By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON - The top two officials in charge of Arlington National Cemetery were disciplined after an Army investigation found the cemetery's management to be "dysfunctional," Army Secretary John M. McHugh announced Thursday at the Pentagon.
The Army inspector general completed a months-long report on June 8 that identified 76 separate deficiencies as well as 101 recommendations to improve operations at Arlington National Cemetery. Most significantly, the report found poor recordkeeping allowed occupied gravesites to be improperly marked or often not marked at all.
The Army stripped Superintendent John Metzler of all authority, but he will remain on staff until his retirement July 2. His deputy, Thurman Higgenbotham, was placed on administrative leave pending additional personnel actions.
The report determined the improper internment of remains, including the loss of accountability for remains, names and graves listed as empty, McHugh said. McHugh also cited improper maintenance and cleaning of graves.
McHugh established a new position to oversee the Army National Cemeteries Program. Katherine Condon was appointed executive director of the cemeteries program and she "has total supervisory powers pertaining to all business and operational activities associated with Army cemeteries," the secretary said.
Condon served as the senior civilian for the Army Material Command before accepting the position.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki also agreed to lend his department's expertise in cemetery operations. Patrick K. Hallinan, director of the Office of Field Programs for the VA, will be temporarily reassigned as Arlington's superintendent. Hallinan currently oversees 130 national cemeteries.
Also, McHugh established an Army National Cemetery Advisory Commission. Former Sens. Bob Dole and Max Cleland are charged with leading the group. Dole co-chaired a commission that investigated deficiencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007, and Cleland is a former VA secretary.
"On behalf of the United States Army and on behalf of myself, I deeply apologize to the families of the honored fallen resting in that hallowed ground who may now question the care afforded to their loved ones," McHugh said.
The Army and Arlington National Cemetery