POW/MIA UPDATE: April 19, 2017

AMERICANS RECENTLY ACCOUNTED FOR: Most recently, DPAA’s March 28th Statistics listed three USMC personnel as recently accounted for: Captain John A. House of NY, Cpl Glyn L. Runnels, Jr., of AL, and LCpl John D. Killen, II, of IA. All were listed as KIA/BNR on June 30, 1967, in South Vietnam. Their remains were recovered in June, 2012, and identification was authorized on December 22, 2015.

The number still missing and otherwise unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is now 1,611. Hope-fully, these are the first of many to be announced as accounted for in 2017, though most had long ago been identified. Of the 1,611 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia or Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,258 (VN-463, VS-795); Laos-297; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. (Country-specific numbers fluctuate when investigations result in changes to loss locations.) Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains. The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 972.

Following is a breakdown by country of the 972 Americans accounted for since the April 30, 1975 end of the Vietnam War: Vietnam – 661, Laos – 268, Cambodia – 40, and the PRC – 3. In addition, 63 US personnel were accounted for between 1973 and 1975, for a grand total of 1,035. Of the 63, 9 were from Laos, 53 from Vietnam, and 1 from Cambodia. These Americans were accounted for by unilateral US efforts in areas where access was possible, not due to cooperation with the post-war governments of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Added together, a total of 276 have been recovered and identified from Laos, 715 from Vietnam, 41 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.

DPAA FIELD OPERATIONS: There is only one field operation now taking place, a WWII recovery operation in Tarawa, contracted by DPAA with History Flight, a partnership that has proven to be most effective. Due to budget constraints, no DPAA personnel are currently deployed to conduct Vietnam War investigations and recoveries; however, DIA’s Stony Beach specialists and DPAA Detachment-based personnel continue to pursue answers. DPAA recently had one Recovery Team (RT) conducting excavation operations in central Vietnam. Also, an Investigation Team (IT) conducted operations with the assistance of several US Veterans, and a Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducted investigations in late March. Three RTs conducted operations in Laos throughout the month of March, the third Joint Field Activity (JFA) of this fiscal year in Laos, attempting to excavate several sites to account for five US servicemen. Another RT operated throughout March, assisted by a former US Army Special Forces soldier who visited the site shortly after the incident. They were attempting to account for two US servicemen from an aircraft crash site in northern Cambodia, a Joint Field Activity (JFA) postponed from January and cut from 60 to 30 days,

VIETNAM WAR ACCOUNTING OPERATIONS REDUCED: DPAA drastically cut the Vietnam JFA in Vietnam that occurred in March. With initial plans to conduct multiple recovery operations and investigations, DPAA deployed only one IT and one RT, as well as a team to handle a Field Forensic Review (FFR) and a Joint Forensic Review (JFR). Thankfully, Vietnamese Government provided one Unilateral Recovery Team (URT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT).

The earlier JFA in Laos was also postponed by three weeks due to an aircraft breakdown and delay in Guam; however, the trilateral investigation reportedly began as scheduled on January 9th and the three RTs and one IT began three weeks late. The lost time was due to US budget constraints, NOT any obstruction from the Lao Government, and could not be recovered.

Of Note: Symbolic of how far the accounting mission has come: During January 8th-11th trilateral (SRV/KOC/LPDR) defense-related talks in Da Nang, Vietnamese Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich thanked the Cambodian Government for supporting Vietnam’s “search for and repatriation of the remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and experts who sacrificed their lives in Cambodia” and agreed with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh to continue this cooperation. Standing by those who serve, and achieving the fullest possible accounting for them, is now truly accepted worldwide.

DPAA BUDGET REQUIREMENTS NOT MET: DPAA will NOT have the funding in Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) required to “increase the pace and scope of operations,” as has repeatedly been requested by Vietnam. Despite continuing internal dysfunction, DPAA had been proceeding well since becoming fully operational in January of 2016. After assurance from Acting DPAA Director Fern Sumpter Winbush that funding was secured, though at a lower level, but adequate to sustain operations until April 28th, the reduction in field operations was a serious blow to confidence in DPAA’s commitment to pursue Vietnam War accounting as a continuing priority.

Now, due to inadequate funding, the damage is increasingly clear. The plus-up of $20 million to reach the necessary FY17 budget total of $132 million for planned operational requirements could not be requested until 45 days after a budget was approved. It now appears there may be no budget approval this fiscal year, meaning it is already too late to receive, contract and utilize additional funds for the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY17. Of DPAA’s initial funding for FY2017, funds were already obligated for WWII and Korean War accounting, including recovery of remains from US cemeteries for individual identification; thus the ID count for WWII and Korean War continues to rise significantly.

YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED! Write your elected officials to object to the lack of funding for DPAA to meet FY17 operational requirements and ask for additional FY2018 funding to handle worldwide accounting and recovery efforts, as well as exemption of DPAA funding from any/all reductions. Funding for Veterans’ care is rightfully protected by exempting VA budgets from across-the-board reductions and/or sequestration. Our UNRETURNED Veterans, America’s POW/MIAs, deserve that same protection and adequate funds to achieve the fullest possible accounting.

DPAA DIRECTOR SELECTION PROCESS: As of this date, a new DPAA Director STILL has not been selected; however, advertisements seeking applicants for this crucial position were sought and the closing date was April 6th. The responsible official now “Acting in the Capacity of” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) is Ms. Theresa Whelan, a career DoD official. It is doubtful that a new person to permanently fill the USD-P position will be confirmed and in place by the time the selection must be made. Hopefully, Secretary of Defense Mattis will ensure serious consideration of recommendations provided by the League, Special Operations Association (SOA), Special Forces Association (SFA) and others. Up to now, there has been no indication that important qualifications – such as experience, character, commitment and dedication to the mission – were given consideration, nor crucial factors such as having earned the trust and respect of affected families, Veterans and foreign officials whose willingness to authorize necessary cooperation is critical to success.

DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY UPDATES: The remainder of the 2017 calendar for DPAA-hosted Family Updates is April 22nd, Kansas City, MO; May 20th, Syracuse, NY; during the League’s 48th Annual Meeting June 21st-25th; and September 9th, Detroit, MI. You may have noticed postings on the DPAA website indicating 1,276 family members had attended these updates in 2016. What is unstated, therefore unclear, is that despite only roughly 20% of that number being Vietnam War-related family members, the representational percentage for Vietnam War family members is much higher than for other wars, even though we have fewer missing!

ATTEND DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY UPDATES TO SHOW YOU ARE ENGAGED AND EXPECT PRIORITY EFFORTS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF FIRST PURSUING ANSWERS ON THOSE MISSING FROM AMERICA’S MOST RECENT WAR.

One Response to “POW/MIA UPDATE: April 19, 2017”

  1. Foundation May 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    Sadly, the government’s idea of the massive reform necessary after JPAC was disbanded was a superficial name change of the organization and re-shuffling the same poor executives and laboratory managers to new desks and titles in a brand new $85 million dollar building in Hawaii. Disgraceful!

    A “new” Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) was created to replace the scandal plagued JPAC. Before quitting after less than a year on the job, the “new director” simply reassigned the previous JPAC Scientific Director to be in charge of “partnering with private groups”, which was announced as vitally important “to help reinvigorate a troubled POW-MIA accounting mission”. There are many truly dedicated private groups who refuse to deal with DPAA because of the past arrogance and abuse by this same old group of poor leaders and managers who continue to remain in functional control of the “new” organization. Disgraceful!

    JPAC had many dedicated men and women in non-management roles who believed in the mission: researchers, military recovery specialists, and field investigators who hack through jungles, climb mountains, and wade rivers only to be sabotaged in their work by a completely dysfunctional command. Those few essential workers that remain at DPAA are dismayed, disillusioned, disheartened, and disgusted at what they experienced at JPAC and what they now see as a lack of action at DPAA in holding those responsible accountable for the abysmal failures of their leadership. Disgraceful!

    DPAA continues to leave unaddressed a long pattern of dysfunction, inefficient practices, wasteful and poor management, lack of leadership, pending complaints of sexual harassment by command personnel, EEO violations, criminal investigations, lawsuits, and complaints of managerial reprisal that were detailed in scathing official reports by the Inspector General’s Office and the Government Accountability Office. Even more complaints have been added since JPAC was disbanded. Disgraceful!

    The same group of serial offenders responsible for this ineptitude remain in the “new” DPAA. The same group that brought us multiple outrageous scandals including phony “arrival home” ceremonies and the fraud, waste and abuse of government funds that produces only five or six dozen identifications a year with an annual budget that exceeds $130 million. Disgraceful!

    Perhaps the only improvement that the Department of Defense has implemented is the recognition that the JPAC/DPAA laboratory is considered by many to be inept and has refused to keep up with modern scientific identification techniques such as DNA. The Defense Department has now removed the primary task of identifications from the DPAA lab and given it to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) in Dover, Delaware. AFDIL now collects, runs, and controls a database of family reference samples for MIA’s lost in past conflicts and does the actual DNA testing. Most of the comparatively few identifications made in 2016 are the result of DNA analysis by AFDIL and not the massively expensive DPAA Laboratory.

    Meanwhile the JPAC/DPAA management mantra of “Delay, Deny, and Wait for the Families to Die” continues. DPAA continues to practice JPAC’s unwritten policy known to those who worked inside the organization as “Slow Rollling” of families and researchers who ask for information by drawing the process out until forced to respond by political pressure or legal intervention in the hope that the requestors will simply give up and go away. The current response time for basic information to families and researchers under the Freedom of Information Act is over ONE YEAR! Federal law requires this information to be provided within 20 days, which DPAA routinely violates without consequences.

    Anyone with any management experience knows that the entire operation that was JPAC should have been deconstructed, brick by brick. Such needed massive reform simply did not happen. Just when families of our missing servicemen and women thought things could not get worse, it did. The same infectious disease of JPAC arrogance and lies to the families of American heroes took root all over again at DPAA. This incredibly dysfunctional organization continues to operate in a “Business as Usual” mode. The JPAC/DPAA disaster has been added to the infamous VA Hospital, Dover Mortuary, Arlington Cemetery, and the Viet Nam Unknown Misidentification debacles.

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