By Lt.Col. Lee M. PacknettNovember 13, 2009
WASHINGTON (Nov. 13, 2009) -- Secretary of the Army John McHugh announced today that he has ordered an investigation into allegations of lost accountability of some graves, poor record keeping and other issues at Arlington National Cemetery.
"This is the place where valor rests, a place of reverence and respect for all Americans," McHugh said after signing an order directing the Army's Inspector General to begin an investigation into allegations regarding cemetery operations. "As the final resting place of our nation's heroes, any questions about the integrity or accountability of its operations should be examined in a manner befitting their service and sacrifice."
McHugh's order comes on the heels of revelations that cemetery workers inadvertently buried cremated remains at a gravesite already in use. The error was discovered in May 2008, and cemetery officials immediately took corrective measures, moving the cremated remains to another gravesite and remarking the original grave. Since then, questions have been raised over whether cemetery officials used proper procedures to correct the mistake, including notifying the next of kin.
McHugh's announcement of the probe follows completion of a separate internal investigation by the Military District of Washington - which the Army released today - over the discovery of an unmarked grave. Cemetery officials conducted an extensive search of both internal and Department of Veterans Affairs records, followed by the MDW investigation and additional efforts by the cemetery, which employed ground- penetrating radar and a team of geoarchaeologists.
"Cemetery records, the MDW investigation, and the non-invasive geophysical analysis of the grave sites strongly indicate that a husband and wife, who died years apart and should have been buried in the same gravesite, were instead buried in adjacent graves," said MDW spokesman Col. Dan Baggio.
Cemetery officials have ordered new grave markers for the site. While exhuming the remains and conducting DNA testing would provide a 100-percent assurance of the cemetery's findings, the family has declined taking such invasive action. The Army is abiding by their wishes.
While the unmarked grave was first discovered in 2003, cemetery officials took no action until 2009. McHugh is now directing the Inspector General to examine accountability and policy issues in that case.
The Inspector General is also in the midst of a management review of Arlington National Cemetery, begun under former Army Secretary Pete Geren, to make overall recommendations on how better to operate the facility, including possible changes in policy, procedures and regulations.
"A thorough investigation, and transparency in its results, can help correct whatever may be wrong, and ensure America's confidence in the operation of its most hallowed ground," McHugh said, adding, "We will take appropriate action as the facts dictate."
A copy of the Article 15-6 investigation can be found at: http://www.defenselink.mil.
For more information regarding this release, media may contact Gary Tallman of Army public affairs at (703) 614-1742.