MCCASKILL AND BROWN CALL UPON HOUSE TO PASS ARLINGTON LEGISLATION
Senators send letter to House leadership on bill that passed the Senate unanimously last weekend
December 7, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Amid news of continuing problems at Arlington National Cemetery, last week the Senate passed legislation to help identify and fix errors like the ones uncovered recently. Today, U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Scott Brown (R-MA), who introduced the legislation, sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader John Boehner in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on them to pass the legislation before the end of the year.
"The heartbreaking failure of the Army and Arlington National Cemetery to prevent and remedy the tragedies at our nation's most sacred burial ground for service members and their families requires prompt action. We respectfully request that you pass this legislation before the close of the 111th Congress," the senators wrote.
The legislation - introduced by McCaskill and Brown along with their colleagues Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Richard Burr (R-NC) - followed a hearing this summer in the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight which revealed the possibility of thousands of unmarked or improperly marked gravesites.
When problems first emerged at the cemetery, the senators pledged to follow up on the results and ensure that the Army investigated and systematically fixed problems, and the legislation follows through on the promise. The legislation directs the Secretary of the Army to review and report to Congress on the progress being made at Arlington to fix errors in burial records and improve contract oversight at the cemetery.
Many of the previous problems at Arlington National Cemetery resulted from a failed effort to automate how the cemetery tracks burial records and manages burial operations. Despite spending between $5 and $8 million on multiple IT contracts over seven years, the cemetery's complex records remain in paper form and prone to human errors. The documents and information that were presented at the July hearing suggest that thousands of graves may be unmarked, improperly marked, or mislabeled on the cemetery's maps.
Following a June 2010 U.S. Army Inspector General (IG) report that found many of the problems at Arlington National Cemetery, the Secretary of the Army established a new organizational structure at the cemetery and created a new leadership position that reports directly to the secretary. A senior official from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which successfully manages over 130 veterans cemeteries nationwide, is also helping the Army to sort out the problems and reorganize the oversight and management systems at Arlington National Cemetery.
A copy of the letter is available here.
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