NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR CLAIRE MCASKILL
POW/MIA Update: McCaskill to Introduce Measure Requiring Pentagon to ‘tackle this mess’
Senator who led Arlington effort will seek to amend annual defense bill, giving Defense Department one-year deadline to detail reforms
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who led the effort to reform management of Arlington National Cemetery during her first Senate term, will introduce legislation giving the Pentagon a one-year deadline to address systemic mismanagement in its efforts to recover and identify personnel that are prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).
After an investigation by the Government Accountability Office revealed that POW/MIA recovery efforts were woefully mismanaged and that the Pentagon was not likely to meet the goal of identifying 200 POW/MIA per year by 2015, McCaskill led a Senate hearing in August aimed at rooting out extensive problems plaguing the program. Now, McCaskill is preparing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act—the annual defense bill scheduled to come to the Senate floor next week—which would require the Defense Department to develop a plan for reforms and submit that plan to Congress within one year.
“It’s obvious to me that our military leadership are going to need a deadline in order to effectively tackle this mess,” said McCaskill, the daughter of a World War II veteran and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “Our military families deserve honesty from their government, and this plan will also require the Pentagon to give an honest assessment and accounting of our recovery efforts so we have a full understanding of the work before us.”
Under McCaskill’s plan, within one year, the Defense Department would be required to submit a formal plan for reorganizing and boosting accountability within the POW/MIA recovery program. That plan would include: an analysis of whether different segments of the recovery effort should be combined, such as the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Person Personnel Office (DPMO); a determination as to which of these components should have direct responsibility for accounting activities; and an analysis of how other countries conduct POW/MIA accounting to identify best practices that could be adopted in the United States.
McCaskill’s amendment would also require the Pentagon to report on the actual number of POW/MIA, including:
· The total current number of POW/MIA, including a break-out of these numbers by conflict, and specifically how many are believed to be located in North Korea,
· The number of POW/MIA believed to be lost at sea or in a geographically inaccessible location by each conflict,
· The number of remains in the custody of the Defense Department that are waiting identification, and the number of remains that have been interred without identification, and
· The number of cases in which next of kin have refused to provide DNA samples.
McCaskill, who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has also demanded answers from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after a recent report suggested that phony “arrival” ceremonies were being staged using military props and remains that had sometimes been returned to the U.S. months prior.
McCaskill will formally introduce her amendment when the defense bill comes to the floor.
Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill’s fight for military veterans.