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Senate Approves McCaskill’s Measure to Fix POW/MIA Recovery Efforts

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED DECEMBER 23, 2013 BY THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (MO.)

Senate Approves McCaskill’s Measure to Fix POW/MIA Recovery Efforts

Senator, who led effort to reform management of Arlington National Cemetery, successfully included amendment in annual defense bill giving Defense Department six-month deadline to detail solutions

WASHINGTON – The annual defense bill approved by the U.S. Senate last week included a measure by Senator Claire McCaskill that gives the Pentagon a six-month deadline to address systemic mismanagement in its efforts to recover and identify personnel that are prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).

McCaskill, who led the effort to reform management of Arlington National Cemetery during her first Senate term, successfully added her amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“This plan will set in motion a much needed self-assessment by the Pentagon and ensure that there is a plan to fix this management mess going forward,” said McCaskill, the daughter of a World War II veteran and senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “Recovering our POW and MIA personnel is a sacred obligation, and the families of our missing heroes deserve nothing less than full honesty and transparency from their government.”

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. Following the Senate hearing, McCaskill introduced an amendment for the NDAA which would require the Defense Department to develop a plan for reforms and submit that plan to Congress, and that amendment was included in the annual bill.

Under McCaskill’s plan, within six months, the Defense Department will 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 also serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, 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.

Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill’s fight for military veterans.

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