Solution to Dover body scandal could lie in Arlington Cemetery

The blueprint already exists for helping the Air Force overcome the scandal involving the handling of the remains of soldiers at Dover Air Force Base, according to one U.S. senator.

Dover has been rocked by revelations about the mishandling of bodies of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Some may have been dumped in landfills.

The Air Force should use the processes and technology put in place at Arlington National Cemetery as the guideline for solving the problem, said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who was on hand at the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s TechCelebration dinner Monday night.

When Arlington’s scandal erupted in 2010, he turned to NVTC to ask if the tech community could help. It did and now the technology and processes used at the national cemetery are a model for others, he said.

“My first call tomorrow morning is to the Air Force secretary,” Warner said.

One of the biggest challenges for Arlington was figuring out how to accept the pro bono work offered by industry to solve the problem. The military aren’t used to getting things for free, said Army Lt. Col. John Schrader, who leads the effort at Arlington.

“This was not a technology problem, but an issue of leadership and process,” he said. “Now we have the processes and the leadership and we aren’t done yet.”

The problems were fixed by the existing staff at Arlington, they just needed the guidance and tools to get the job done, Schrader said.

The industry group was led by Booz Allen Hamilton, Mitre and Science Applications International Corp. and was co-chared by Bob Kahn of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives and George Newstrom, formerly CEO of Lee Technologies. The team included 16 other companies that volunteered time and expertise to the project. The team included:
  • ACS, a Xerox company
  • Blue Canopy
  • CACI International
  • CGI Federal
  • CNRI
  • Consumer Electronics Association
  • Computer Sciences Corp.
  • Hewlett Packard Co.
  • IBM Corp.
  • Maximus
  • Microsoft
  • Northfield Consulting Group
  • Salient Federal Solutions
  • SoltecOne
  • Synaptitude
  • Vistronix

All the companies were recognized at the TechCelebration dinner with the 2011 NVTC Chairman's Award.

Part of the solution the group recommended for Arlington National Cemetery included better case management methodologies, rigorous chain of custody processes, creation of a culture of high performance, automated scheduling and event planning, and an accountable and empowered project manager.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 15, 2011 SSG Jughead

As a Mortuary Affairs NCO during my last deployment here is what I found. IED's do much damage to the human body. After extracting the Human Reamins the remains are sent throught the pipeline. The vehicle then goes through sanitizing and due to the damage, now two days later and perhaps three sanitizing, now we find bone/tissue in the cab somewhere. We send this finding through the pipeline. Family has to be notified again! When does it stop? IED's do much damage. We do our best, who would think to look in the heater core?

Tue, Nov 15, 2011

Interesting, yet another article that states Arlington National received pro bono help. Ms. Condon wrote a response to our pro bono offer through Congress that it is against regulation for Arlington to accept such free assistance. How in the world will the tech community keep Dover from throwing away body parts? Is it going to come up with a catalogue of body parts via computer? What in the world is this Senator thinking? People do things right or wrong. It's about training and oversight, nothing else.

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