Panetta, Dempsey Cite Concerns Over Dover Revelations
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2011 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today told reporters they were disturbed by reports of mismanagement at Dover Port Mortuary, Del.
Panetta stressed at the Pentagon news conference that it is one of the military’s most profound obligations to service members to treat remains with dignity and respect.
Panetta learned of the problems from Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz shortly after taking office in July. “They were forthcoming with me,” he said. “It was clear that they took these allegations seriously, and that they were committed to strengthening the department’s handling of this most sacred and solemn task.”
The secretary has directed an independent review of the situation led by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona. He wants the panel to look at current operations at Dover to evaluate changes and procedures.
The secretary also wants a review of a report on the mortuary by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. “In light of the concerns that were raised in that report, I've asked the secretary of the Air Force, Mike Donley, to ensure that the disciplinary action taken was appropriate, and to provide me with the results of that review,” he said.
Panetta said he wants special attention taken in regards to possible management reprisals taken against Dover Mortuary employees who reported the irregularities.
“This is a serious issue,” he said. “And as someone who voted for the whistleblower legislation, I directed Secretary Donley to report back to me once the OSC investigation is complete to ensure that all appropriate action has been taken in light of that report.”
Dempsey said the military will continue to look at ways of improving processes at the mortuary. “We intend, as the Air Force intends, to get to the bottom of it, and to ensure that we continue to improve processes that may not have been executed properly, and to hold folks accountable where appropriate,” Dempsey said.
Panetta named the rest of the Carmona panel. They are: Retired Army Gen. Fred Franks, a member of DOD’s health board; Ruth Stonecifer, representative of families supported by the Dover Port Mortuary; Congressman Vic Snyder, a doctor and former Democratic U.S. representative from Arkansas; Garold Huey, a funeral director and embalmer who served in the Navy as enlisted member-embalming technician; Jacquelyn Taylor, executive director of the New England Institute and an internationally recognized leader in funeral service education; and Dr. Bruce Parks, a forensic pathologist.