Sen. Ayotte: Need a 'Full Investigation' Into MIA/POW Agency

Image: Sen. Ayotte: Need a 'Full Investigation' Into MIA/POW Agency

Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 08:35 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Sen. Kelly Ayotte has called for a congressional investigation of a Pentagon agency charged with accounting for tens of thousands of Americans missing in action from foreign wars after reviewing documents provided by Stars and Stripes alleging massive wrongdoing and violations of scientific ethics.

"These charges echo concerns that have been raised before about JPAC's performance, and there needs to be a full investigation," the New Hampshire Republican, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the newspaper.

Ayotte was referring to the Department of Defense's Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC). She reviewed documents provided by Stars and Stripes that alleged a pattern of malfeasance at the agency.

The documents contend that recovery and identification efforts of soldiers' remains linked to World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War have been botched, Stars and Stripes reports.

They also detail the possible desecration and mishandling of remains, the agency's failure to keep critical records — even how some sites have been erroneously excavated and how taxpayer money has been wasted because some efforts had to be duplicated due to shoddy workmanship.

News reports surfaced last year that an internal Pentagon study of JPAC showed it to be woefully inept, "acutely dysfunctional," — even corrupt. The command, once headed by a two-star military general, was found to be digging up too few clues on former battlefields, relying on inaccurate databases, and engaging in expensive "boondoggles" in Europe and elsewhere, the study concluded.

In North Korea, for instance, JPAC was snookered into digging up remains between 1996 and 2000 that the North Koreans apparently had taken out of storage and planted in former American fighting positions, the report said.

Washington paid the North Koreans hundreds of thousands of dollars to "support" these excavations.

The Stars and Stripes report cites a 2011 memo from a JPAC forensic anthropologist to the agency's commander at the time detailing myriad problems with its Central Identification Laboratory.

The anthropologist, Jay Silverstein, told Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Tom that the lab made "unsubstantiated determinations" of several military sites that he was very familiar with because "scientific data contradicted their recommendations and conclusions," Stars and Stripes reports.

Silverstein also told Tom, who served as JPAC commander until October 2012, that the facility repeatedly wasted taxpayer money on missions to the sites because of poor work and that it could not properly track JPAC activities or "elaborate on recovery efforts due to improper record-keeping," the newspaper reports.

JPAC officials declined to make Silverstein available for an official interview to Stars and Stripes, and he declined to comment.

"The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is permeated by in-fighting, retaliation, and childish behavior, to the point that I have serious doubts as to how any work gets done," Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told the newspaper.

"The command's management and Defense Department leadership have failed to adequately address these problems, and that failure dishonors the mission, and dishonors those who have served our country," she said. "The Pentagon needs to take action now, and I will be pursuing all necessary reforms to ensure that our sacred obligation to our POW/MIA is honored."

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