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Defense Bill Approves Arlington Cemetery Expansion

By Michael Norris
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 9, 1999 – A recently approved 45-acre expansion at Arlington National Cemetery here will allow continued interments until about 2060.

Even using today's already restrictive ground burial criteria, the demand rate is so high that Arlington could run out of space within 25 years unless expanded, cemetery superintendent John C. Metzler Jr. said.

The expansion plan is part of the fiscal 2000 defense authorization act signed into law by President Bill Clinton Oct. 5. The plan calls for the transfer of about 37 acres of land currently occupied by the nearby Navy Annex and eight acres of land from Fort Myer, which borders the northwestern section of the cemetery.

Another piece of land currently being considered to facilitate Arlington's expansion is the site inside the cemetery occupied by Arlington House, also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion. Mary Ann Randolph Custis, a relative of President George Washington, lived there with her husband, then-Lt. Robert E. Lee.

The National Park Service currently administers the house and the grounds immediately surrounding it. A park service study recommended turning over a portion of this land to the cemetery, including a grove of trees said to date back to Colonial times. Historical groups and environmentalists have voiced concern over the turnover. Metzler said developing the parcel would preserve the best of the historic trees at the site.

He said Arlington would be also build more columbaria, structures where cremated remains are inurned. Because more space would be available, inurnment criteria could remain liberal.

(Michael Norris is a staff writer for the Fort Myer Military Community's "Pentagram" newspaper.)

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