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Arlington Cemetery Officials Punished for Poor Management

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2010 – The top two officials in charge of Arlington National Cemetery here were disciplined after an Army investigation found the cemetery’s management to be “dysfunctional,” Army Secretary John M. McHugh announced today at the Pentagon.Video

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Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh announces at a June 10, 2010, Pentagon press conference that in light of findings of inappropriate practices and mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery, he is relieving the cemetery’s current superintendent and deputy superintendent of their duties and placing Kathryn Condon (right) in the newly created role of Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Program. DoD photo by R. D. Ward

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The Army inspector general completed a months-long report on June 8 that identified 76 separate deficiencies as well as 101 recommendations to improve operations at Arlington National Cemetery. Most significantly, the report found poor recordkeeping allowed occupied gravesites to be improperly marked or often not marked at all.

The Army stripped Superintendent John Metzler of all authority, but he will remain on staff until his retirement July 2. His deputy, Thurman Higgenbotham, was placed on administrative leave pending additional personnel actions. Both are career federal civil servants.

“A majority of these findings are deeply troubling and unacceptable,” McHugh told reporters today at a Pentagon news conference. “The [inspector general] found Arlington’s mission hampered by dysfunctional management, by a lack of established policies and procedures and an overall unhealthy organizational environment.

The report determined the improper internment of remains, including the loss of accountability for remains, names and graves listed as empty, he said. McHugh also cited improper maintenance and cleaning of graves.

“That all ends today,” he said firmly, later adding that “there’s simply no excuse” for the negative findings in the report.

McHugh established a new position to oversee the Army National Cemeteries Program. Katherine Condon was appointed executive director of the cemeteries program and she “has total supervisory powers pertaining to all business and operational activities associated with Army cemeteries,” the secretary said.

Condon served as the senior civilian for the Army Material Command before accepting the position.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki also agreed to lend his department’s expertise in cemetery operations. Patrick K. Hallinan, director of the Office of Field Programs for the VA, will be temporarily reassigned as Arlington’s superintendent. Hallinan currently oversees 130 national cemeteries.

Also, McHugh established an Army National Cemetery Advisory Commission. Former Sens. Bob Dole and Max Cleland are charged with leading the group. Both former legislators have the experience for the job. Dole co-chaired a commission that investigated deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007, and Cleland is a former VA secretary.

McHugh said he’s “deeply grateful” for the help he’s enlisted. But more noticeably, the former New York congressman said he was battered with guilt and expressed his apologies to the families of the fallen buried in Arlington.

“On behalf of the United States Army and on behalf of myself, I deeply apologize to the families of the honored fallen resting in that hallowed ground who may now question the care afforded to their loved ones,” he said.

The Army and Arlington National Cemetery will bounce back, McHugh said.

“The Army owes better,” he said. “I’m unable to explain the past, but I can promise this about the future. The United States Army will take every step necessary to fully ensure that every challenge, every need at Arlington is clearly understood and effectively addressed.

“We owe no less to our departed heroes, no less to the loved ones of this nation who, when the call was sounded, stepped forward to serve,” McHugh continued. “The better tomorrows for Arlington National Cemetery begin today.”


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John M. McHugh

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Arlington National Cemetery

Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of the Army John M. McHugh (right) holds a Pentagon press conference, June 10, 2010, to address problems brought to light by a recent investigation of inappropriate practices and mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery. The investigation was conducted by Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb (left), the Army inspector general, and his staff. Allegations included such varied issues as a hostile work environment, inappropriate hiring practices and improper internment and trans-internment of remains. McHugh announced immediate changes in leadership at the cemetery and disciplinary actions against the current superintendent and deputy superintendent. DoD photo by R. D. Ward  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of the Army John M. McHugh (center) holds a press conference at the Pentagon, June 10, 2010, to announce changes in the leadership of Arlington National Cemetery resulting from an internal investigation into allegations of improprieties and mismanagement at the hallowed burial ground. McHugh told reporters that he had relieved the current superintendent and deputy superintendent of their duties and placed Kathryn Condon (right) in the position of Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Program. The investigation was conducted by Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb (left), the Army inspector general. DoD photo by R. D. Ward  
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Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

6/11/2010 8:35:35 PM
My question to Mr McHugh. Why is the deficient superintendent of Arlington be allowed to retire. He should be fired. He will be another useless drain on the economy.
- James Best, Cheyenne WY

6/11/2010 11:55:53 AM
Having served in the Air Force from 1942 till 1973, a period spanning three major wars, I find it extremely disheartening that perhaps some of my comrades, from all services, have been subjected to the reported mismanagement. Military personnel who have given their all for their country deserve better. It is beyond my imagination that, as reported, disinterrment may be necessary to right the records.
- Orfeo Trombetta, Seminol, Fl

6/10/2010 8:23:58 PM
I don't know which angers me more, the lack of respect shown towards our fallen warriors whose ultimate sacrifice has made Arlington National Cemetery the sacred place that it is, or the fact that Superintendent John Metzler, an uncaring, lazy and incompetent "civil servant" is being allowed to keep his job just long enough to collect his pension. Metzler should be fired TODAY! As our former president, Ronald Reagan would often say, "It's the right thing to do." By allowing Metzler to keep his job the Army is sending a message to the families of our fallen soldiers that a dishonest an ignoble civil servant is more important than their loved ones who are buried in Arlington. That simply isn't right. Does the Army need to be told what they know is the honorable thing to do? Does it have to be reminded of the debt of honor owed to the best of America's sons and daughters?

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