Wednesday, June 30, 2010

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton Hearing on Army Investigation of Arlington National Cemetery

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton Hearing on Army Investigation of Arlington National Cemetery
Ike Skelton, Chairman
June 30, 2010

Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton
Hearing on Army Investigation of Arlington National Cemetery

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing to review the Army investigation of Arlington National Cemetery:

“Good morning. The hearing will come to order. Today the Committee will receive testimony about the management of Arlington National Cemetery. Our witnesses include John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, and Lieutenant General R. Steven Whitcomb, Inspector General of the Army. Welcome to you both.

“I am angry, period. Anger is generally not a useful emotion, particularly here on Capitol Hill. However, in light of the recent revelations about the management of Arlington National Cemetery, I am just downright angry.

“Arlington Cemetery is our nation’s most hallowed ground. It is reserved as the final resting place of our heroic warriors. Management ineptitude and neglect have resulted in a web of errors. How in the world could this tragedy be allowed to happen?

“Behind the fa├žade of what appeared to be well orchestrated burial services, investigations now reveal a dysfunctional management team operating without any oversight. We all know people who are buried there—people we respect and whose memory we hold dear. Every American, whether they have a loved one buried at Arlington or not, should be outraged.

“Secretary McHugh, I know that you have already done much to right this wrong, but I cannot understand how the Army has allowed the problem to fester for years. There is clear evidence that in 1992 the Army was aware of a level of leadership discord at Arlington that would not have been tolerated in any other organization. The situation cried out for intervention, but the Army’s response was to further withdraw from Arlington Cemetery operations.

“Let me make clear that the uniformed service members who so proudly conduct the military honors ceremonies with such grace and precision are not part of this problem. We are so proud of those young men and women who continue to provide those ceremonies during these troubled times at Arlington Cemetery.

“Sadly, notwithstanding the efforts of the Army, the way forward offers many difficult challenges. Given the limited nature of the investigation up until now, I am afraid that the 200 irregularities associated with gravesites may only be a fraction of the problem. We must be prepared that a 100 percent survey of the cemetery and all of its operations, which I believe must now be undertaken, will yield a larger number of problems that must be addressed.

“The American people and especially our military families expect that those who wear the uniform of this Nation and have made the ultimate sacrifice are afforded the upmost respect and dignity even after their death. They deserve no less.”

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