Sen. McCaskill examines report of discrepancies at Arlington National Cemetery

Monday, July 26, 2010 | 4:36 p.m. CDT; updated 10:00 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Sen. Claire McCaskill spoke outside the Boone County Courthouse in front of the war memorial on July 26. McCaskill discussed the investigation of mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery.

COLUMBIA — Sen. Claire McCaskill stood in front of monuments that list the Boone County veterans who died in war and explained the "heartbreaking incompetence" at Arlington National Cemetery, which resulted in misplaced headstones.

"Bodies of fallen heroes have been misplaced," McCaskill said Monday afternoon during a news conference outside the Boone County Courthouse. McCaskill cited contract mismanagement over the past decade as the culprit. She said there was waste and maybe fraud.

McCaskill said the the maps, tombs and paper records do not match at the northern Virginia cemetery.

She said that, a month ago, the inspector general of the Army issued a report that found hundreds of discrepancies at the cemetery. The report only audited a small section of the cemetery and McCaskill said there are probably "thousands of misplaced bodies."

McCaskill is the chair of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs’ subcommittee on contracting oversight. She said her committee is holding a hearing to determine how and why the problems occurred and then try to decide how to correct the situation.

According to a news release from McCaskill's office, the problems result from a failed effort to digitize the cemetery’s burial records. The records are in paper form even though the military spent more than $5.5 million on multiple contracts over seven years to convert them to digital form.

McCaskill said the Department of Veterans Affairs runs Missouri cemeteries and uses a "good software system." She said that the VA offered the Army its system to use at Arlington but the Army wanted to buy its own. McCaskill said the $5.5 million was supposed to buy a new computer system, but there still is not one in place. She said she hopes that Arlington can begin to use the VA system.

The hearing will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday and will be broadcast online.

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