The fieldwork for this assessment was conducted from April to September 2012. The team evaluated adequacy of and adherence to the statutes, policies, and regulations governing the management, oversight, operations, and interments or inurnments (or both) by those cemeteries, less those of the U.S. military academies, under the jurisdiction of the military departments.
This was the first time these cemeteries had been examined by an outside agency. The team used the reports listed in Appendix B as a starting point. While we found that each cemetery had different circumstances, they all had the same mission and the same types of challenges and issues.
The report is divided into four parts: (1) Good News Stories; (2) U.S. Military Cemeteries; (3) Other Matters; and (4) Individual Installations. The report makes six observations and 20 recommendations. The results are discussed therein.
We found that in general the Installation and Garrison commanders and their cemetery management staffs were very dedicated and conscientious with respect to management of cemetery operations. This was the first time most of these cemeteries had ever received an oversight inspection from an organization outside the installation. Overall, the Services do well at honoring the dead.
Cemetery Management. There should be a designated official in charge of the cemetery at the installation level. Committees or split responsibility has not been sufficiently effective. Cemeteries with full time directors and a single point of contact (POC) had fewer issues. Cemeteries with part time or additional duty directors had more issues, as no one individual was in charge, and oversight was missing or neglected.
Cemetery Operations. Annual inspections required by Army regulation were incomplete or had not been performed at all. The Navy and Air Force do not have an annual inspection requirement. However, these Services should implement an oversight mechanism to assure that installation commanders administer and maintain cemeteries appropriately.
Regulations, Guidance, and Cemetery Management. Regulations and guidance at OSD and Service levels were inadequate. Cemetery managers would benefit from formalized training. OSD should establish an overarching cemetery regulation and the Services should re-write theirs.
Funding. Inadequate funding for cemetery operations at military bases remained an issue across all Services. Commanders report that they were operating on tight budgets and faced multiple funding decisions among competing priorities. Given its importance, they would like a discrete funding line for cemetery operations support.
Civilian Cemeteries. There are over 700 individual civilian cemeteries on Military installations. Currently there are no policy guidelines for the management of civilian cemeteries. Some questions raised were:
- Where and what are the legal agreements for these cemeteries?
- What responsibilities reside with the Services to care for and maintain them?
- And, what are the funding lines, if any, to maintain them?
Management Comments and Our Response
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Executive Director for Army National Military Cemeteries, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs provided good and, for the most part, thoughtful comments to the draft report. The Army has taken the lead on cemetery management issues and is quickly establishing a single standard for all their cemeteries. These may be translated to the rest of DoD.
Based on input from management, we:
- redirected five recommendations to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics;
- redirected one recommendation to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Comptroller/Financial Management; and
- deleted two recommendations.
We request that the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs provide more detailed answers to six recommendations, and the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs provide more detailed answers to six recommendations.