More than 200 sets of remains at the nation's most sacred shrine, Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, may have been misidentified or misplaced, according to an investigation by the U.S. Army's inspector general.
A report on the investigation blames mismanagement, leading the secretary of the Army to reprimand the cemetery's superintendent, appoint a new official to oversee cemeteries, and create a commission headed by two prominent retired U.S. senators to review policies and procedures.
Arlington employees -- "under an extraordinarily high operational tempo of 27 to 30 funerals a day -- performed their jobs with dedication and to a high professional standard, they also found them hampered by dysfunctional management, the lack of established policy and procedures, and an overall unhealthy organizational climate," Secretary John McHugh said. "That ends today."
The inspector general's investigation found that 211 graves had problems with misidentification or improper record keeping. The probe cited a lack of established policies and procedures, a failure to automate records, and long-term systemic problems, McHugh said.
The investigation also showed that morale among workers at different levels has been very low, with dissention among certain managers, including John Metzler Jr., the superintendent of the cemetery.
McHugh reprimanded Metzler, who is set to retire July 2, 2010.
McHugh created a new position to oversee cemetery management, review and update policies and procedures, and to carry out corrective measures outlined in the investigation and inspection reports.
The secretary also created the Army National Cemeteries Advisory Commission to help with implementing reforms. Former Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican of Kansas, and former Sen. Max Cleland, a Democrat from Georgia, will head up that commission. Both are decorated Army veterans.
More than 300,000 Americans are interred at Arlington, including President John F. Kennedy and his brothers, and thousands of service members dating back to the Civil War and up to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Arlington National Cemetery is the place where valor rests, a place of reverence and respect for all Americans," McHugh said. "The Army recognizes its sacred responsibility to ensure America's confidence in the operation of its most hallowed ground, and to the heroes for whom this is their final resting place. I believe these changes will do just that."