Report | May 20, 2019

Evaluation of Operations and Management of Arlington and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Military Cemeteries DODIG-2019-083

Evaluations

Publicly released: May 22, 2019

Objective

This is one of two reports evaluating the operations and management of military cemeteries under the control of the Military Departments.

This report evaluates the operations and management of Army National Military Cemeteries (ANMC), consisting of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery (SAHNC). Specifically we:

  • verified completion of actions taken by the ANC in response to recommendations from the previous report, DODIG-2014-026, “Assessment of Arlington and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemeteries,” December 20, 2013, (Revised May 20, 2019);
     
  • evaluated gravesite accountability, including the reliability of information technology systems used to schedule, account for, and accurately document burials at the ANC and SAHNC;
     
  • reviewed execution and oversight of contract support for the ANC and SAHNC;
     
  • reviewed implementation of Army responsibilities in title 10, United States Code, chapter 446, “Army National Military Cemeteries,” specifically the responsibilities assigned to the Executive Director of ANMC; and
     
  • examined the causes of the wide range of wait times for pending interments and inurnments at the ANC.

Our other report, DODIG-2019-084, “Evaluation of the Operations and Management of Military Cemeteries,” May 20, 2019, summarizes the operations and management at the remaining 36 military cemeteries located on current and former military installations inside and outside the United States.

Background

In 2010, public and congressional concerns about the management and operations at the ANC resulted in the enactment of Public Law 111-339, “Reports on Management of Arlington National Cemetery,” which directed the Secretary of the Army to inspect the ANC annually, from 2011 to 2013. The Army Inspector General conducted these inspections, which verified whether cemetery officials had corrected deficiencies and observations identified in 2010 and 2011, identified additional issues regarding cemetery operations, and recommended related corrective actions. The Secretary of the Army forwarded the reports to Congress, and the Army took actions in response.

In 2010, the Secretary of the Army established the position of Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries and assigned the incumbent the authority for development, operation, management, administration, and oversight of the ANC and SAHNC. This authority previously belonged to the Commander of the Military District of Washington.

Congress codified this change in section 591 of Public Law 112‑81, “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.” This law amended title 10, United States Code, by inserting chapter 446, “Army National Military Cemeteries,” and requiring digitization of all ANC burial records.

In 2011 the ANC staff developed the ANC Research Tool to complete baseline accountability at ANC as required by Public Law 111-339. The ANC staff validated records of burial at the ANC and migrated them into the ANC burial system of record, the Interment Services System. In 2012, the ANC redesigned Interment Services System with a web‑interface that allows public access (ANC Explorer).

ANC personnel developed the ANMC Research Tool in 2013. They applied lessons learned from the A NC Research Tool to the SAHNC and the other Army cemeteries to validate records of burials. ANC personnel completed that effort in August 2018.

The ANC staff is replacing the Interment Services System with the Enterprise Interment Services System. This update includes six modules: Burial Request, Admin, Marker Ordering, Reporting and Dashboard, Resources and Scheduling, and Quality Assurance. ANC staff fielded the Burial Request module in July 2018, eliminating the manual transfer of information between databases and closing out the remaining open recommendation from our 2013 report.

ANC fielding of the remaining modules of the Enterprise Interment Services System during FYs 2019 and 2020 will result in that system becoming the sole system of record for ANC, SAHNC, and all Army cemeteries.

Findings

Our prior report on the ANC and SAHNC included 14 recommendations related to cemetery operations, funding, and appearance. We determined that, as of September 2018, management had taken appropriate action to close all of these recommendations.

In this evaluation, we concluded that gravesite accountability existed if:

  • the names of people buried in the cemetery appeared in the ANC database,
     
  • burial locations for individuals listed in the database corresponded to that individual’s gravesite, and
     
  • visitors with the correct name or location of an individual could find that individual’s memorial or burial site.

In late 2018, the ANC was the final resting place for over 375,000 decedents and had over 67,000 available spaces. We evaluated a random sample of 553 burials and 145 available spaces at the ANC.

We found no gravesite accountability errors in the records. Specifically, we verified gravesite locations, names, and dates between the ANC Interment Services System database and the ANC public website, and we verified that the database and website were accurate by observing the actual gravesites.

However, we identified 69 potential discrepancies in the ANC records that did not affect gravesite accountability, in which one or more of the data elements were inconsistent among the Interment Services System database, the website, and the gravesite. For example, the first name of the decedent on the grave marker and in the records was spelled differently. ANC officials were aware of all but 5 of these 69 discrepancies. When we identified these five additional discrepancies, ANC officials resolved them by applying their business rules to update the Interment Services System database.

