Font Size Down Font Size Up Reset Font Size

Sign Up for Committee Updates

 

Witness Testimony of Kathryn A. Condon, Executive Director, National Cemeteries Program, Office of the Secretary of the Army, Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense

Executive Summary

To the credit of the leadership and the workforce at Arlington National Cemetery, the DAIG report indicates that significant progress has been made in all aspects of the cemetery's performance, accountability and modernization. The following bullets demonstrate the progress that has been, and continues to be made to restore the Nation's confidence in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).

  • Workforce and Training: ANC has increased the end strength by 50 percent filling positions in key areas to efficiently run its complex missions. A priority for ANC leadership is training the work force to industry best practices, standards and measures, as well as implementing standards operations and an internal assessment program.
  • Accountability: Restoring faith and confidence of the American people starts with demonstrating a greater sense of accountability in all aspects of Arlington National Cemetery. Leveraging the Gravesite Accountability Task Force is the method ANC is using to establish an accountability baseline of all gravesites and inurnment niches. The implementation of the General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS) allows Arlington to be fiscally fully transparent and provide fiscal stewardship of all funds. Validating ANC contract requirements and recompeting all service contracts reduced the number of total service contracts from 26 to 16. Arlington also has instituted disciplined processes with oversight and direction to enhance procurement operations.
  • Customer Focus: The care families deserve in their time of need requires a prompt, compassionate and professional engagement from ANC. As a result of family member inquires, we have conducted 16 physical gravesite verifications. Additionally, to streamline all customer interactions, ANC implemented the Consolidated Call Center and launched a new user friendly Web site allowing us to communicate in a relevant way with our stakeholders.
  • Advisory Commission: As directed by the Secretary of the Army, the Army National Cemeteries Commission is on track to hold its first meeting this fall. This Federal Advisory Commission will provide an independent and holistic look at the future of Arlington and how best the Army and the Department of Defense can maintain the heritage of these scared burial grounds.
  • Sustaining ANC: ANC has accelerated the construction of Columbarium Court 9, which will add 20,000 niches for inurnment services. Expansion plans for Arlington include 31 acres of undeveloped land known as the Millennium Project and 42 acres that will come with the Navy Annex property which will be acquired at the end of the calendar year.

ANC is dedicated to ensuring a place for the public to Honor, Remember and Explore the rich history of this great Nation.  The cemetery had increased--and continues to work harder--its capacity to reach every generation in a relevant and compelling way.


Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to provide an update on progress at Arlington National Cemetery.

INTRODUCTION

On June 10, 2010 circumstances at ANC came to light that degraded the trust and confidence of the American public.  As you know, Mr. Chairman, widespread reports caused us all extreme concern regarding the level of standards and the quality of care taken to inter our nation’s veterans and their loved ones at Arlington Cemetery.

After conducting an intensive review of Cemetery operations, a salient fact emerged.  The main contributor to the state of Arlington at that time can be described as a lack of standards, a reliance on a number of ineffective business and operational practices and ineffective implementation of technology solutions.  The organization still used typewriters to record critical information about veterans’ interment services and index cards held the record of burial for those laid to rest at Arlington.  The skills of the workforce were misaligned to organizational needs and training was inadequate to properly and effectively perform assigned duties.  Perhaps most important: effective rigor was not in place to maintain a standard of accountability befitting our veterans and their families.  We have addressed this lack of standards and we are meeting the accountability challenge.  Arlington now is on the path to meet the high quality standards expected of our nation’s preeminent military cemetery.

Before addressing the Inspector General Report, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the courage and leadership of the Secretary of the Army, the Hon. John McHugh, who recognized the challenges and took bold steps.  Secretary McHugh brought to bear the resources required from across the United States Army and Department of Defense to make meaningful corrections.  We are grateful and honored that Secretary McHugh has placed his trust in our leadership and abilities to right the wrongs at Arlington.

PROGRESS AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

To be sure, Mr. Chairman, we have made tremendous progress at Arlington National Cemetery.  Although much has been accomplished, we have much work to do.  Yet, it is important that we recognize the diligent efforts put forth by the work force each day.  When we arrived at the cemetery 15 month ago, we found a work force that was demoralized and lacked direction.  Today that is no longer true. 

Additionally Mr. Chairman, we found capability gaps in key areas of the Cemetery staff that needed to be addressed to move forward.  The first gap filled to rebuild the work force was hiring one ofthe most experienced, knowledgeable cemetery administrators in the land, Mr. Patrick Hallinan, as the ANC Superintendent.  His 35 years in the industry set the pace for excellence by personally training the cemetery operations workforce to effectively accomplish the extraordinary mission at Arlington.

Over the past year, we filled positions in other key areas important to efficiently run the complex missions of Arlington National Cemetery.  We increased work force end strength by nearly 50% and implemented a new organizational structure to manage the new augmented workforce.  The organization already has made significant and measurable improvement and we will continue to evolve to meet/exceed the expectations of our many stakeholders. 

We continue to implement a comprehensive training program for our workforce.  Starting with a six-step chain of custody process, implemented by Superintendent Hallinan, the staff is focused on maintaining positive identification of remains during pre-burial activities and ensures positive identification of remains when disinterment is required.  These identification practices apply to all types of receptacles for remains.  Additionally, to aid with the oversight of fiscal stewardship, several members of the work force have successfully completed contracting officer representative, regulatory ethics, and government purchase card program training. 

We have stood up the Gravesite Accountability Task Force; a joint military-civilian team focused on driving greater accountability and restoring faith and confidence of the American people.  The actions of the Task Force will meet and exceed requirements of Army Directive 2010-04 and Public Law 111-339.  The Accountability Task Force has digitally photographed 100% of the markers and niche covers and initiated a digital scan of all supporting paper records.  We have leveraged Army technology experts, notably at the Army Data Center Fairfield, California, now named The Army Analytics Group, to create the tools necessary to review and electronically cross reference all of our records dating back to the Civil War.  Task Force personnel work daily reviewing every record and assembling a single authoritative data base for Arlington National Cemetery.  The business processes built by the Gravesite Accountability Task Force are now the day-to-day standards and practices which the workforce applies to ensure the validation process is sustained as we move forward.

We have resolved the 211 map discrepancies identified in the 2010 Inspector General report over the past year.  As well, as a result of family member inquiries, we have conducted 16 physical gravesite verifications.

Mr. Chairman, the Army has made a tremendous leap in effective use of technology at Arlington, bringing the cemetery into compliance with information assurance requirements established by the Army’s Chief Information Officer.  We have replaced the paper records of the past, with a digital system that uses industry best practices in database management.  To schedule interments, our team is leveraging a state-of-the-art system that ensures visibility for all appropriate stakeholders and an ability to share information like never before.  We have initiated a Geospatial Application Development initiative at Arlington.  This will form a "Google-maps” like information system that enables the Cemetery to better manage the grounds, grave and niche assignments and provide street directions and site locations to our guests.  Arlington has embarked on an all-encompassing effort to develop baseline enterprise architecture.  This formal review will capture all business processes and dependencies and drive the development of integrated solutions.  By formally documenting all requirements, information technology can be applied in a consistent way that eliminates redundancy while increasing availability and most importantly, accuracy of cemetery data.

Most recently, we launched a new Arlington National Cemetery web site that rivals the looks and functionality of any web site on the Internet.  I encourage you to review the new website and see firsthand how we communicate in a more relevant way with our stakeholders. 

We have ensured fiscal accountability and stewardship through the implementation of the General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS) to ensure full visibility on all cemetery expenditures.  GFEBS allows  Arlington to be fully transparent and provide fiscal stewardship of all funds expenditures, accurately capturing the true cost to operate this national shrine on an annual basis.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, Arlington encountered challenges in the area of contracting resulting in the improper management of millions-of-taxpayer dollars.  Over the last year, we have validated Arlington’s contract requirements and re-competed all service contracts.  In so doing, we reduced the number of total service contracts from 26to 16.

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY: MOVING FORWARD

While we have had to look back over the past 15 months to affect meaningful change at Arlington, we also have set the pace for the future of these hallowed grounds. 

In late August, the Army National Cemeteries Commission, as directed by Secretary McHugh, had eight of nine nominees approved for appointment by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  This Federal Advisory Commission will provide an independent and holistic look at the future of Arlington and how best the Army and the Department of Defense can continue the legacy of dignified services on these hallowed burial grounds for our nation’s veterans and their families while preserving the rich history of the 628 acres nestled along the rolling hills across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital.

We have directed the development of a revised Master Plan.  As part of that effort, the cemetery has put in place a plan for interring and inurning remains beyond 2016, the year it presently is projected to run out of above ground inurnment space.  To meet burial needs for all veterans, we have accelerated plans for erecting an additional 20,000-niche columbarium to extend above ground burial space to last until 2024. Additionally, we re-evaluated and developed new options for the planned development associated with the Millennium Project, which also provides for additional above and below ground burial space from undeveloped land from adjoining Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall.   The United States Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District is applying best practices to determine the most effective and efficient cemeterial use of this land as well as the Navy Annex property to be acquired at the end of this calendar year.

Arlington National Cemetery is a place available for every generation to Honor, Remember, and Explore the depths of the creation of this great Nation and the heroes which have made incredible sacrifices for freedom.  We have greatly increased our capacity to reach every generation through our new web site which veterans, family members and children will find engaging, user friendly, and informative.  We want all to explore the cemetery’s rich history, to touch the final resting place of their loved ones who have sacrificed for our nation’s freedoms, and to enjoy the landscape of our nation’s capital.  Nowhere else in the world can one find the magnificent social and military history of the Civil War, witness first-hand our nation’s reverence for our war dead at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and memorialize significant National events such as space shuttle tragedies and the attacks of 9/11.  We owe our veterans, their families and all future generations a full accounting at Arlington National Cemetery and that is exactly what we intend to provide.  We look to the future to make Arlington a place to Honor, Remember, Explore.

CONCLUSION

Conducting military burial services with dignity, honor and precision has been a part of the fabric of Arlington National Cemetery since its very first burial more than 150 years ago. Those at Arlington who lay to rest our national heroes and their families have always had a special, unbreakable bond with the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen of this nation’s fighting forces.  During the average of 27 services per day at Arlington, they lay to rest one of their own.  We are proud of the work we have accomplished over the last 15 months to bring all aspects of Arlington in line with the rich, proud and dignified traditions befitting our nation’s military heroes.

Thank you for your attention today and for allowing me to share our progress to date.  I look forward to answering your questions.