaced, casting a shadow over what has been called America's "sacred ground."
Defense officials said Thursday that the Army has forced out the cemetery's two civilian leaders and appointed a new chief with plans to have a more thorough investigation under the new management.
More than 300,000 people are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, including service members from the Civil War as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Secretary John McHugh told a Pentagon press conference that the investigation found 211 graves where there were problems of misidentification or improper record keeping.
WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- The U.S. Department of Defense released the following statement:
Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced sweeping changes in the management and oversight of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) following completion of a months-long probe by the Army's Inspector General.
"While the Inspector General's (IG) team found that ANC employees – under an extraordinarily high operational tempo of 27 to 30 funerals a day – performed their jobs with dedication and to a high professional standard, they also found them hampered by dysfunctional management, the lack of established policy and procedures, and an overall unhealthy organizational climate," McHugh said. "That ends today."
McHugh ordered the investigation following allegations of lost accountability of some graves and poor record keeping, among other issues. The Army released its investigation findings at a Pentagon news conference today. The investigation followed an earlier inspection and management review ordered by McHugh's predecessor, former Army Secretary Pete Geren, which McHugh expanded shortly after taking office. Those findings were also released today.
"Both reports pointed to the lack of established policies and procedures, a failure to automate records, and long-term systemic problems," he said.
As part of a series of corrective measures, McHugh established the newly-created position of Executive Director (ED) of the Army National Cemeteries Program, whose duties will include oversight of cemetery management, reviewing and updating policies and procedures, and implementing corrective measures outlined in the investigation and inspection reports. McHugh appointed Kathryn Condon to serve as ED. Condon previously served as the senior civilian for Army Materiel Command - overseeing one of the largest commands in the Army, with more than 60,000 employees in 149 locations worldwide.
Among a host of other changes and initiatives, McHugh is establishing an Army National Cemeteries Advisory Commission, which will include officials from outside the Army to regularly review policies and procedures, and provide additional guidance and support. McHugh has enlisted the services of former senators and Army veterans Max Cleland and Bob Dole to begin that effort.
Dole represented Kansas in the Senate for three decades, and in 2007 co-chaired a commission investigating deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In addition to serving as senator from Georgia, Cleland is a former head of the Department of Veterans Affairs and currently serves as secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, which oversees American burial grounds in foreign countries, including the American cemetery and memorial in Normandy, France. Both are decorated Army veterans.
ANC Superintendent John Metzler Jr., will remain in his post supporting funerals and ceremonial activities until July 2 - when he retires from federal service. However, Metzler will now report directly to the new executive director, and has received a letter of reprimand from McHugh based on the IG's findings.
At McHugh's request, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is providing a detailed while the Army conducts a nationwide search for a new superintendent.
Patrick K. Hallinan, director of the Office of Field Programs for the VA, who is responsible for the development and implementation of National Cemetery Policy, will be temporarily reassigned to ANC as its superintendent. Hallinan has more than 31 years of cemetery service, and currently has oversight responsibilities for 130 national cemeteries.
The cemetery's deputy superintendent was placed on administrative leave pending a disciplinary review in the wake of the findings.
"Arlington National Cemetery is the place where valor rests, a place of reverence and respect for all Americans," McHugh said. "The Army recognizes its sacred responsibility to ensure America's confidence in the operation of its most hallowed ground, and to the heroes for whom this is their final resting place. I believe these changes will do just that."
In addition to Arlington National Cemetery, the Army National Cemeteries Program includes the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Pentagon officials have said it is uncertain whether the right people are buried in a number of graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
The officials have cited poor management and record keeping and two defense officials say Army Secretary John McHugh will discuss the problems today when he releases the results of an investigation at Arlington.
Arlington is the famous military cemetery and the resting place of 300,000 people including many American war veterans, presidents and dignitaries. The two officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say the cemetery could face punishment. John C. Metzler Jr. was the cemetery superintendent for the past 19 years, but just recently announced his retirement.