The SAHNC remains an active cemetery and is the burial location for more than 14,000 veterans. Our evaluation of a random sample of 290 burials and 62 available spaces at the SAHNC found 5 errors affecting gravesite accountability in its records. In two cases, the name of the decedents in our sample was not on the grave marker at the corresponding location in the cemetery. According to information in the database, the missing names belonged to family members who died in 1942 and 1943. In two other cases, what were coded as empty plots in the database contained decedents. Cemetery officials were aware of the burials, but had not yet placed headstones or temporary markers at the gravesites. In the fifth instance, the location of the decedent in the database did not match the location of the headstone.

We also evaluated four information technology systems that support ANMC gravesite accountability: Remedy Case Management, Interment Services System, ANC Mapper Geographical Information, and ANC Explorer. These systems support the scheduling, conduct, and tracking of burials throughout the cemeteries. We evaluated whether there was agreement among the data stored in these systems. We also examined the data consistency with physical gravesites. In addition, we reviewed ANC staff data entry procedures. We concluded that these systems were sufficiently reliable for establishing and maintaining gravesite accountability.

We also evaluated the Army’s implementation of its responsibilities of cemetery management codified in title 10, United States Code, chapter 446, “Army National Military Cemeteries,” which includes burial policy, oversight, and the assignment of the Executive Director and Superintendent. We determined that the Army has not issued updated versions of Army Regulation 290‑5 and Army Pamphlet 290‑5, assigning and detailing responsibilities for the operation and management of Army cemeteries. Delays in issuing these policies hinder full implementation of United States Code provisions applicable to the ANMC.

We did not identify any areas of concern regarding contract support at the ANMC cemeteries. The ANC used a Contract Support Element and Mission Installations Contracting Command at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to manage 46 ongoing contracts related to operations and management of the ANC. Two full-time onsite contracting officers and 30 trained contract officer representatives performed oversight. By observation of the cemetery and review of contract documentation, we determined that the contractors were supporting ANC and SAHNC operations as required.

Finally, in this evaluation, we determined that the wait time for a burial at the ANC can take from 6 to 49 weeks from the initial request until the actual service. We also determined that eligibility criteria affects the potential total number of burials, while the advancing age and mortality of the veterans of World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia conflicts affects the frequency of burial requests. In addition, family responsiveness and decisions regarding the type of honors often can lengthen the time from burial request to burial service. While the ANC system for scheduling and conducting burials efficiently manages the 3,471 open burial requests, the root cause for extended wait times is eligibility criteria that results in a volume of requests that exceed the resources available on a daily basis for the conduct of burials.

Recommendations

We recommend that the ANMC Executive Director:

  • implement and field the quality assurance module in the Enterprise Interment Services System, the future sole system for all Army cemeteries, to adjudicate for accuracy all data merged from the ANC Research Tool, the ANMC Research Tool, and the current Interment Services System;
     
  • ensure timely and proper commemoration (designation of the burial site with a temporary or permanent marker) of all decedent burials in accordance with policy;
     
  • direct a census review of SAHNC burial sites during transition from the ANMC Research Tool to the Enterprise Interment Services System to ensure the accurate and complete transfer of information; and
     
  • finalize and publish the updated drafts of Army Regulation 290-5, “Army Cemeteries,” and Army Pamphlet 290-5, “Administration, Operation, and Maintenance of Army Cemeteries,” to fully implement the United States Code provisions applicable to operations of the ANC and SAHNC.

Management Comments and Our Response

The ANMC Executive Director agreed with our recommendations. The Executive Director described the deliberate adjudication process for data anomalies associated with the quality assurance module to be included in the Enterprise Interment Services System, scheduled for fielding during FY 2020. The Executive Director also stated that the Enterprise Interment Services System will become the sole system to address discrepancies at both national cemeteries and all other Army cemeteries. The quality control module embedded in this system is intended to address discrepancies in historic records that are not fully resolved by placing those records in a status intended for resolution. The Executive Director also stated that the Code of Federal Regulations, the draft Army Regulation 290‑5, and Department of the Army Pamphlet 290-5 are in final stages of coordination and should be published by summer 2019.

The fielding of the Enterprise Interment Services System, if implemented as described by the Executive Director, meets the intent of our first three recommendations and the publishing of updated guidance meets the intent of the fourth. Therefore, the recommendations are resolved but remain open. We will close these recommendations once the ANC fields the Enterprise Interment Services System and the Executive Director completes publication of the draft Army Regulation290-5 and Department of the Army Pamphlet 290-5 for use by Army cemeteries.

This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D00SP0-0019.000