News / USA

Hagel Revamps Effort to Find US Troops Missing From Foreign Wars

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers questions from the media during a press conference held in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room, March 31, 2014.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers questions from the media during a press conference held in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room, March 31, 2014.
Reuters
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday ordered the Pentagon to reorganize its much-criticized effort to account for U.S. troops missing from foreign wars, creating a single agency to improve accountability and speed recovery and identification of remains.
 
Hagel's announcement came as the U.S. Congress is putting pressure on the Defense Department to boost its accounting for some 83,000 missing U.S. troops - about 73,000 from World War II and 10,000 from other conflicts.
 
The Pentagon spends about $100 million per year on the effort and identifies the remains of about 70 people annually, but it is under a congressional mandate to boost its capacity to 200 annually by the 2015 fiscal year beginning in October.
 
“There's not a more poignant, emotional, important issue in our society today ... than you take care of the people who gave their lives to this country, and you take care of their families,” Hagel told a Pentagon news conference.
 
“We will continue to do everything we can to account for and bring as many of our missing and fallen service personnel as possible home here to the United States,” he said.
 
An investigation by the Government Accountability Office last year said the effort to recover and identify missing military personnel was “undermined by longstanding leadership weaknesses and a fragmented organizational structure.”
 
Hagel ordered the Pentagon to consolidate two different offices involved in the effort to account for missing personnel, as well as parts of an Air Force laboratory, into a single agency to be led by a civilian appointee.
 
“By consolidating functions, we will resolve issues of duplication and inefficiency and build a stronger, more transparent and more responsive organization,” Hagel said.
 
He said the new organization would be responsible for all communications with family members of troops missing from past conflicts, giving them a single point of contact for information.
 
Hagel said a single military medical examiner would be named as the authority responsible for identifications, and that the agency would create a centralized database and case management system to track information about missing troops.
 
The Pentagon chief said he would work with Congress to consolidate all funding for the accounting mission under the new agency.
 
Mike Lumpkin, the acting undersecretary of defense for policy, said later the Pentagon spends about $100 million annually to locate and identify the remains of missing American military personnel. He said the funding commitment was expected to remain the same for the new agency.
 
Lumpkin, who crafted the recommendations for the overhaul, told reporters the current effort was hampered by “outdated, institutionalized thinking.” He said the new agency needed to “break away from the traditional way of doing business.”
 
He said that meant not only working the issues in-house at the Defense Department, but also partnering with outside groups that work on related issues, such as universities or people doing research on genealogy or searching for lost planes.
 
Of the approximately 83,000 missing U.S. military personnel, some 43,000 are considered unrecoverable without additional information or the discovery of new technologies.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs