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Opening Statement of Hon. Jerry McNerney, Ranking Democratic Member, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would like to thank you for holding today’s hearing on an Update on reform and Progress at Arlington National Cemetery.

This hearing follows up on a June 23, 2011 Subcommittee hearing on this issue where numerous concerns were raised and discussed, particularly in regards to archaic paper-based record keeping, inappropriate contracting and management, and mistaken identities of gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery.

I think we all agree that Arlington National Cemetery is an unparalleled national treasure that serves a very unique mission.  As the preferred burial site for many of America’s veterans and dignitaries, including U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, and many of those who died in the attack on September 11, 2001, these hallowed grounds should be maintained and operated at the highest level of excellence.

Today, we will be examining the recently issued report from the Army Inspector General which includes 31 observations and 53 recommendations.  On September 18, 2011, the Secretary of the Army, as directed by P.L. 111-339, a law which outlines the required reports regarding Arlington National Cemetery, also issued his assessment to Congress of the DoD IG’s recommendations and observations. 

I am glad that we will be able to evaluate the findings in the Secretary’s report as well.  More importantly, I am pleased that both reports indicate that the mismanagement and dysfunction found during the Army’s original investigation in the summer of 2010 no longer exist.  However, I know that problems of the magnitude plaguing Arlington in the past will not magically go away.

As such, I look forward to hearing more from our witnesses today about the work that remains to ensure the proper operations, management, and maintenance of this revered site.  I also want to delve further into the current reforms underway to make sure that we stay on the right track of increased efficiency and efficacy.

I would like to thank our witnesses for reappearing before us today.  I commend the dedication that Ms. Kathryn A. Condon, the Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries Programs, has brought with her, along with Mr. Pat Hallinan, the Superintendant formerly with VA’s National Cemetery Administration.

Thank you both for your hard work and leadership thus far.  As you re-organize, re-train and re-tool, I hope that you will continue in this vein—our veterans and their loved ones deserve no less.

I yield back.