By J.D. LeipoldApril 10, 2013
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 10, 2013) -- The executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program testified today that Arlington National Cemetery had achieved a baseline accountability of all its burial records through a "single, verifiable and authoritative database of all those laid to rest at the cemetery."
"Long gone are the typewriters, the 3x5 index cards and the paper maps colored in with pencils," Kathryn Condon told a House oversight subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs. "In less than two years, we became the first national cemetery to geospatially manage cemetery operations."
The database is linked to Arlington National Cemetery's, or ANC's, digital mapping system, which allows the cemetery the ability to assign, manage and track gravesites electronically. Coupled with the mapping system, on Oct. 22, the cemetery launched "ANC Explorer," a free, web-based application which allows families and the public to locate gravesites with both back and front photos of headstones and to track events and find other points of interest throughout its present 624 acres.
Condon said the app had already been downloaded 40,465 times and that kiosks featuring ANC Explorer are in the process of being set up throughout the cemetery.
"We've implemented energy, environmental and sustainability initiatives to minimize our impact on the environment and to enhance our natural green space," she said, noting that the cemetery had also changed its acquisition and resource management processes and procedures.
She added that the cemetery is presently working on three expansion projects.
Columbarium 9, which will be dedicated May 9, will allow for an additional 20,296 niches for cremation urns.
The "Millennium Project," might expand the cemetery by 32 acres.
Finally, the cemetery will expand onto the 42-acre hilltop area next to the Air Force Memorial -- where the Navy Annex has stood since the 1940s. The three expansions would extend Arlington's interment burials well into the 2050s.
Condon said that though the cemetery had made great strides in modernizing, it would continue to work on improving service to veterans by reducing the wait time between a family's initial request and the actual burial. She also said much work remained to complete critical repairs of crumbling infrastructure.
In regard to sequestration, Condon said for fiscal year 2013 Arlington had been able to absorb cuts by modifying projects that are still in progress and was also able to use prior year-dollars to handle day-to-day operations. However, she said, if sequestration continued through the out-years, burial operations would be curtailed.