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Witness Testimony of Mr. John C. Metzler Jr., Arlington National Cemetery, Superintendent, Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense, Also on behalf of the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemeteries

Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee:

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee in support of the Department of the Army’s Cemeterial Expenses program, I am testifying on behalf of the Secretary of the Army, who is responsible for operating and maintaining Arlington and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemeteries, as well as making necessary capital improvements to ensure their long-term viability.

Arlington National Cemetery is the Nation’s premier military cemetery.  It is an honor to represent this cemetery and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.  On behalf of these two cemeteries and the Department of the Army, I would like to express our appreciation for the support that Congress has provided over the years.

FISCAL YEAR 2008 BUDGET OVERVIEW

The FY 2008 budget is $26,892,000, which is $342,000 more than the FY 2007 request of $26,550,000.  The FY 2008 budget will support Arlington National Cemetery’s efforts to improve its infrastructure and continue working toward implementation of its Ten-year Capital Investment Plan.  The funds requested are adequate to support the work force, assure adequate maintenance of buildings and grounds, acquire necessary supplies and equipment, and provide the standards of service expected at Arlington and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemeteries.  It should be noted that operation and maintenance costs are increasing as the cemetery expands and improvements are made in the overall appearance of this national shrine.

GRAVESITE DEVELOPMENT

The budget also includes funds to pursue expansion efforts needed to ensure that Arlington National Cemetery remains an active burial place for service men and women into the next century.  The following table displays how long gravesites will remain available in both developed and undeveloped areas that are currently part of the Cemetery.  It is presented to illustrate the importance of proceeding with expansion projects in a timely manner so that there will be no disruption in services for deceased veterans and to relieve significant crowding of funeral services.  Significant crowding is already occurring due to the ever-shrinking land available in the Cemetery.  This is compromising the dignity of funerals by distracting families at ongoing nearby services, as well as disruptions caused by daily maintenance required to be performed at new gravesites.

Note that the gravesite capacity shown in the table for the undeveloped area includes Project 90 and utility relocations, but does not include the Millennium Project.  Nor does the table reflect future land expansion projects programmed in the Ten-year Capital Investment Plan, such as the Navy Annex and Ft. Myer parking lot, which are currently authorized and addressed in the Concept Land Utilization Plan. 

Arlington National Cemetery

Gravesite Capacity as of September 30, 2006

Gravesite Capacity - Developed Areas

Total Gravesites Used

Gravesites Currently Available

Year
Available Capacity Exhausted

Gravesite Capacity - Undeveloped
Area

Total Gravesite Capacity

Year
Total Capacity Exhausted

243,373

221,453

21,920

2015

36,000

279,373

2030

Project 90 Land Development.  As the table illustrates, capacity in the currently developed area of Arlington National Cemetery is becoming more concentrated and will be exhausted by 2015.  In order to extend the Cemetery’s useful life to 2030, it was necessary to develop the 40 acres of open land within its current boundaries known as Project 90.  This involved the development of gravesite areas, roads, utilities and a boundary wall with niches for the placement of cremated remains.  Approximately 26,000 additional gravesites and 5,000 niches will be provided when the development is complete.

Phase I of the Project 90 land development effort, which consisted of grading the site, relocating utilities, constructing roads and landscaping gravesite areas, is complete.  Phase II primarily entails construction of a new boundary niche wall that will hold the ashes of cremated remains on the inside of the wall.  The niches and covers will be the same size and resemble those currently used at the existing Columbarium Complex.  Construction of Phase II is scheduled to begin in FY 2007 and be completed in FY 2009, using prior year appropriations.  At the current rate of niche use (without Phase II of Project 90), it is estimated that the additional niches will be needed by the year 2012.

Utility Relocations.  Arlington County is planning to replace an aging sanitary sewer line that runs through Arlington National Cemetery with a new line known as the Potomac Interceptor. The presence of the existing sewer line prevents burials in approximately ten acres of land along Eisenhower Drive.  The new sewer line would be placed directly under the existing roadway, and if the other utilities (i.e., electric, telephone and water) that run through that area are also relocated, it is estimated that approximately eight to ten thousand more gravesites could be developed.  As directed in House Report 109-464 accompanying the FY 2007 appropriations bill, a report is being prepared to determine what needs to be done to relocate the utilities so that the land can be developed for gravesites.  Toward that end, $1,700,000 is included in the FY 2008 budget to move the Federally owned water line.

