Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Progress at Arlington National Cemetery

Congressman Jon Runyan headed a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee to report on the progress made in the Arlington National Cemetery since the 2010 scandal regarding poor management. According to the invited panelists, the majority of the problems associated with the 2010 findings have been rectified. One of the major issues regarding Arlington’s procedures was the lack of digital infrastructure and the reliance on typewriters. Since switching to a digital system, Arlington has become much more efficient and faster in processing its data.

According to some of the subcommittee members, one of the major concerns is the long wait times both in phone service and burial service. However, efforts have been made to shorten these wait times. For example, a phone system dedicated to handle customer needs replaced the old system where desk staffers answered phones only when time permitted. In addition, the burial service is in the process of improving its system to ensure efficiency. According to those testifying on Arlington’s behalf, a new digital map system is being engineered in a manner similar to Google Maps. This will allow patrons to easily and quickly identify specific grave sites for family members.

However, there is still progress to be made. Ms. Kathryn Condon, Executive Director of Arlington, and Major General William H. McCoy, the Inspector General of the Army, made several recommendations. One such suggestion was the creation of joint-multiservice policies at different levels to ease the bureaucratic process. Another suggestion was to possibly fold Arlington into the Department of Veterans Affairs because of its ability to manage similar large scale operations. However, one of the panelists believed it was more prudent to have Arlington remain in the Army. Lastly, the subcommittee repeated the complaint that burial wait times are still too long despite the improvements made to the database management and digitization of records. The panelists suggested that there be increases in equipment and training for personnel.

As Arlington National Cemetery is a final resting place for veterans, the Reserve Officers and the Reserve Enlisted Associations submitted testimony; reminding the subcommittee that not all Guard and Reserve members are eligible for interment at the Arlington National Cemetery. This testimony has been posted online by the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

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