The objective was to assess the Department's programs and practices concerning the identification and repatriation of the remains of the Nation's missing in action (MIA) from past armed conflicts. This included the overall accounting community organization and effectiveness, issues raised about possible inappropriate official travel, and allegations made by past and present personnel assigned to the mission concerning poor leadership and mismanagement. In addition, we were asked to identify any other deficiencies related to the administration of programs carried out by the Defense Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing Personnel Office, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), and other members of the accounting community that have impeded or could impede its ability to accomplish the identification and repatriation mission.
We found the DoD personnel assigned to the accounting community to be fully cognizant of the importance of the mission and highly dedicated to its accomplishment. However, the community has not been able to reach its full potential to perform effectively and efficiently. Nor has it met the long-standing expectations of the surviving family members still hoping for closure on the loss of their loved ones.
Upon their return from field work, the assessment team briefed the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy on our preliminary observations and recommendations. Subsequently, the Secretary of Defense directed far-reaching organizational changes to the accounting community, which were consistent with our preliminary observations and recommendations.
In addition to the Secretary’s broad organizational changes, our assessment team identified a number of key issues which need to be addressed.
- The accounting community lacks:
- a clearly defined mission and supporting resources,
- a comprehensive, fully coordinated strategic plan, and
- a process for addressing the estimated 50,000 personnel whose ships or aircraft were lost at sea and whose remains are not likely recoverable, but who are still considered MIA.
- Some JPAC personnel were not conducting temporary duty travel in compliance with applicable guidance.
- More than 40 current and former employees alleged misconduct.
We recommend the DoD:
- define a single mission with supporting resources,
- develop a strategic plan, and
- develop policy to address MIAs not likely to be recovered, including personnel lost at sea.
JPAC must update travel procedures, and establish controls to ensure better compliance with applicable travel regulations. The Secretary should address the misconduct allegations and then take corrective action.
Management Comments and Our Response
The Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Commander, Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command provided comments to this report. The Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office provided unsolicited comments which we considered and acted upon as required. Management concurred with all 21 recommendations.
This report is a result of Project No. D2014-D00SPO-0073.000.