The House Armed Services Committee today received testimony from the Honorable John M. McHugh, Secretary of the U.S. Army, and Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb, the Army’s Inspector General, on the service’s investigation into mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery. Ranking Member Howard P. “Buck” McKeon released the following prepared statement for the hearing:
“Secretary McHugh, General Whitcomb, good morning and welcome. We look forward to your testimony today.
“The recent revelations about the mismanagement and systemic failures at Arlington National Cemetery are both profoundly shocking and heart-wrenching. Arlington National Cemetery is hallowed ground and its sacred hills serve as the final resting place for thousands of our nation’s heroes. Families demand, and most importantly, deserve to know that their loved ones are being treated with the utmost respect and decorum. To now learn that the Army was aware of some of these problems for nearly twenty years and took no corrective action is extremely disappointing.
“With that said, I commend Secretary Geren and Secretary McHugh for directing a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the matters at Arlington, forthrightly acknowledging the Army’s mistakes and taking the necessary steps to restore the public’s confidence in the Army’s stewardship of this sacred ground. I am committed to work with Secretary McHugh, Chairman Skelton, and all of our colleagues to ensure systems and processes are in place that will make certain these errors are never repeated and those responsible are disciplined appropriately.
“Among the most concerning findings of the Inspector General is the nearly complete failure to comply with Federal, Defense, or Army acquisition regulations for services and property procured by Arlington National Cemetery. The evidence provided by the IG goes far beyond inadvertent non-compliance by over-worked contracting officers. I find these practices to be unacceptable, particularly given the renewed emphasis on contracting best practices and ensuring our business systems deliver value for the warfighter and taxpayer—as highlighted by the Army’s Gansler Commission, last year’s acquisition reform act, and the IMPROVE Acquisition Act recently passed by the House.
“While Secretary McHugh has directed a review of all contracts awarded during the past five years in support of the Army National Cemeteries, I believe the review must go further to ensure that Army stops responding to contracting failures in merely a reactionary mode. I am hopeful that the testimony will address these concerns and the progress of the Department in investigating any criminal conduct on the part of the contracting officers and agencies.
“It also appears that once again the Army has failed to recognize the dramatic increase in mission of its supporting organizations since the start of the war on terror. The cemetery’s workload has understandably increased as more of our World War II and Korean War veterans pass on in addition to the casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan. What is surprising is that the staff at Arlington has steadily decreased and until this investigation became public there was pressure to cut civilian personnel even further. It is clear that efforts to achieve economies at the cemetery have lead to a breakdown in the mission with disastrous results. Thankfully the dedicated staff at Arlington is able to carry out their mission despite inadequate manning and long standing leadership failures. They deserve our gratitude.
“Lastly, I believe that to achieve a complete and accurate accounting for all of the graves and remains at Arlington National Cemetery will require a massive effort and a considerable amount of resources and time. My concern is whether the Army, with all of its competing missions, is committed to accounting for all 330,000 individuals interred at Arlington National Cemetery. I am hopeful that you can provide that assurance to this Committee.
“Once again, thank you for being here today. I look forward to your testimony. I yield back, Mr Chairman, and request that my full statement be entered for the record.”