Army submits gravesite study of Arlington National Cemetery
December 22, 2011
By U.S. Army
ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec. 22, 2011) -- Secretary of the Army John McHugh today released to Congress the results of a year-long effort to ensure accountability of gravesites and records at Arlington National Cemetery.
McHugh submitted the report in accordance with Public Law 111-339, which directed the Army to provide an accounting of gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery, or ANC, and put in place a plan of action for any discrepancies which may be found.
"The management team I put in place has now conducted the most comprehensive review and meticulous accounting of gravesites in Arlington National Cemetery's 147-year history," McHugh said. "They have examined every available record, physically counted every gravesite on the Cemetery's grounds, and created a digital record of every headstone and niche cover."
McHugh said this report is the latest in a series that shows the Army's commitment to and success in improving management and oversight at ANC. The Army's Inspector General recently reported that "significant progress has been made in all aspects of the Cemetery's performance, accountability and modernization."
The Government Accountability Office - also directed to submit reports in accordance with PL 111-339 - similarly noted that the Army "has taken positive steps to address management deficiencies at Arlington and has implemented improvements across a range of areas."
The Cemetery's Gravesite Accountability Task Force reconciled existing records and conducted a physical identification of gravesites -- counting every marker in the cemetery and photographing each headstone and niche cover. They have completed nearly 200,000 cases, and validated those gravesites without any burial discrepancies in evidence.
Comprised of Army Soldiers and civilians, the Task Force was charged with physically identifying every gravesite and niche cover, cross-referencing each with all available records, identifying discrepancies, applying appropriate corrective actions and developing standardized procedures that can be instituted into the daily operations of the cemetery.
"With the critical support of Congress and the American people, the Task Force's significant work has resulted in a far more detailed and thorough understanding of Arlington's records and living history than at any time since its inception during the Civil War in 1864," said Kathryn A. Condon, executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program. "This comprehensive effort will create a set of proven procedures that will ensure the accountability of all current and future gravesites. While remarkable progress has been made this far, additional work is required."
The Gravesite Accountability effort resulted in the first-ever review, analysis and coordination of all Arlington records that included more than 14 decades of varying records. The end result will be a single database that will serve as the authoritative record at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Task Force compared the photos for 259,978 headstones and niche covers in the cemetery against more than 510,000 records. Based upon its review, the Task Force validated 195,748 cases, and Arlington is currently completing the validation of 64,230 cases requiring additional review.
The Army is strengthening both accountability of gravesites and oversight of cemetery operations, identifying discrepancies and administrative errors, and taking immediate corrective action. The Army has defined new accountability processes, standards and technology, established a rigorous training program and gathered valuable best practices and lessons learned that are now being integrated into the Arlington's daily operations.
As remaining cases are validated and resolved, Arlington's leadership focus will shift to its plan for the future, having integrated the best practices from the Task Force into daily operations. With this plan in place, the next era at Arlington will be defined as one of modernization, transparency and accountability, with the goal of connecting the American people to Arlington's rich living history.
Among the national cemeteries in the United States, Arlington National Cemetery is unique. It is the only national cemetery that routinely holds graveside services and provides full military honors for eligible veterans. It is a national and active military shrine, hosting 4.1 million visitors annually, as well as ceremonial functions involving heads of foreign countries and other high level dignitaries.
As the second largest cemetery in the country, Arlington National Cemetery oversees approximately 27-30 funeral services per day, five days a week. On Saturdays, the Cemetery holds services for which military honors are not required or requested.