Phase IV B Columbarium Complex.  As the option for cremation becomes more acceptable and because eligibility in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery is less restrictive than eligibility for in-ground interment, use of the Columbarium will increase. The recently completed Phase IV A court has 7,672 niches and Phase IV B will have about the same number. Construction of the next court began in Fiscal Year 2006 to be sure that niches will be available when required.

Ten-year Capital Investment Plan.  On February 5, 2007, the most recent update of the plan that identifies the Cemetery’s new construction, major rehabilitation, major maintenance and study proposals for the next ten years was provided to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.  It addresses projects identified in the 1998 Master Plan and other projects needed to ensure that the cemetery remains open for burials into the twenty-second century.  It also serves as a guide for annually recurring maintenance needs of the Cemetery.  

The FY 2008 budget includes $75,000 to continue developing and refining this multi-year plan for funding projects in a technically sound and financially efficient manner.  This is a living document that will be periodically updated to reflect the latest information, identify new requirements and improve the quality of cost estimates.  It is an essential tool in developing a credible long-term investment strategy and the budget recommendations that emanate from it.  

Concept Land Utilization Plan.  We have also developed a plan (transmitted to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies on October 27, 2000) that identifies the requirements for developing adjacent land for future expansion.  The first site to be developed is the Millennium Project, which consists of the development of 36 acres of land into gravesite areas, roads, utilities, columbarium walls, and a boundary wall with niches for the placement of cremated remains.  Approximately 19,000 additional gravesites and 26,000 niches will be provided when development is complete.  Actual yields could change significantly, depending upon final design.  The Millennium Project would extend the useful life of the Cemetery beyond 2025 to somewhere between 2038 and 2047, depending upon final implementation.

The Millennium Project consists of three parcels of land.  The first parcel (7 acres) is land within the boundaries of Arlington National Cemetery made available by demolition of the old warehouse buildings.  The second parcel (12 acres) was transferred to the Cemetery from the National Park Service on January 28, 2002, pursuant to the authority contained in Section 2863 of Public Law 107-107, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2002.  The final piece of the Millennium Project is a 13-acre parcel of adjacent land formerly owned by Fort Myer (picnic area), which was transferred to the Cemetery on January 21, 2004, in accordance with Section 2882 of the FY 2000 Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 106-65).   The first phase of construction is anticipated to start in FY 2007.

The Concept Land Utilization Plan also includes the Navy Annex and Fort Myer parking lot, which would extend the Cemetery’s life to somewhere between 2054 and 2068, again depending upon how these sites are ultimately developed.  Increasing capacity beyond this time frame will require additional land expansion for gravesites or more columbarium niches.

AMPHITHEATER RENOVATION/TOMB REPLACEMENT

The Memorial Amphitheater reception building has recently been renovated to address water proofing needs.  Problems with the aging structure included water damage throughout the building, interior drainage system, flooding in the women’s restroom and lower level chapel area.  Renovation addressed water damage throughout the structure and improving the general appearance of the building.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery has been deteriorating.  Replacement options are being considered as part of the National Historic Preservation Act consultation process.  At the conclusion of that process, we will know what work needs to be done, when it will need to be done and how much it will cost.  We will include any funding needs associated with the replacement in future budgets.

FUNERALS

In FY 2006, an all time record was set with 4,095 interments and 2,580 inurnments, of which 103 were related to the war on terror.  In FY 2007, we estimate there will be 4,084 interments and 2,600 inurnments.  Looking ahead to FY 2008, we estimate there will be 4,084 interments and 2,600 inurnments.

CEREMONIES AND VISITATION

Millions of visitors, both foreign and American, come to Arlington to view the Cemetery and participate in ceremonial events.  During FY 2006, about 3,400 ceremonies were conducted, with the President of the United States attending the ceremonies on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

During FY 2006, Arlington National Cemetery accommodated approximately 4 million visitors, making it one of the most visited historic sites in the National Capital Region.  A study conducted in the 1998/1999 time frame confirmed this estimate.  A customer survey system has been designed and will be implemented in conjunction with the Cemetery’s overall automation plan and will be used to collect, enter and analyze the survey data.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony.  I will be pleased to respond to questions from the Subcommittee.