By Manuel Quinones
A top Democrat says as many as 6,600 graves could be unmarked or mislabeled at Arlington National Cemetery because workers didn’t do their jobs properly. The new estimate was revealed at a Senate oversight hearing and is much higher than previous numbers.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill blasted former Arlington Cemetery Superintendent John Metzler. She and other lawmakers accused him and former Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham of neglecting known problems at the cemetery.
"Five years ago you knew you had unidentified urns that were turning up in the fill," says McCaskill. "And you didn’t go and try to do any kind of survey and determine what was going on?"
Metzler expressed regret to those affected by the mismanagement.
"As the senior government official in charge of the cemetery, I accept full responsibility for my actions and the actions of my team," he says.
Lawmakers wanted to look into contracts related to the updating of tracking technology at Arlington Cemetery. McCaskill accused the cemetery of spending millions of dollars with little to show for it.
"I find it troubling that we are still using paper records at Arlington National Cemetery," says Kathryn Condon, the new director of the Army’s cemeteries program.
Military officials promised corrective actions. Lawmakers promised to keep looking into related contracts and fraud allegations.