The Justice Department’s investigation significantly escalates the level of scrutiny faced by the cemetery, and the probe joins several ongoing inquiries by Congress, which last year passed a law mandating that the cemetery verify that remains are properly accounted for at every one of its 330,000 graves. The law also requires the Government Accountability Office to look into the cemetery’s contract management procedures, and whether the Army-run cemetery should be turned over to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees 131 national cemeteries.
In a report released last June, the Army inspector general found widespread problems at the cemetery: a dysfunctional management system; millions wasted on information technology contracts that produced useless results; misplaced and misidentified remains; and at least four cases in which crematory urns had been dug up and dumped in a dirt pile.
As a result, the cemetery’s top officials — Superintendent John C. Metzler Jr. and Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham — were forced out, though they remained eligible for full retirement benefits. The cemetery has been under new management for a year, but officials have continued to discover burial problems, including a mass grave that held eight sets of cremated remains.
One of the Congressional investigations into Arlington National Cemetery was spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. In the accompanying video, Sen. McCaskill is shown giving the opening statement at the committee hearing: