Saying “there’s simply no excuse,” Army Secretary John McHugh offered his and the service’s apologies “to the families of the honored fallen resting in that hallowed ground who may now question the care afforded to their loved ones” at Arlington National Cemetery.
Speaking June 10, he said that more than 200 grave sites in three sections of the cemetery may be incorrectly identified, have gravesites not recorded on cemetery maps and at least four instances where burial urns were dumped in an area where excess grave dirt is stored.
The findings were included in an Army inspector general’s report that was delivered to McHugh in the late afternoon June 8. The investigation began in 2009.
“The IG found Arlington’s mission hampered by dysfunctional management, a lack of established policy and procedures, and an overall unhealthy organizational climate. The report also determined the improper interment and trans-interment of remains, to include the loss of accountability of remains, remains in graves listed as empty, unmarked gravesites, improperly marked graves and improper handling of cremated remains. That all ends today.”
McHugh announced the appointment of “Kathryn Condon, one of the Army’s most experienced, most respected members of the Senior Executive Service, to immediately assume the position of executive director” of the Army National Cemeteries Program.
In addition, the secretary said, “I have placed the current superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery [John C. Metzler] under Ms. Condon’s direct supervision for the remainder of his tenure in the Army. I’ve also placed in the superintendent’s official personnel file a written reprimand for his actions, and I’ve directed a review of his annual performance evaluation award.”
Metzler retired in July.
The cemetery’s assistant superintendent, Thurman Higginbotham, is on administrative leave and McHugh ordered the Army’s assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs to conduct a further investigation to determine any other disciplinary action that may be needed.
Lt. Gen. Steven Whitcomb, the inspector general, said, “There were two mismarked graves in Section 60, which primarily holds Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers or service members. Those were corrected. They were headstone issues. The other grave sites are older. I’m not prepared to say they go back to the Civil War.”
Whitcomb said correcting errors require disinterring remains or using ground-penetrating X-rays to detect whether remains are present on a site in the cemetery.
McHugh and Whitcomb said that bringing Arlington’s record-keeping system, many kept on cards, into the digital age was necessary and overdue. They also said they found nothing intentional or criminal in what transpired.
The IG’s report and other documents are located on the Web at www.army.mil/arlington.
For additional information, call Army Media Relations Division at (703) 614-1742 or (703) 697-2564.