NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL
McCaskill, Ayotte Push Pentagon for Aggressive Steps to Fix POW/MIA Program
In letter to Defense Secretary, Senators outline requirements under legislation approved last month, giving the Pentagon six months to address systemic mismanagement in its recovery efforts
WASHINGTON – After passing legislation giving the Pentagon a six-month deadline to address systemic mismanagement in its POW/MIA recovery efforts, U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have written to the Secretary of Defense, outlining the requirements of the legislation, and pushing him to aggressively pursue reforms.
The joint letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (available online HERE) follows approval last month of the annual defense bill, which included a measure that gives the Pentagon a six-month deadline to address systemic mismanagement in its efforts to recover and identify personnel who are prisoners of war or missing in action.
“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—but that’s not what they’ve been getting,” said McCaskill, the daughter of a World War II veteran who led the effort to reform management of Arlington National Cemetery during her first Senate term. “The legislation we passed last month will allow us to hold the Pentagon accountable for taking concrete steps to fix this management mess, and we’re not going to let up on the pressure until this is done.”
“We have a solemn duty to recover the remains of our service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in distant battlefields to preserve our freedoms and way of life,” said Ayotte, a member of the Armed Services Committee, spouse of an Iraq War veteran, and granddaughter of a World War II veteran. “For the sake of our fallen heroes and their families, DoD must improve its POW/MIA recovery efforts and keep families better informed.”
An investigation by the Government Accountability Office last year 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. In response, the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight—which McCaskill chairs and on which Ayotte serves—held a Senate hearing in August aimed at rooting out extensive problems plaguing the program.
Under the legislation approved last month by Congress, 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.
The amendment will also require the Pentagon to report on the actual number of POW/MIA, including: