Updates

UPDATE: December 7, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th. The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

DPAA DIRECTOR SELECTION PROCESS: A qualified individual to serve in this crucial position has yet to be announced. The selecting official, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon, apparently doesn’t share our sense of urgency to replace retired Army LTG Mike Linnington who abruptly resigned almost six months ago. Hopefully this means that Undersecretary McKeon is carefully considering recommendations provided by the League, Special Operations Association (SOA), Special Forces Association (SFA) and others asked to provide input. There is as yet no indication that serious qualifications, such as experience, character, commitment and dedication to the mission, are given high priority 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.
JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS: First quarter Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Joint Field Activities (JFAs) are ongoing in Laos and Vietnam. In Laos, there were three Recovery Teams (RTs) that included on-site participation by the DIA Stony Beach Specialist from October 22 – December 8th. Five RTs and two Investigation Teams (ITs) are operating in three regions (north, central and south) of Vietnam from October 23 – December 9th. A Joint Forensic Review occurred today, and the results will, hopefully, mean repatriation of remains believed to be those of US personnel. There also was a unilateral underwater site survey, a small operation off the coast of Quang Tri, Vietnam, intended to identify aircraft wreckage that was discovered by local citizens. Before the end of FY 2016, September 30th, operations in Vietnam included a 45-day JFA during which approximately 100 US personnel, comprised of 5 RTs, 2 unilateral Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), worked simultaneously. In January, JFAs are scheduled to resume in Cambodia.
US Ambassadors to Vietnam and Laos, Ted Osius and Rena Bitter, respectively, accompanied by US Embassy staff members, visited field sites in both countries. Their active support provides positive reinforcement to the field teams and underscores the priority the United States attaches to the accounting mission.
There were also about 100 DPAA personnel deployed on WWII accounting operations in Papua New Guinea, France, Germany, Kwajalein and Hawaii (all recently concluded), mostly recovery teams for roughly 6-7 weeks each. In addition, those engaged in public-private partnerships with DPAA – both paid and volunteer – are working around the world. History Flight is continuing recoveries of USMC personnel lost during WWII in Tarawa, and university-based archeologists are engaged in the Philippines and France.

TALKS HELD IN UKRAINE AND RUSSIA. LTC Chris Forbes, USA, DPAA Director of EuropeMediterranean Region, and Archival Research Specialist/Linguist Svetlana Shevchenko, just concluded a quick visit to the capitals of each country to pursue greater access to relevant archival documents and potential witnesses who served in the USSR forces during the early days of the Vietnam War. This is an encouraging initiative that the League fully supports.

DPAA OPERATIONAL BUDGET REQUIREMENTS STILL UNCERTAIN: It is still unclear whether DPAA will have the funds required to continue to “increase the pace and scope of operations,” as has repeatedly been requested by Vietnam. Despite continuing internal dysfunction, DPAA has been proceeding well since becoming fully operational in January of this year; however, the plus-up of $20 million to reach the necessary FY17 budget total of $132 million for planned operational requirements must still be approved.

YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED! WRITE TO YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO REQUEST APPROVAL OF INCREASED FY17 DPAA FUNDING FROM $112 TO $132 MILLION. ALSO, REQUEST EXEMPTION OF DPAA FUNDING FROM ANY REDUCTIONS. JUST AS VETERANS CARE FUNDING IS RIGHTFULLY PROTECTED BY EXEMPTING DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (DVA) BUDGETS FROM ACROSS-THE-BOARD AND/OR SEQUESTRATION REDUCTIONS, FUNDING TO SUPPORT THE FULLEST POSSIBLE ACCOUNTING FOR AMERICA’S UNRETURNED VETERANS, OUR MISSING MEN, DESERVES EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW FOR JUNE 21-25, 2017: The League’s 48th Annual Meeting will again be held at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, as it has been the last several years. Anyone with suggestions for inclusion in the three-day program should email League Administrator Leslie Swindells, Leslie.Swindells@pow-miafamilies.org, or call the League office, 703-465-7432.

November 4, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th. The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

DPAA DIRECTOR SELECTION PROCESS: A qualified individual to serve in this crucial position has yet to be announced by DoD leaders. The selecting official, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon, apparently doesn’t share our sense of urgency to replace retired Army LTG Mike Linnington who abruptly resigned nearly five months ago. Hopefully this means that Undersecretary McKeon is carefully considering recommendations provided by the League, Special Operations Association (SOA), Special Forces Association (SFA) and others asked to provide input. There is as yet no indication that serious qualifications, such as experience, character, commitment and dedication to the mission, are given high priority 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.

JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS: Joint Field Activities (JFAs) are now ongoing at a significant level in Vietnam and Laos, despite concerns over operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR), without a Congressionally authorized budget, and roughly $20 million below the amount required for full implementation of DPAA’s Operational Plan for this fiscal year. Worse yet, DPAA cannot commit second-quarter funds needed for support contracts unless approved separately by the DoD Comptroller’s office. Despite these negative realities, DPAA recently concluded an end-of-fiscal-year JFA in Vietnam, wrapping up 45 days during which approximately 100 US personnel, comprised of 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), worked simultaneously. There were also about 100 deployed on WWII accounting operations in Papua New Guinea, France, Germany, Kwajalein (just concluded) and Hawaii, mostly recovery teams for roughly 6-7 weeks each. In addition, through public-private partnerships with DPAA – both paid and volunteer – History Flight is continuing recoveries of USMC personnel lost during WWII in Tarawa, and university-based archeologists are engaged in the Philippines and France. In January, JFAs will resume in Cambodia.

DPAA OPERATIONAL BUDGET REQUIREMENTS UNCERTAIN: It is increasingly unclear whether DPAA will have the funds required to “increase the pace and scope of operations,” as has repeatedly been requested by Vietnam and has been proceeding fairly well since DPAA became fully operational in January of this year. Now, with the lack of a Congressionally-approved DoD budget for FY17, all in DoD, including DPAA, are proceeding on a Continuing Resolution. In brief, that means the first quarter funds are approved, though at the less than required budget of approximately $112 million for the full year. A plus-up of $20 million is urgently needed.

YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED! WRITE TO YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO REQUEST APPROVAL OF INCREASED FY17 DPAA FUNDING FROM $112 TO $132 MILLION.

ALSO, REQUEST EXEMPTION OF DPAA FUNDING FROM ANY REDUCTIONS. JUST AS VETERANS CARE FUNDING IS RIGHTFULLY PROTECTED BY EXEMPTING DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (DVA) BUDGETS FROM ACROSS-THE-BOARD AND/OR SEQUESTRATION REDUCTIONS, FUNDING TO SUPPORT THE FULLEST POSSIBLE ACCOUNTING FOR AMERICA’S UNRETURNED VETERANS, OUR MISSING MEN, AND THEIR FAMILIES DESERVE EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW FOR JUNE 21-25, 2017: The League’s 48th Annual Meeting will again be held at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, as it has been the last several years. Anyone with suggestions for inclusion in the three-day program should email League Administrator Leslie Swindells, Leslie.Swindells@pow-miafamilies.org, or call the League office, 703-465-7432.

October 20, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th. The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY – 2016: Countless ceremonies were held across the United States and around the world, including US Embassies in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Many of the international commemorations were held under the auspices of the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) at military installations. The national ceremony was again held at the Pentagon, as has been the case since 1984 at the White House and 1988 at the US Capitol. The speakers this year were Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, USAF, and Captain Gerald Coffee, USN, held as a POW in Vietnam for over seven years, until his release in February, 1973.

In his remarks, Secretary Carter stated in part, “We gather here together today to recognize our nation’s former prisoners of war and those still missing….and recommit ourselves to fulfilling our solemn pledge: to make every effort to bring all – all – our men and women home to their families.” He went on to say, “And to all the families here today and around the world – whether you’ve been reunited or are still waiting for your loved one – thank you for your patriotism and courage in the face of uncertainty, and thank you for all you’ve given to this country.” In reference to DoD’s efforts, and his own commitment, he stated, “….we won’t stop – I won’t stop – until we achieve the fullest possible accounting for all our missing. And right now, far too many families still have to wonder about the fates of their fathers, grandfathers, their husbands and daughters, their brothers and sisters. We work hard to meet our commitment to yesterday’s personnel to honor their service and their families. But there’s another reason we do so: we know what it means to the men and women serving today, those who will serve in the future and their families. As they see everything we’re doing to provide the fullest possible accounting of those who served before….they know we’ll do the same for them.” He closed his remarks by noting, “Committed family advocacy groups, veteran service organizations, and other non-governmental groups support our work. Friends and allies around the world serve as critical partners in helping us reach, account for, and bring home our fallen. And the men and women of DPAA – the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency – work day in and day out, in remote field sites and high-tech laboratories alike, across the United States and around the world to meet that promise and to give hope and solace to our families.”

Vice Chairman General Selva’s remarks were inspirational, stating “Your sacrifice is humbling and we thank you for your faith and your perseverance as we work to keep our promise to you. You are for us a beacon of hope. And welcome to the many of you who are committed to trying to bring every fallen American home from foreign shores. We are grateful for your continued determination.” He ended by stating, “The motto on the POW/MIA flag is one we have internalized to our very core. ‘We will never forget.’ It is emblazoned on our hearts as is the memory of every member we have lost in battle.” The impressive national ceremony concluded with the Missing Man Flyover of Cobra Gunships, symbolism appreciated by all present.

PRESIDENT VISITS LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE: On September 6th, President Obama met with Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit on the margins of the East Asia Summit. Laos is the 2016 Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and it is customary for leaders of nations to meet for bilateral discussions. In this instance, the portion of the lengthy “Joint Declaration between the United States of America and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic” included one paragraph related specifically to the POW/MIA accounting mission. It stated, “President Obama expressed his appreciation for the Lao P.D.R.’s continued cooperation in providing for the fullest possible accounting for U.S. personnel missing from the war, including its recent steps to increase the efficiency of joint search efforts. The two sides would continue to meet semi-annually for technical discussions on mission planning and strive to complete the mission in a timely and efficient manner.”

Chairman’s Comment: Since the President’s trip, much factually deficient, purported “analysis” has been published, some purposely duplicitous with accusations of US war crimes. Yet, perhaps unintentionally, this distorted view was advanced by President Obama’s public statement that America’s further humanitarian assistance to help eliminate unexploded ordnance (UXO) came as a “moral obligation.”

In reality, President Obama’s trip to Laos, the first by a sitting US President, was extremely important, especially to the Lao, but also to those of us who have worked steadily and cooperatively with the Lao Government and people for decades to account as fully as possible for missing US personnel. In that ever-improving process, the US has provided humanitarian assistance for decades, including increasing support to ameliorate UXO, despite the Lao Government having denied there was any problem in the early to mid-1980s, regularly declining US support and assistance.

America is a caring, generous nation, and we have worked to help suffering people after every war, not out of guilt as a moral obligation, but because we care. The truth is that Vietnam used “neutral” Laos for supply routes and, as a result, hundreds of tons of bombs were dropped. War is hell! People suffer, and the Lao people more than most due to its geographical location and long border with Vietnam, but the Vietnamese people also suffered horribly, as did Cambodians, much more than Americans, horrific as were US losses. And, we’re still seeking answers on 1,618 listed as missing and unaccounted-for from that long-ago war, with ever-increasing cooperation from these governments in a spirit of humanitarian reciprocity, not from a basis of guilt on the part of any country.

Accounting for prior enemy combatants is a matter of honor among Armed Forces around the world, an international obligation under accepted rules of war, including the Geneva Conventions. It is NOT a “war legacy,” as some assert. Such legacies are appropriate for negotiations and dependent on internal policies of each engaged country.

These are facts. Due to personal involvement in countless official USG and League delegations, I know firsthand – and the Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian leaders also know – this historical reality. Enough of the distorted attempts to persuade newly engaged or uninformed people that the US is guilty of “war crimes.” Such charges are unwarranted, insulting and completely false!

US-LAO CONSULTATIONS HELD IN HAWAII: A Lao Delegation was in Hawaii August 3rd-4th, meeting with DPAA and DIA officials on future operations. Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, led the US Delegation, and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Lao Delegation. The focus was to seek agreement for US teams to base-camp at incident site locations to reduce travel time and costs for helicopter support, primarily blade hours. This would maximize time in the field to conduct recovery efforts, as would an increase in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously – from 53 to 65, when needed. The Lao agreed to the personnel increase and to consider base-camping at incident sites on a case-by-case basis. These decisions will help meet current budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

US-VIETNAM & US-CAMBODIA POW/MIA TALKS HELD: BG Spindler held talks earlier this month with counterpart officials in Vietnam, reportedly geared at generating greater accounting results with few, if any, additional funds or personnel. Col Mike Gann, USMC, DPAA Director for the Asia Pacific Region, and Jack Kull, long-time Southeast Asia policy officer, accompanied BG Spindler in Hanoi, as well as Phnom Penh. In the latter, discussions focused on resolving the purported border conflict that is preventing a recovery mission close to their shared border with Laos.

Chairman’s Comment: Political issues, including disagreements over border delineation, should not be permitted to impede humanitarian cooperation, including the mission to account for missing US personnel. The League calls on Lao and Cambodian leaders to settle their differences or set them aside and cooperate constructively to allow the technical specialists to proceed.

JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS: A Joint Field Activity (JFA) recently concluded in Vietnam, wrapping up 45 days during which approximately 100 US personnel, comprised of 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), worked simultaneously. JFAs will resume in Laos in late October, after the beginning of FY17, and in Cambodia after the first of next year. There are also about 100 deployed on WWII accounting operations in PNG, France, Germany, Kwajalein (just concluded) and Hawaii, most of them recovery teams for roughly 6-7 weeks each. In addition, History Flight is continuing recoveries in Tarawa, and universities are engaged through Strategic Partnerships in the Philippines and France.

DPAA OPERATIONAL BUDGET REQUIREMENTS UNCERTAIN: It is increasingly unclear that DPAA will have the funds required to “increase the pace and scope of operations,” as has repeatedly been requested by Vietnam and has been proceeding fairly well since DPAA became fully operational in January of this year. Now, with the lack of a Congressionally-approved DoD budget for FY17, all in DoD, including DPAA, are proceeding on a Continuing Resolution. In brief, that means the first quarter funds are approved, though at the less than required budget of approximately $130 million for the full year.

YOU CAN HELP! WRITE TO YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS TO REQUEST APPROVAL OF INCREASED FUNDING FROM $112 TO $132 MILLION FOR FY17, AND TO EXEMPT DPAA FUNDING FROM ANY REDUCTIONS, INCLUDING POSSIBLE SEQUESTRATION, JUST AS THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS IS EXEMPTED. AMERICA’S POW/MIAs AND OTHERS STILL MISSING ARE UNRETURNED VETERANS TOO!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW FOR JUNE 21-24, 2017: The League’s 48th Annual Meeting will again be held at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, as it has been the last several years. Anyone with suggestions for inclusion in the three-day program should email League Administrator Leslie Swindells, Leslie.Swindells@pow-miafamilies.org, or call the League office, 703-465-7432.

September 22, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th. The total accounted since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY – 2016: Countless ceremonies were held across the United States and around the world, including US Embassies in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Many of the international commemorations were held under the auspices of the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) at military installations. The national ceremony was again held at the Pentagon, as has been the case since 1984 at the White House and 1988 at the US Capitol. The speakers this year were Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, USAF, and Captain Gerald Coffee, USN, held as a POW in Vietnam for over seven years, until his release in February, 1973.

In his remarks, Secretary Carter stated in part, “We gather here together today to recognize our nation’s former prisoners of war and those still missing….and recommit ourselves to fulfilling our solemn pledge: to make every effort to bring all – all – our men and women home to their families.” He went on to say, “And to all the families here today and around the world – whether you’ve been reunited or are still waiting for your loved one – thank you for your patriotism and courage in the face of uncertainty, and thank you for all you’ve given to this country.” In reference to DoD’s efforts, and his own commitment, he stated, “….we won’t stop – I won’t stop – until we achieve the fullest possible accounting for all our missing. And right now, far too many families still have to wonder about the fates of their fathers, grandfathers, their husbands and daughters, their brothers and sisters. We work had to meet our commitment to yesterday’s personnel to honor their service and their families. But there’s another reason we do so: we know what it means to the men and women serving today, those who will serve in the future and their families. As they see everything we’re doing to provide the fullest possible accounting of those who served before….they know we’ll do the same for them.” He closed his remarks by noting, “Committed family advocacy groups, veterans service organizations, and other non-governmental groups support our work. Friends and allies around the world serve as critical partners in helping us reach, account for, and bring home our fallen. And the men and women of DPAA – the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency – work day in and day out, in remote field sites and high-tech laboratories alike, across the United States and around the world to meet that promise and to give hope and solace to our families.”

Vice Chairman General Selva’s remarks were inspirational, stating “Your sacrifice is humbling and we thank you for your faith and your perseverance as we work to keep our promise to you. You are for us a beacon of hope. And welcome to the many of you who are committed to trying to bring every fallen American home from foreign shores. We are grateful for your continued determination.” He ended by stating, “The motto on the POW/MA flag is one we have internalized to our very core. ‘We will never forget.’ It is emblazoned on our hearts as is the memory of every member we have lost in battle.” The impressive national ceremony concluded with the Missing Man Flyover of Cobra Gunships, symbolism appreciated by all present

PRESIDENT VISITS LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE: On September 6th, President Obama met with Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit on the margins of the East Asia Summit. Laos is the 2016 Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and it is customary for leaders of nations to meet for bilateral discussions. In this instance, the portion of the lengthy “Joint Declaration between the United States of America and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic” included one paragraph related specifically to the POW/MIA accounting mission. It stated, “President Obama expressed his appreciation for the Lao P.D.R.’s continued cooperation in providing for the fullest possible accounting for U.S. personnel missing from the war, including its recent steps to increase the efficiency of joint search efforts. The two sides would continue to meet semi-annually for technical discussions on mission planning and strive to complete the mission in a timely and efficient manner.”

US-LAO CONSULTATIONS HELD IN HAWAII: A Lao Delegation was in Hawaii August 3-4th, meeting with DPAA and DIA officials on future operations. Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, led the US Delegation, and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Lao Delegation. The focus was to seek agreement for US teams to base-camp at incident site locations to reduce travel time and costs for helicopter support, primarily blade hours. This would maximize time in the field to conduct recovery efforts, as would an increase in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously – from 53 to 65, when needed. The Lao agreed to the personnel increase and to consider base-camping at incident sites on a case-by-case basis. These decisions will help meet current budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

US-VIETNAM & US-CAMBODIA POW/MIA TALKS HELD: BG Spindler held talks earlier this month with counterpart officials in Vietnam, reportedly geared at generating greater accounting results with few, if any, additional funds or personnel. Col Mike Gann, USMC, DPAA Director for the Asia Pacific Region, and Jack Kull, long-time Southeast Asia policy officer, accompanied BG Spindler in Hanoi, as well as Phnom Penh. In the latter, discussions focused on resolving the purported border conflict that is preventing a recovery mission close to their shared border with Laos.

Chairman’s Comment: Political issues, including disagreements over border delineation, should not be permitted to impede humanitarian cooperation, including the mission to account for missing US personnel. The League calls on Lao and Cambodian leaders to settle their differences or set them aside and cooperate constructively to allow the technical specialists to proceed.

JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS: A Joint Field Activity (JFA) recently concluded in Vietnam, wrapping up 45 days during which approximately 100 US personnel, comprised of 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), worked simultaneously. JFAs will resume in Laos in late October, after the beginning of FY17, and in Cambodia after the first of next year. There were also about 100 deployed on WWII accounting operations in PNG, France, Germany, Kwajalein (recently concluded) and Hawaii, most of them recovery teams for roughly six to seven weeks each. In addition, History Flight has continued recoveries in Tarawa, and universities are engaged through Strategic Partnerships in the Philippines and France.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS NOW FOR JUNE 21-24, 2017: The League’s 48th Annual Meeting will again be held at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, as it has been the last several years. Anyone with suggestions for inclusion in the three-day program should email League Administrator Leslie Swindells, Leslie.Swindells@pow-miafamilies.org, or call the League office, 703-465-7432.

h2 style=”text-align: center;”> September 20, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th.  The total accounted since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

PRESIDENT VISITS LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE:  On September 6th, President Obama met with Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit on the margins of the East Asia Summit.  Laos is the 2016 Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and it is customary for leaders of nations to meet for bilateral discussions.  In this instance, the portion of the lengthy “Joint Declaration between the United States of America and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic” included one paragraph related specifically to the POW/MIA accounting mission.  It stated, “President Obama expressed his appreciation for the Lao P.D.R.’s continued cooperation in providing for the fullest possible accounting for U.S. personnel missing from the war, including its recent steps to increase the efficiency of joint search efforts.   The two sides would continue to meet semi-annually for technical discussions on mission planning and strive to complete the mission in a timely and efficient manner.”

 

US-LAO CONSULTATIONS HELD IN HAWAII:  A Lao Delegation was in Hawaii August 3-4th, meeting with DPAA and DIA officials on future operations.  Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, led the US Delegation, and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Lao Delegation. The focus was to seek agreement for US teams to base-camp at incident site locations to reduce travel time and costs for helicopter support, primarily blade hours.  This would maximize time in the field to conduct recovery efforts, as would an increase in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously – from 53 to 65, when needed.  The Lao agreed to the personnel increase and to consider base-camping at incident sites on a case-by-case basis. These decisions will help meet current budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

 

US-VIETNAM & US-CAMBODIA POW/MIA TALKS HELD:  BG Spindler held talks earlier this month with counterpart officials in Vietnam, reportedly geared at generating greater accounting results with few, if any, additional funds or personnel.  Col Mike Gann, USMC, DPAA Director, Asia Pacific Region, and Jack Kull, long-time Southeast Asia policy officer, accompanied BG Spindler in Hanoi, as well as Phnom Penh.  In the latter, discussions focused on resolving the purported border conflict that is preventing a recovery close to their shared border with Laos.

 

JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS:  A Joint Field Activity (JFA) recently concluded in Vietnam, wrapping up 45 days during which approximately 100 US personnel, comprised of 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), worked simultaneously.  JFAs will resume in Laos in late October, after the beginning of FY17, and in Cambodia after the first of next year.  There are also about 100 deployed on WWII accounting operations in PNG, France, Germany, Kwajalein (just concluded) and Hawaii, most of them recovery teams for roughly 6-7 weeks each.  In addition, History Flight is continuing recoveries in Tarawa, and universities are engaged through Strategic Partnerships in the Philippines and France.

 

 

September 7, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th.  The total accounted since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

PRESIDENT RAISES COMMITMENT TO POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AT DAV NATIONAL CONVENTION:  Speaking at the recent Disabled American Veterans (DAV) 95th National Convention, President Obama stated, “We’ve stood together at the Wall and remembered the lessons of Vietnam – that even when Americans may disagree about a war, we have to stand united in support of our troops.  And that for mothers like Sara [Frances] Shay, who honored her missing son for more than 40 years, we will never stop working to bring home our prisoners of war and our missing in action.  We leave nobody behind.  No one.”  

 

PRESIDENT VISITS LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE:  On September 6th, President Obama met with Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit on the margins of the East Asia Summit.  Laos is the 2016 Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and it is customary for leaders of nations to meet for bilateral discussions.  In this instance, the portion of the lengthy “Joint Declaration between the United States of America and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic” included one paragraph related specifically to the POW/MIA accounting mission.  It stated, “President Obama expressed his appreciation for the Lao P.D.R.’s continued cooperation in providing for the fullest possible accounting for U.S. personnel missing from the war, including its recent steps to increase the efficiency of joint search efforts.   The two sides would continue to meet semi-annually for technical discussions on mission planning and strive to complete the mission in a timely and efficient manner.”

 

Leading to this first visit to Laos by a sitting President of the United States, advance discussions were held in July between senior Lao and US officials, including Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security (NSC) Advisor for Strategic Communications.  Also in Vientiane in July was Secretary of State John Kerry who, with US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune, raised the need for positive Lao responses to specific requests to facilitate Joint Field Activities (JFAs).  The two points related to seeking approval for US teams to base-camp at incident site locations to reduce travel time and costs for helicopter support (primarily blade hours).  This would maximize time in the field to conduct recovery efforts, as would an increase – when needed – in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously. Both are valid requests to help meet current budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

 

US-LAO CONSULTATIONS HELD IN HAWAII:  A Lao Delegation was in Hawaii August 3-4th, meeting with DPAA and DIA officials related to future operations, including responses on the above requests.  Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, led the US Delegation, and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Lao Delegation.  Leading into the President’s visit in early September, the League was hopeful that the Lao Government would be receptive and responsive to the two requests that had been raised bilaterally at the highest levels, and interim reports indicate they were.

 

US-VIETNAM & US-CAMBODIA POW/MIA TALKS BEING HELD:  DPAA Deputy Commander BG Spindler is now in Vietnam for technical talks with Vietnamese counterparts aimed at generating greater accounting results with few, if any, additional funds or personnel.  Col Mike Gann, USMC, Director for Asia Pacific Region, and Jack Kull, long time Southeast Asia Policy Officer, are accompanying BG Spindler for the talks in Hanoi, as well as the talks in Phnom Penh.

 

JOINT FIELD OPERATIONS:  The Joint Field Activity (JFA) just concluded in Vietnam, wrapping up 45 days during which approximately 100 US personnel, comprised of 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), worked simultaneously.  JFAs will resume in Laos in late October, after the beginning of FY17, and in Cambodia after the first of next year.  There are also about 100 deployed on WWII accounting operations in PNG, France, Germany, Kwajalein (just concluded) and Hawaii, most of them recovery teams for roughly 6-7 weeks each.  In addition, History Flight is continuing recoveries in Tarawa, and universities are engaged through Strategic Partnerships in the Philippines and France.

 

September 1, 2016

 

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th.  Most recently accounted for was Colonel Patrick H. Wood, USAF, listed as MIA on 2/6/67, North Vietnam, remains returned on 12/14/15, and identified 2/29/16.  Just prior to this was LCDR Frederick P. Crosby, USN, listed as KIA/BNR, North Vietnam, on 6/1/65, remains returned 12/14/15, and identified on 2/17/16, but not announced by DPAA until 5/25/16.  Also recently confirmed as accounted for was Major Dean A. Klenda, USAF, listed as MIA, North Vietnam, on 9/17/65, recovered 12/8/14 and identified 12/30/14, but also only recently announced by DPAA.  Prior to that release, the most recent was SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/SF, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, recovered 6/16/98, identified 3/16/16.

 

The total accounted since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 965.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

PRESIDENT RAISES COMMITMENT TO POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AT DAV NATIONAL CONVENTION:  Speaking at the recent Disabled American Veterans (DAV) 95th National Convention, President Obama stated, “We’ve stood together at the Wall and remembered the lessons of Vietnam – that even when Americans may disagree about a war, we have to stand united in support of our troops.  And that for mothers like Sara [Frances] Shay, who honored her missing son for more than 40 years, we will never stop working to bring home our prisoners of war and our missing in action.  We leave nobody behind.  No one.”   The League appreciates the President’s reference to America’s longstanding commitment to achieve the accounting, though we also know that all will not be recovered, identified and returned to their families for burial here in the US.  That is precisely why the League has always sought the fullest possible accounting, not full or complete, an impossible goal.  

 

PRESIDENT TO VISIT LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE:  In early September, the President will travel to Vientiane, Laos, for the ASEAN and East Asia Summits.  Laos is the 2016 Chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations); therefore a series of meetings were held in preparation with senior US officials, including Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Secretary of State John Kerry.   Assisted by US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune, the need for positive Lao Government responses to specific requests to facilitate Joint Field Activities (JFAs) was raised.  The points relate to 1) approval for US teams to base-camp at incident sites to reduce costs for helicopter support (primarily blade hours) and travel time, thus maximizing time available for recovery efforts; and 2) an increase in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously from 53 to 65, on an as-needed basis.  These valid requests, when approved, will help meet current the budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

 

US-LAO POW/MIA CONSULTATIONS RECENTLY HELD:  A Lao Delegation was in Hawaii August 3rd for discussions with DPAA and DIA officials related to future operations, resulting in positive responses on the above requests.  DPAA Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, led the US Delegation and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Lao Delegation. The flexible increase in personnel was agreed to, as was on-site base-camping, though to be considered on a case by case basis.  Leading into the President’s visit later this week, the League is hopeful that the Lao Government will be fully responsive.  It is fundamental to expanding accounting results.

 

DPAA FIELD OPERATIONS:  There are over 200 DPAA personnel currently deployed on operations, about 100 of them in Vietnam, 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), soon to conclude a Joint Field Activity (JFA).  JFAs will resume in Laos in late October, after the beginning of FY17, and in Cambodia after the first of next year.  There are about 100 deployed on WWII accounting operations in PNG, France, Germany, Kwajalein (just concluded) and Hawaii, most of them recovery teams of roughly 6-7 weeks each.  In addition, History Flight is continuing recoveries in Tarawa, and universities are engaged in the Philippines and France.

August 20, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th.  Most recently accounted for was Colonel Patrick H. Wood, USAF, listed as MIA on 2/6/67, North Vietnam, remains returned on 12/14/15, and identified 2/29/16.  Just prior to this was LCDR Frederick P. Crosby, USN, listed as KIA/BNR, North Vietnam, on 6/1/65, remains returned 12/14/15, and identified on 2/17/16, but not announced by DPAA until 5/25/16.  Also recently confirmed as accounted for was Major Dean A. Klenda, USAF, listed as MIA, North Vietnam, on 9/17/65, recovered 12/8/14 and identified 12/30/14, but also only recently announced by DPAA.  Prior to that release, the most recent was SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/SF, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, recovered 6/16/98, identified 3/16/16.

 

This brings the total accounted for to 965 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

PRESIDENT RAISES COMMITMENT TO POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AT DAV NATIONAL CONVENTION:  Speaking at the recent Disabled American Veterans (DAV) 95th National Convention, President Obama stated, “We’ve stood together at the Wall and remembered the lessons of Vietnam – that even when Americans may disagree about a war, we have to stand united in support of our troops.  And that for mothers like Sara [Frances] Shay, who honored her missing son for more than 40 years, we will never stop working to bring home our prisoners of war and our missing in action.  We leave nobody behind.  No one.”   The League appreciates the President’s reference to America’s longstanding commitment to achieve the accounting, though we also know that all will not be recovered, identified and returned to their families for burial here in the US.  That is precisely why the League has always sought the fullest possible accounting, not full or complete, an impossible goal.  

 

PRESIDENT TO VISIT LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE:  In early September, the President will travel to Vientiane, Laos, for the ASEAN and East Asia Summits.  Laos is serving as the 2016 Chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations); therefore a series of meetings have been held in preparation with senior US officials, including Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Council (NSC) Advisor for Strategic Communications.  More recently, Secretary of State John Kerry also was in Vientiane and, with US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune, raised the need for positive Lao Government responses to specific requests to facilitate Joint Field Activities (JFAs).  The points relate to 1) approval for US teams to base-camp at incident site locations to reduce travel time and costs for helicopter support, primarily blade hours, thus maximizing time available for recovery efforts; and 2) an as-needed increase in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously from 53 to 65.  Both are valid requests to help meet current budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

 

US-LAO POW/MIA CONSULTATIONS RECENTLY HELD:  A Lao Delegation was in Hawaii august 3rd discussions with DPAA and DIA officials related to future operations, hopefully including positive responses on the above requests.  Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, led the US Delegation and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Lao Delegation. The as-needed increase in personnel was agreed to, but the response related to on-site base-camping was somewhat ambiguous.  Leading into the President’s early September visit, the League is hopeful that the Lao Government will be responsive in concrete terms; it is important to expediting accounting results.

 

DPAA FIELD OPERATIONS:  There are 227 DPAA personnel currently deployed on operations, 101 of them in Vietnam, 5-Recovery Teams (RTs), 2 Vietnamese RTs, and 1 Research Investigation Team (RIT), soon to conclude a 45-day Joint Field Activity (JFA).  JFAs will resume in Laos after the beginning of FY17, October 1st, and in Cambodia after the first of next year.  There are 126 personnel deployed on WWII accounting operations in PNG, France, Germany, Kwajalein and Hawaii, most of them recovery teams of 6-7 weeks each.  In addition, History Flight is continuing recoveries in Tarawa, and universities are engaged in the Philippines and France.

 

August 2, 2016 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618, unchanged since June 9th.  Most recently accounted for was Colonel Patrick H. Wood, USAF, listed as MIA on 2/6/67, North Vietnam, remains returned on 12/14/15, and identified 2/29/16.  Just prior to this was LCDR Frederick P. Crosby, USN, listed as KIA/BNR, North Vietnam, on 6/1/65, remains returned 12/14/15, and identified on 2/17/16, but not announced by DPAA until 5/25/16.  Also recently confirmed as accounted for was Major Dean A. Klenda, USAF, listed as MIA, North Vietnam, on 9/17/65, recovered 12/8/14 and identified 12/30/14, but also only recently announced by DPAA.  Prior to that release, the most recent was SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/SF, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, recovered 6/16/98, and identified 3/16/16.

 

This brings the total accounted for to 965 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

PRESIDENT RAISES COMMITMENT TO POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AT DAV NATIONAL CONVENTION:  Speaking at the Disabled American Veterans 95th National Convention, President Obama stated, “We’ve stood together at the Wall and remembered the lessons of Vietnam – that even when Americans may disagree about a war, we have to stand united in support of our troops.  And that for mothers like Sara [Frances] Shay, who honored her missing son for more than 40 years, we will never stop working to bring home our prisoners of war and our missing in action.  We leave nobody behind.  No one.”   The League appreciates the President’s reference to America’s longstanding commitment to achieve the accounting, though we also recognize fully that not all will be recovered, identified and returned to their families for honorable burial here in the United States.

 

PRESIDENT VISITS VIETNAM:  On a trip to Vietnam from May 22-25, President Obama met with senior Vietnamese officials.  During a press conference concluding his official meeting, he stated, “On behalf of the American people, including our veterans, I want to thank the government and the people of Vietnam for the many years of cooperation to account for Americans missing in action – solemn efforts that we’ll continue together.”   

 

PRESIDENT TO VISIT LAOS FOR ASEAN LEADERS CONFERENCE:  In early September, the President will travel to Vientiane, Laos, for the ASEAN and East Asia Summits.  Laos is serving as the 2016 Chair of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations); therefore a series of meetings have been held in preparation with senior US officials, including Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Council (NSC) Advisor for Strategic Communications.

 

Most recently, Secretary of State John Kerry also was in Vientiane and, with US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune, raised the need for positive Lao Government responses to specific requests to facilitate Joint Field Activities (JFAs).  The two points relate to approval for US teams to base-camp at incident site locations to reduce travel time and costs for helicopter support (primarily blade hours), thus maximizing time available for recovery efforts, and an as-needed increase in the number of personnel allowed in-country simultaneously. Both are valid requests to help meet current budget requirements to do more with less in terms of funding and effectiveness, meaning results.

 

US-LAO CONSULTATIONS NOW ONGOING:  A Lao Delegation is now in Hawaii meeting with DPAA and DIA officials related to future operations, hopefully including positive responses on the above requests.  Deputy Director BG Mark S. Spindler, USA, will head the US Delegation and H. E. Khoanta Phalivong, Director General of Europe & Americas Department, Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will head the Lao Delegation.  Especially leading into the President’s visit in early September, the League is hopeful that the Lao Government is receptive and responsive to these two requests that have now been raised bilaterally at the highest levels.

 

 

July 2, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,618.  Most recently accounted for was Colonel Patrick H. Wood, USAF, listed as MIA on 2/6/67, North Vietnam, remains returned on 12/14/15, and identified 2/29/16.  Just prior to this was LCDR Frederick P. Crosby, USN, listed as KIA/BNR, North Vietnam, on 6/1/65, remains returned 12/14/15, and identified on 2/17/16, but not announced by DPAA until 5/25/16.  Also recently confirmed as accounted for was Major Dean A. Klenda, USAF, listed as MIA, North Vietnam, on 9/17/65, recovered 12/8/14 and identified 12/30/14, but also only recently announced by DPAA.  Prior to that release, the most recent was SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/SF, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, recovered 6/16/98, and identified 3/16/16.  This brings the total accounted for to 965 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,618 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,261 (VN-463, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR RESIGNS:  LTG Michael S. Linnington, USA (Ret), named as DPAA Director in June, 2015, abruptly resigned on June 16th to accept a position as CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project, an NGO headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. There had been considerable anticipation of hearing a comprehensive report on his first full year since assuming the reins at DPAA.  All were looking forward to learning what has occurred, changes and improvements made, and plans for further implementing his promise a year before to be DPAA Director for at least ten years and his commitment to sustain DPAA’s priority on Vietnam War accounting for at least the next 3-5 years.  This unexpected reversal of his pledge changed the environment dramatically; however, all present for the League’s 47th Annual Meeting (see below) were courteous and attentive to Mr. Linnington’s explanation on the reasons for his abrupt departure.

 

LEAGUE POSITION:   In response to Mike Linnington’s June 16th emailed announcement, the following statement was released by Ann Mills-Griffiths, League Chairman of the Board & CEO:

 

“Almost exactly a year ago, at our 46th Annual Meeting, DPAA Director Mike Linnington gave the families and veterans his word that he would be with this mission ‘for the long term, at least ten years.’”  His unexpected resignation came as a shocking reversal.  Emails and calls since the announcement expressed understandable frustration and anger, but we’ve been through many disappointments since 1992 and know the long-serving dedicated civilians have been the core of accounting efforts for years.  We trust them to continue as they have, in the interest of all.  This latest episode will bring greater, even more unified determination to move forward, on that you can rely.”

 

PRESIDENT VISITS VIETNAM:  On a trip to Vietnam from May 22-25, President Obama met with senior Vietnamese officials.  During a press conference concluding his official meeting, he stated, “On behalf of the American people, including our veterans, I want to thank the government and the people of Vietnam for the many years of cooperation to account for Americans missing in action – solemn efforts that we’ll continue together.”   

 

US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION (USRJC) ON POW/MIAs HOLDS PLENARY SESSION:  After a lapse of over ten years, the USRJC finally held plenary discussions May 22-25 at the Pentagon.  This lack of official contact, much less substantive discussions, can be attributed primarily to on-again, off-again bilateral tensions and lack of high level support by both governments for resuming joint humanitarian accounting efforts.  During this lengthy period, various scenarios were in play to terminate the Presidential Commission and replace this special presidentially-established communication channel with routine diplomatic contacts.  Those efforts failed for many reasons, not least the strong opposition to such a move by the League and the major national veteran organizations.  Those most directly impacted are eager to see momentum return to the work of the USRJC, a viable channel for engaging Russia and the former states of the former Soviet Union.

 

The plenary was led on the Russian side by General Colonel Vostrotin, a national hero in the Russian Federation, and on the US side by General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret).  A report published on May 26 by DPAA stated, ”….the USRJC was re-energized to make further progress in each of the four conflicts’ working groups.  All agreed to expand archival research opportunities in both countries.  The US side declared that they will continue work to find information on the 264 servicemen Russia lists as MIA from its LONG involvement in Afghanistan.  The US also indicated it will increase efforts to help the Russian side determine what happened to its missing citizens from other past wars and conflicts.”   VFW Executive Director and Assistant National Adjutant Bob Wallace and League Chairman of the Board & CEO Ann Mills-Griffiths attended social functions hosted by the two delegations, one at the  Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA, another at the Russian Cultural Center, hosted by the Russian Chairman, and a closing reception at the VFW’s Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

 

ADVANCING THE PLENARY:  Following coordination with General Foglesong, and with interagency approval, then DPAA Director Linnington traveled to Moscow on February 8th to meet with the Russian Co-Chairman, General Colonel Vostrotin, to propose the date and agenda for the plenum.  The League is cautiously optimistic that the work of the USRJC will be renewed and restored, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened an office in their Embassy in Washington, DC.  Recognizing it was well past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued the Commission’s work, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by leaders in both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results.  While traveling, Mr. Linnington also visited several European countries and senior US officials in the region who are now contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.

 

FORMER DPAA DIRECTOR’S VISIT TO THE PRC AND SOUTH KOREA:  Former Director Linnington also traveled to Beijing and Seoul.  No specific information was shared on the discussions or their outcome, but shortly after the talks concluded, the PRC cancelled a long-planned field recovery mission near their border with North Korea (DPRK) purportedly for security reasons.  Mr. Linnington also visited Seoul and held talks with officials there, renewing longstanding ties with South Korean officials who continue to support US accounting efforts, even building their own “DPAA-equivalent” agency, with the experienced advice and counsel of DPAA’s Deputy Director Outreach & Communication, Johnie E. Webb, retired Army LTC and former Commander and Deputy Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory, absorbed into JPAC in 2003.

 

Prior to his trip, the League urged Mr. Linnington to raise the need for responsiveness by Beijing, not only on the known PRC-controlled POW camps during the Korean War, but on records that surely exist related to PRC personnel who served during the Vietnam War.  Specifically requested were archival documents related to communication units in the Vieng Xai/Sam Neua cave complex in northern Laos visited by the League Executive Director in 1982.  The League recognizes the need for PRC cooperation to account for US personnel lost during both the Vietnam and Korean wars, hoping that new initiatives will be undertaken without extensive delay, and is hopeful that PRC officials will at long last be responsive.

 

47TH ANNUAL MEETING HELD LAST WEEK:   Despite Mr. Linnington’s unexpected resignation and the last-minute withdrawal of Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, replaced by Acting Under Secretary for Personnel & Readiness Peter Levine, as the Opening Session Keynote Speaker on June 23rd, the 47th Annual Meeting was the largest and most productive in years.  It included the 47th Annual Meeting Dinner & Commemorative Candlelight Ceremony in which Army Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley was the speaker. His supportive, meaningful remarks inspired all present, as did his participation, along with Vietnam’s Ambassador to the United States H.E. Pham Quang Vinh, in reading aloud the names of 16 American and Vietnamese personnel who lost their lives on April 7, 2001 in a tragic helicopter accident while on a mission to account for our missing.  Some of their families were honored guests at the dinner.  League Senior Policy Advisor Richard T. Childress read the names of men still missing and unaccounted-for whose loved ones were present.  At the Opening Session, Mr. Childress presented remarks – fully coordinated with and supported by League Chairman of the Board and CEO Ann Mills-Griffiths – assessing DPAA’s first year as a DoD agency.  His fair, objective, critical observations held the rapt attention of family members, veterans and all US officials present.  The full text of Childress’ remarks is available here, A Glimpse into the Future, as are nearly all official presentations, though former DPAA Director Linnington again had nothing in writing.  The incoming Deputy Director of DIA, Ms. Melissa Drisko, spelled out DIA’s full and continuing support for its Stony Beach Team of specialists, now the only US Government unit focused solely on Vietnam War accounting, primarily on Last Known Alive (LKA) cases, interviewing witnesses, collecting relevant archival material and augmenting DPAA investigation capabilities, including those of DPAA Detachments in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia,   A full report of the 47th Annual Meeting will be included in the upcoming League Newsletter.

Special Announcement

In response to an announcement distributed June 16th, by Mike Linnington, Director, DPAA, The National League of Families released the following statement:

“Almost exactly a year ago, at our 46th Annual Meeting, DPAA Director Mike Linnington gave the families and veterans his word that he would be with this mission ‘for the long term, at least ten years.’”  His unexpected resignation came as a shocking reversal.  Emails and calls since the announcement expressed understandable frustration and anger, but we’ve been through many disappointments since 1992 and know the long-serving dedicated civilians have been the core of accounting efforts for years.  We trust them to continue as they have, in the interest of all.  This latest episode will bring greater, even more unified determination to move forward, on that you can rely.”

Ann Mills-Griffiths, Chairman of the Board & CEO

Mr. Linnington’s announcement:

Dear friends of DPAA:

In the past year, we have made remarkable progress in the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and its great mission. From how we research/investigate/recover and identify our missing and unaccounted for from our nation’s past wars, to how we communicate with the families.  And just as important, is increased communications/accountability of our efforts to Congress, our stakeholder community, and the American people.  I feel confident that we now have the right people, processes and procedures in place so DPAA has irreversible momentum with the gains we have made for even greater success.

I was recently approached by a large non-profit that serves our military community also deserving of our nation’s every effort — our wounded warriors and their caregivers.  I have been blessed with a lifetime of responding to where I am needed, and have decided to accept their offer to lead their important mission during a period of significant transition.  As I depart DPAA in early July, I will do so most grateful for the dedication of all those that assist our accounting mission, and for those that perform it on behalf of our grateful nation:  the families of our missing/unaccounted for, our work force, and supporters of our mission worldwide.

DPAA and its mission benefits from the superb leadership of two highly-skilled, and capable deputies (Mrs. Fern Winbush and BG Mark Spindler), and they will maintain the focus and direction of the agency until a new director is chosen.  In early July, Mrs. Fern Winbush will assume duties as Acting Director in the interim period.    As I transition to supporting our military and veteran community through the hard work of a nonprofit, please know my family and I have been truly blessed to get to know each of you, and work together on such an important mission.  My time with you will remain with me for the rest of my life.  For the Veterans and Military Service organizations, I look forward to engaging with many of you (and your organizations) as I learn more about the work of leading a national nonprofit.

All of us owe our every effort in supporting the entire military community; active duty, Reserve, Guard, Coast Guard, their families, and their survivors.  It is not just an issue of national security, but a moral obligation.  Thanks for what you do each and every day, and thanks for your efforts on behalf of the families of our missing and unaccounted for.

Sincerely, and with great respect and appreciation,

 

Michael S. Linnington

Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Arlington, VA  22204      (703) 699-1101

 

June 4, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is now 1,619.  Most recently accounted for is LCDR Frederick P. Crosby, USN, listed as KIA/BNR, North Vietnam, on 6/1/65.  No information is yet available on his recovery date, but his remains were identified on 5/25/16.  Also recently confirmed as accounted for was Major Dean A. Klenda, USAF, listed as MIA, North Vietnam, 9/17/65, recovered 12/8/14, and identified 12/30/14, but only recently announced.  Prior to that release, the most recent was SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/Special Forces, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, and identified 3/16/16.  This brings the total accounted for to 965 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,028. Of the 1,619 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,262 (VN-464, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

47th ANNUAL MEETING:  June 22-25, 2016, Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia.  Registration is now closed.  DoD again authorized COIN Assist travel for family members to attend, and attendance is up.  Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work will Keynote the Opening Session, and Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley will speak at the 47th Annual Meeting Dinner and join SRV Ambassador Pham Quang Vinh and League Advisor Richard Childress to participate in a special Commemorative Candlelight Ceremony, this year honoring the American and Vietnamese military personnel who lost their lives on an April 7, 2001, helicopter mission seeking answers on our missing men. Also of special interest will be the Deputy Director-Designate of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Ms. Melissa Drisko, who will address the families, supported by DIA’s team of specialists known to all as the Stony Beach Team.  This team, comprised of nine highly skilled personnel, focuses solely on the Vietnam War accounting effort, with first priority on Last Known Alive (LKA) cases and live sighting reports.

 

There is also considerable anticipation of a comprehensive report from Director Mike Linnington on his first full year since assuming the reins as Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), supported by many DPAA officials.  All are likely looking forward to hearing what has occurred, changes and improvements made, and his plans for further implementing his promise one year ago to sustain DPAA’s priority on Vietnam War accounting for at least the next 3-5 years.  Family members who have not yet provided a DNA sample for comparison are strongly urged to do so.  Check with your Service Casualty Office to determine eligibility.

 

US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION (USRJC) ON POW/MIAs HOLDS PLENARY SESSION:  After a lapse of over ten years, the USRJC finally held plenary discussions May 22-25 at the Pentagon.  This lack of official contact, much less substantive discussions, can be attributed primarily to on-again, off-again bilateral tensions and lack of high level support by both governments for resuming joint humanitarian efforts.  During this lengthy period, various scenarios were in play to terminate the Presidential Commission and replace that special communication channel with routine diplomatic contacts.  That effort failed for many reasons, not least the strong opposition to such a move by the League and the major national Veteran organizations.  All are closely watching to see what is reported from these most recent talks, not yet reported to the families or the veterans, but anticipated shortly.  The plenary was led on the Russian side by General Colonel Vostrotin, a national hero in the Russian Federation, and on the US side by General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret).

 

Advancing the Plenary, and following coordination with General Foglesong and with interagency approval, DPAA Director Linnington traveled to Moscow February 8th to meet with the Russian Co-Chairman, to propose the date and agenda.  There is cautious optimism that the work of the USRJC will be renewed and restored, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened an office in their Embassy in Washington, DC.  Recognizing it was past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued work of the USRJC, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by leaders in both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results.  Earlier, Director Linnington also visited several European countries and senior US officials in the European region who will be contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITED THE PRC AND SOUTH KOREA:  Recently, Director Linnington traveled to the PRC and South Korea.  No specific information has yet been shared on the outcome; however, the League urged him to raise the need for PRC responsiveness not only on the known PRC controlled POW camps during the Korean War, but archival records that surely exist from PRC personnel who served during the Vietnam War, especially in communications units visited by the League Executive Director in 1982.  The League welcomes and appreciates these efforts and is hopeful that PRC officials will at long last be responsive.  Unfortunately, immediately after the DPAA Director’s visit, the PRC cancelled a field operation near the DPRK border, purportedly for security reasons.

 

 

May 10, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,621.  Most recently accounted for is SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/Special Forces, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, and identified 3/16/16.  Prior to this announcement, DPAA most recently announced the name of Major Donald G. Carr, USA/Special Forces, listed as MIA 7/6/71, in South Vietnam, remains returned 8/29/14, and identified 8/10/15.  The third serviceman most recently accounted for is 1Lt Donald W. Bruch, USAF, listed KIA/BNR on 4/29/66, in North Vietnam, remains recovered 12/14/11, and identified 9/4/15.  This brings the total accounted for to 962 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,025. Of the 1,621 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,264 (VN-466, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITED RUSSIA, EUROPEAN NATIONS:   Following coordination with General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), US Co-Chairman of the USRJC, and with interagency approval, Mr. Linnington traveled to Moscow February 8th to meet with Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Vostrotin.  There he proposed the date and agenda for a US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) Plenary Session coming up later this month in Washington, DC.  There is great hope of renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened its new office in their Embassy in Washington, DC.  Recognizing it was past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued work of the USRJC, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by leaders in both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results.  Earlier, Director Linnington also visited several European countries and senior US officials in the European region who will be contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITED THE PRC AND SOUTH KOREA:  More recently, Director Linnington traveled to the PRC and South Korea.  In the PRC, there is not yet anything specific to report; however, the League urged him to raise the need for PRC responsiveness not only on the known PRC controlled POW camps during the Korean War, but archival documents that exist from the PRC personnel who served during the Vietnam War, especially in communications units visited by the League Executive Director in 1982.  The League welcomes and appreciates these efforts by DPAA leadership and is hopeful that PRC officials will at long last be responsive.  Unfortunately, immediately after the DPAA Director’s visit the PRC cancelled a field operation near the DPRK border for security reasons.

 

47th ANNUAL MEETING:  June 22-25, 2016, Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia:  Visit the League’s web site, http://www.pow-miafamilies.org, to get additional details, including a form to register for this crucial meeting, the first opportunity to listen to and assess the work of DPAA.

 

DoD has again authorized COIN Assist travel for two family members per missing man; the Services will soon send information to all Primary Next-of-Kin (PNOK) who will be responsible for designating the two representatives.  Plan to arrive on Wednesday, June 22nd, for registration beginning at 3:00 p.m. If a first time attendee, allow time to check into the Hilton and attend Orientation before boarding buses at 5:30 p.m. for historic Ft. Myer and the Twilight Tattoo to be held that evening.  Individual Case File Reviews will be held in the Service Casualty Offices Wednesday – Saturday during customary business hours.  Plan your departure no earlier than Sunday, June 26th, to enable you to participate fully throughout the meeting and maximize your time in the Washington, DC, area with access to US officials directly responsible for the accounting mission and the historic sites in our nation’s capital.  The 47th Annual Meeting formally concludes Saturday evening, June 25th, with a League-hosted Farewell Reception.

 

ATTEND DPAA-HOSTED UPDATES:  Upcoming date and location is May 14th, Boston, MA.  Contact your Service Casualty Office to obtain the latest information.

 

DNA TESTING:  Family members who have not provided a sample for DNA comparison are strongly urged to do so.  Check with your Service Casualty Office to determine eligibility.

April 25, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is still 1,621.  Recently announced as accounted for is SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/SF, listed as MIA 3/28/68, Laos, remains returned 6/16/98, and identified 3/16/16.  Prior to this announcement, DPAA had announced the name of Major Donald G. Carr, USA/SF, listed as MIA 7/6/71, in South Vietnam, remains returned 8/29/14, and identified 8/10/15.  Word is circulating that remains of 1Lt Daniel W. Thomas, USAF, the other officer missing from this incident, have been recovered.  All hope that these remains will be identified as 1Lt Thomas and returned to his family; however, in reality, the osseous material recovered will undergo thorough analysis at the DPAA Laboratory in Hawaii before any conclusions can be reached.  The total accounted for is still 962 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, raises the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,025. Of the 1,621 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,264 (VN-466, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations and analyses result in changes to loss locations.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITS PRC & SOUTH KOREA:  Director Michael Linnington, accompanied by three DPAA staff members, is now en route to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for accounting-specific talks aimed at increasing PRC cooperation.  In addition to advocating joint field operations, Mr. Linnington likely will seek greater access to archives relevant to Vietnam War losses that would predictably have been known to PRC personnel then serving in North Vietnam and Laos, and archives related to known POW camps run by PRC personnel during the Korean War. The team will then travel to South Korea.  Following a tour of MAKRI (Ministry of National Defense Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification facility), the team will participate in a repatriation ceremony honoring two US personnel who served during the Korean War, remains of whom, if verified through DPAA Lab identification, were recently recovered by South Korean recovery specialists.  MAKRI was established in 2007 with support and assistance of Johnie E. Webb and CILHI.

 

47th ANNUAL MEETING:  June 22-25, 2016, Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia:  Visit the League’s web site, http://www/pow-miafamilies.org, to get additional details, including a form to register for this crucial meeting, the first opportunity to listen to and assess the work of DPAA.  DoD will again authorize COIN Assist travel for two family members per missing man; the Services will soon send information to all Primary Next-of-Kin (PNOK) who will be responsible for designating the two representatives.  Plan to arrive on Wednesday, June 22nd, for registration beginning at 3:00 p.m. If a first time attendee, allow time to check into the Hilton and attend Orientation before boarding buses at 5:30 p.m. for historic Ft. Myer and the Twilight Tattoo to be held that evening.  Individual Case File Reviews will be held in the Service Casualty Offices Wednesday – Saturday during customary business hours.  Plan your departure no earlier than Sunday, June 26th, to enable you to participate fully throughout the meeting and maximize your time in the Washington, DC, area with access to US officials directly responsible for the accounting mission, and to the historic sites in our nation’s capital.  The 47th Annual Meeting formally concludes Saturday evening, June 25th, with a League-hosted Farewell Reception.

 

ATTEND DPAA-HOSTED UPDATE:  The next DPAA-hosted POW/MIA Update will be held in Boston, MA, on May 14th.  Contact your Service Casualty Office to obtain the latest information.  If a family member and you have not yet provided a DNA sample for comparison, you are encouraged to do so and your Service Casualty Office can explain eligibility.

 

March 25, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is now 1,621.  The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 962.  Most recently accounted for is SFC Alan L. Boyer, USA/Special Forces, listed as MIA 3/38/68, Laos, and identified 3/16/16.  Prior to this announcement, DPAA most recently announced the name of Major Donald G. Carr, USA/Special Forces, listed as MIA 7/6/71, in South Vietnam, remains returned 8/29/14, remains returned 8/29/14, and identified 8/10/15.  The third officer most recently accounted for is 1LT Donald W. Bruch, USAF, listed KIA/BNR on 4/29/66, in North Vietnam, remains recovered 12/14/11, and identified 9/4/15.  This brings the total accounted for to 962 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,025. Of the 1,621 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,264 (VN-466, VS-798); Laos-301; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITED RUSSIA AND EUROPEAN NATIONS:   Following coordination with General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), US Co-Chairman of the USRJC, and with interagency approval, Mr. Linnington traveled to Moscow February 8th to meet with Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Vostrotin.  There he proposed the date and agenda for a US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) Plenary Session later this year in Washington, DC.  There is great hope of renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened its new office in their Embassy in Washington, DC.  Recognizing it was past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued work of the USRJC, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by leaders in both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results. Director Linnington also visited several European countries and senior US officials in the region who will be contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.

 

47th ANNUAL MEETING:  June 22-25, 2016, Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia:  Visit the League’s web site, http://www/pow-miafamilies.org, to get additional details, including a form to register for this crucial meeting, the first opportunity to listen to and assess the work of DPAA.

 

DoD will again authorize COIN Assist travel for two family members per missing man; the Services will soon send information to all Primary Next-of-Kin (PNOK) who will be responsible for designating the two representatives.  Plan to arrive on Wednesday, June 22nd, for registration beginning at 3:00 p.m. If a first time attendee, allow time to check into the Hilton and attend Orientation before boarding buses at 5:30 p.m. for historic Ft. Myer and the Twilight Tattoo to be held that evening.  Individual Case File Reviews will be held in the Service Casualty Offices Wednesday – Saturday during customary business hours.  Plan your departure no earlier than Sunday, June 26th, to enable you to participate fully throughout the meeting and maximize your time in the Washington, DC, area with access to US officials directly responsible for the accounting mission and to the historic sites in our nation’s capital.  The 47th Annual Meeting formally concludes Saturday evening, June 24th, with a League-hosted Farewell Reception.

 

ATTEND DPAA-HOSTED UPDATES:  Upcoming dates and locations are April 16th, Austin, TX, and May 14th, Boston, MA.  Contact your Service Casualty Office to obtain the latest information.

 

DNA TESTING:  Family members who have not provided a sample for DNA comparison are strongly urged to do so.  Check with your Service Casualty Office to determine eligibility.

March 12, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam war is now 1,622.  The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 961.  Most recently accounted for is Major Donald G. Carr, USA, listed MIA on July 6, 1971, in South Vietnam, remains returned August 29, 2014, and identified August 19, 2015.  The second officer recently accounted for is 1LT Donald W. Bruch, USAF, listed KIA/BNR on April 29, 1966, in North Vietnam, remains returned December 14, 2011, and identified September 4, 2015.  This brings the total accounted for to 961 since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,024. Of the 1,622 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,264 (VN-466, VS-798); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITED RUSSIA AND EUROPEAN NATIONS:   Following coordination with General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), US Co-Chairman of the USRJC, and with interagency approval, Mr. Linnington traveled to Moscow February 8th to meet with Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Vostrotin.  There he proposed the date and agenda for a US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) Plenary Session later this year in Washington, DC.  There is great hope of renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened its new office in their Embassy in Washington, DC.  Recognizing it was past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued work of the USRJC, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by leaders in both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results. Director Linnington also visited several European countries and senior US officials in the region who will be contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.

47th ANNUAL MEETING:  June 22-25, 2016, Hilton Crystal City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia:  Visit the League’s web site, http://www/pow-miafamilies.org, to get additional details, including a form to register for this crucial meeting, the first opportunity to listen to and assess the work of DPAA.

DoD will again authorize COIN Assist travel for two family members per missing man; the Services will soon send information to all Primary Next-of-Kin (PNOK) who will be responsible for designating the two representatives.  Plan to arrive on Wednesday, June 22nd, for registration beginning at 3:00 p.m. If a first time attendee, allow time to check into the Hilton and attend Orientation before boarding buses at 5:30 p.m. for historic Ft. Myer and the Twilight Tattoo to be held that evening.  Individual Case File Reviews will be held in the Service Casualty Offices Wednesday – Saturday during customary business hours.  Plan your departure no earlier than Sunday, June 26th, to enable you to participate fully throughout the meeting and maximize your time in the Washington, DC, area with access to US officials directly responsible for the accounting mission and to the historic sites in our nation’s capital.  The 47th Annual Meeting formally concludes Saturday evening, June 24th, with a League-hosted Farewell Reception.

ATTEND DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY MEMBER UPDATES:  Upcoming dates/locations are March 19th, Seattle, WA, April 16th, Austin, TX, and May 14th, Boston, MA.

DNA TESTING:  Family members who have not provided a sample for DNA comparison are strongly urged to do so.  Check with your Service Casualty Office to determine eligibility.

February 8, 2016

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam war is still 1,624.  The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 961.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,024. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do 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 those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITS CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently made his first trip to the three most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first briefly visited Cambodia, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, and flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there. He also visited DPAA and Vietnamese teams conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th.  On December 5th, Mr. Linnington briefed the Board of Directors on this important, introductory visit that came at a time of ever-increasing bilateral political, economic and military-to-military cooperation.

DPAA LEADERS VISIT ONGOING FIELD OPERATIONS:   During a quick visit to the region, US-Lao and US-Cambodian specialists conducting field operations were visited by DPAA Deputy Director BG Mark Spindler, USA, and DC-based Principal Staff Director Fern Sumpter Winbush.  Although joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War have resumed at a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.  At present, the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board

REPATRIATIONS OF REMAINS:  On December 10th, remains that could be those of two US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, recovered during joint field operations in Laos, were honored at a repatriation ceremony, attended by US Ambassador Dan Clune.  On December 12th, remains believed to be those of four US personnel, also missing and unaccounted-for since the Vietnam War, were honored in a repatriation ceremony at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.  Some were turned over by civilian Vietnamese and others were recovered during field recovery operations in Vietnam.  The four remains were reviewed by Vietnamese and American forensic specialists who determined the potential for identification.  US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius was joined by specialists from DPAA’s Detachment 2 and the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) in honoring those repatriated.  In remarks, Ambassador Osius reportedly expressed gratitude for the goodwill and increasingly efficient and effective cooperation being afforded by the Government of Vietnam.  The League extends sincere appreciation to all – American and Vietnamese – for the policy and operational support and/or participation which contributed to this repatriation and looks forward to further expanding the level of effort that can lead to increased accounting results.

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITING MOSCOW:   Following coordination with the US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs (USRJC) General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), and with interagency approval, DPAA Director Linnington traveled to Moscow February 8th to meet with Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Valery Vostrotin.  The focus is to propose the agenda and date for a USRJC Plenary Session later this year in Washington, DC.  There is great hope of renewing and restoring the work of the Joint Commission, especially since the Russian Federation named its new Chairman and opened its new office, located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC.  This important office was opened in July of last year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience.  Recognizing it was past time to get beyond the endless delays that have plagued work of the USRJC, the League welcomes and appreciates these new initiatives by both countries and looks forward to increased efforts and accounting results.

Director Linnington will also visit several European countries and US Ambassadors and US Military Commanders in the region, who will be contributing to the effort to conduct WWII recoveries.

UPDATE:  January 24, 2016

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  The number of US personnel missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam war is still 1,624.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made.  The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 961.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,024. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations result in changes to locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

REPATRIATIONS OF REMAINS:  On December 10th, remains that could be those of two US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War , recovered during joint field operations in Laos were honored at a repatriation ceremony, attended by US Ambassador Dan Clune.  On December 12th, remains believed to be those of four US personnel, also missing and unaccounted-for since the Vietnam War, were honored in a repatriation ceremony at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.  Some were turned over by civilian Vietnamese and others were recovered during field recovery operations in Vietnam.  The four remains were reviewed by Vietnamese and American forensic specialists who determined the potential for identification.  US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius was joined by specialists from DPAA’s Detachment 2 and the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) in honoring those repatriated.  In remarks, Ambassador Osius reportedly expressed gratitude for the goodwill and increasingly efficient and effective cooperation being afforded by the Government of Vietnam.  The League extends sincere appreciation to all – American and Vietnamese – for the policy and operational support and/or participation which contributed to this repatriation and looks forward to further expanding the level of effort that can lead to increased accounting results.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITS CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently made his first trip to the three most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first briefly visited Cambodia, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, and flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there. He also visited DPAA and Vietnamese teams conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th.  On December 5th, Mr. Linnington briefed the Board of Directors on this important, introductory visit that came at a time of ever-increasing bilateral political, economic and military-to-military cooperation.   More information will be provided when available.

 

GOOD NEWS:  DPAA has now invited representatives of responsible national Veteran organizations to attend and observe briefings at DPAA-hosted POW/MIA Family Updates around the country.  The League deeply appreciates the decision to again include our Veterans in these meetings.  Though often general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

 

GENERAL FOGLESONG VISITS MOSCOW:  US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret) traveled to Moscow to meet on November 9th with Russian Co-Chairman General Colonel Valery Vostrotin.  The two Co-Chairs outlined their hope of renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC and noted the importance of the new Russian Office of the USRJC located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC.  This important office was opened in July, 2015, and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience.  The League welcomes this new initiative and looks forward to working with Mr. Alekseev and senior Russian officials in Moscow.  It is past time to press forward and end the seemingly endless delays.

 

ACCOUNTING RESULTS:  Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.  At present, the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.  Contact your elected officials and ensure they understand that there must be full funding, with increases as needed, including on qualified personnel, for the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

January 4, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  In mid-October and again more recently, DPAA posted changes to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,624.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made.  The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 961.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,024. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations result in changes to locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

REPATRIATION OF REMAINS:   On December 12th, remains believed to be those of four US personnel missing and unaccounted-for since the Vietnam War were honored in a repatriation ceremony at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.  Turned in unilaterally by civilian Vietnamese and recovered during the 121st period of Joint Field Activities in Vietnam, the four remains were reviewed by Vietnamese and American forensic specialists who determined the potential for being identified as US personnel.  US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius was joined by specialists from DPAA’s Detachment 2 and the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) in honoring those repatriated.  In remarks, Ambassador Osius reportedly expressed gratitude for the goodwill and increasingly efficient and effective cooperation being afforded by the Government of Vietnam.  The League extends sincere appreciation to all – American and Vietnamese – whose authorization, policy and operational support and/or participation contributed to this repatriation and looks forward to further expanding the level of effort that can lead to increased accounting results.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITS CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently returned from his first trip to the three most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first briefly visited Cambodia, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, and flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there.  On December 5th, Mr. Linnington briefed the Board of Directors on this important, introductory visit that came at a time of ever-increasing bilateral political, economic and military-to-military cooperation.  He also visited DPAA and Vietnamese teams conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th.   More will be provided when available.

 

MORE GOOD NEWS:  DPAA Director Linnington has now invited representatives of responsible national Veteran organizations to attend and observe briefings at DPAA-hosted POW/MIA Family Updates around the country.  The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings.  Though often general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

 

GENERAL FOGLESONG VISITS MOSCOW:  US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret) traveled to Moscow to meet on November 9th with the Russian Co-Chairman, General Colonel Valery Aleksandrovich Vostrotin.  The two Co-Chairs outlined their hope for renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC and noted the importance of the new Russian Office of the USRJC located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation.  This important office was opened in July of this year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience.  The League welcomes this new initiative and looks forward to working with Mr. Alekseev and senior Russian officials in Moscow.  It is past time to press forward and end the seemingly endless delays.

 

ACCOUNTING RESULTS:  Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.  In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.  Contact your elected officials and ensure they understand that there must be full funding, with increases as needed, including qualified personnel, for the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

 

December 15, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  In mid-October and again more recently, DPAA posted changes to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,624.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made.  The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 961.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,024. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations result in changes to locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

REPATRIATION OF REMAINS:   On December 12th, remains believed to be those of four US personnel missing and unaccounted-for since the Vietnam War were honored in a repatriation ceremony at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.  Turned in unilaterally by civilian Vietnamese and recovered during the 121st period of Joint Field Activities in Vietnam, the four remains were reviewed by Vietnamese and American forensic specialists who determined the potential for being identified as US personnel.  Our Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius was joined by specialists from DPAA’s Detachment 2 and the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) in honoring those repatriated.  In remarks, Ambassador Osius reportedly expressed gratitude for the goodwill and increasingly efficient and effective cooperation being afforded by the Government of Vietnam.   The League extends sincere appreciation to all – American and Vietnamese – whose authorization, policy and operational support and/or participation contributed to this repatriation and looks forward to further expanding the level of effort that can lead to increased accounting results.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITS CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently returned from his first trip to the three most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first briefly visited Cambodia, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, and flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there.  On December 5th, Mr. Linnington briefed the Board of Directors on this important, introductory visit that came at a time of ever-increasing bilateral political, economic and military-to-military cooperation.  He also visited DPAA and Vietnamese teams conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th.   More will be provided when available.

 

MORE GOOD NEWS:  DPAA Director Linnington has decided to invite representatives of responsible national Veteran organizations to attend and observe briefings at DPAA-hosted POW/MIA Family Updates around the country.  The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings.  Though often general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

 

GENERAL FOGLESONG VISITS MOSCOW:  US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret) traveled to Moscow to meet on November 9th with the Russian Co-Chairman, General Colonel Valery Aleksandrovich Vostrotin.  The two Co-Chairs outlined their hope for renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC and noted the importance of the new Russian Office of the USRJC located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation.  This important office was opened in July of this year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience.  The League welcomes this new initiative and looks forward to working with Mr. Alekseev and senior Russian officials in Moscow.  It is past time to press forward and end the seemingly endless delays.

 

ACCOUNTING RESULTS:  Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.  In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.  Contact your elected officials and ensure they understand that there must be full funding, with increases as needed, including qualified personnel, for the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

December 3, 2015

 

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  In mid-October and again more recently, DPAA posted changes to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,624.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent changes.    Several of those named in DPAA announcements this year demonstrate how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 959.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,022. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations result in changes to locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR COMPLETES VISITS TO CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently returned from his first-ever trip to any of the most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first visited Cambodia, though for just one day, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, and flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there.  We are awaiting details of this important, introductory visit that came at a time of ever-increasing bilateral political, economic and military-to-military cooperation.  He also visited DPAA and Vietnamese teams conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th.   More will be provided when available.

 

MORE GOOD NEWS:  DPAA Director Linnington has decided to invite representatives of responsible national Veteran organizations to attend and observe briefings at DPAA-hosted Updates.  The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings around the country.  Though pretty general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, the DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

 

GENERAL FOGLESONG VISITS MOSCOW:  US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret) traveled to Moscow to meet on November 9th with the Russian Co-Chairman, General Colonel Valery Aleksandrovich Vostrotin.  The two Co-Chairs outlined their hope for renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC and noted the importance of the new Russian Office of the USRJC located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation.  This important office was opened in July of this year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience.  The League welcomes this new initiative and looks forward to working with Mr. Alekseev and senior Russian officials in Moscow.  It is past time to press forward and end the seemingly endless delays.

 

ACCOUNTING RESULTS:  Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.   It is crucial that there be no reduction in DPAA’s budget or the number of personnel to enable overdue responsiveness to Vietnam’s longstanding request.  Now is not the time to pull back on fielding teams to accomplish the Vietnam War accounting.  In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.

 

It is the League’s hope that there the current trend of moving ahead to increase the pace and scope will be sustained.  The Vietnam War POW/MIA accounting mission is running out of time.  That is the reality in terms of eye-witness accounts, immediate family member engagement, and preservation of skeletal material under very acidic soil end other environmental conditions.  NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND ENSURE THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THERE MUST BE FULL FUNDING, WITH INCREASES AS NEEDED, INCLUDING IN QUALIFIED PERSONNEL, FOR THE NEW DEFENSE POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AGENCY (DPAA).

November 24, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  In mid-October and again more recently, DPAA posted changes to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,624.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent changes.    Several of those named in DPAA announcements this year demonstrate how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 959.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,022. Of the 1,624 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,266 (VN-467, VS-799); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate when investigations result in changes to locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

DPAA DIRECTOR COMPLETES VISITS TO CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington recently returned from his first-ever trip to any of the most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first visited Cambodia, though for just one day, then made official calls in Vientiane, Laos, then flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going on to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there.  This important visit appears to have been mostly introductory and came at a time of ever-increasing political and economic relations, as well as bilateral military-to-military cooperation.  He also visited US and SRV personnel conducting field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, ME, on November 14th.   A report will be provided when available.

GENERAL FOGLESONG VISITS MOSCOW:  US Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret) traveled to Moscow to meet on November 9th with the Russian Co-Chairman, General Colonel Valery Aleksandrovich Vostrotin.  The two Co-Chairs outlined their hope for renewing and restoring the work of the USRJC and noted the importance of the new Russian Office of the USRJC located in the Embassy of the Russian Federation.  This important office was opened in July of this year and is headed by Maxim N. Alekseev, an impressive Russian official with a diverse background and record of experience.  The League welcomes this new initiative and looks forward to working with Mr. Alekseev and senior Russian officials in Moscow.  It is past time to press forward and end the seemingly endless delays.

MORE GOOD NEWS:  DPAA Director Linnington has decided to invite representatives of responsible national Veteran organizations to attend and observe briefings at DPAA-hosted Updates.  The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings around the country.  Though pretty general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, the DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

ACCOUNTING RESULTS:  Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.   It is crucial that there be no reduction in DPAA’s budget or the number of personnel to enable overdue responsiveness to Vietnam’s longstanding request.  Now is not the time to pull back on fielding teams to accomplish the Vietnam War accounting.  In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.

It is the League’s hope that there will be no further reluctance to moving full speed ahead.  The Vietnam War POW/MIA accounting mission is running out of time; that is the reality in terms of eye-witness accounts, immediate family members and preservation of skeletal material under very hostile conditions.  NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND ENSURE THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THERE MUST BE NO REDUCTION IN BUDGET AND PERSONNEL FOR THE NEW DEFENSE POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AGENCY (DPAA).

UPDATE:  November 12, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  In mid-October DPAA announced change to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,626.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent change, though not a recent ID as it occurred in 2012.  Several of those named this year demonstrate how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 957.

 

Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,020. Of the 1,626 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,268 (VN-467, VS-801); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR  COMPLETES VISITS TO CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM:  DPAA Director Mike Linnington has now returned from his first-ever trip to any of the most directly engaged Vietnam War countries.  He first visited Cambodia, though for just one day, then made calls in Vientiane, Laos, plus he flew by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel conducting field operations.  He returned to Vientiane before going to Hanoi to meet with senior officials there.  He also visited with those conducting join field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US, arriving in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, Maine, on November 14th.

 

A BIT OF GOOD NEWS:  It now appears that DPAA Director Linnington has decided to invite representatives of responsible national veteran organizations as observers at the DPAA-hosted Updates.  The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings around the country, knowing that though pretty general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, the DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

 

ACCOUNTING RESULTS:  Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.   It is crucial that there be no reduction in DPAA’s budget or the number of personnel to enable overdue responsiveness to Vietnam’s longstanding request.  Now is not the time to pull back on fielding teams to accomplish the Vietnam War accounting.  In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.

 

It is the League’s hope that there will be no further reluctance to moving full speed ahead.  The Vietnam War POW/MIA accounting mission is running out of time; that is the reality in terms of eye-witness accounts, immediate family members and preservation of skeletal material under very hostile conditions.  NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND ENSURE THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THERE MUST BE NO REDUCTION IN BUDGET AND PERSONNEL FOR THE NEW DEFENSE POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AGENCY (DPAA).

UPDATE:  November 6, 2015

 

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: In mid-October DPAA announced change to the list of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,626. For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent change, though not a recent ID as it occurred in 2012. Several of those named this year demonstrate how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 957. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,020. Of the 1,626 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,268 (VN-467, VS-801); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss. Since formation in 1970, the League has  sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

DPAA DIRECTOR VISITS CAMBODIA, LAOS & VIETNAM: DPAA Director Mike Linnington is now in Southeast Asia on his first-ever trip to any of the most directly engaged Vietnam War countries. He first visited Cambodia, though for just one day, then was due to make calls in Vientiane, Laos; however, nothing is yet known except that he also planned to fly by helicopter to visit DPAA and Lao personnel currently conducting field operations. He plans to return to Vientiane before going to  Hanoi to meet with senior officials there and another visit to those conducting join field operations in Vietnam before flying back to the US in time for a DPAA-hosted Family Update in Portland, Maine, on November 14th.

 

A BIT OF GOOD NEWS: It now appears that DPAA Director Linnington has decided to invite representatives of responsible national veteran organizations as observers at the DPAA-hosted Updates. The League deeply appreciates this return to including our Veterans in these meetings around the country, knowing that though pretty general in content, the briefings given are firsthand and provided by responsible US officials. Since DPAA is stressing the importance of outreach and transparency, the DPAA-hosted Updates provide an opportunity for both.

 

ACCOUNTING RESULTS: Although the pace of joint field recoveries and investigations related to the Vietnam War has resumed to a higher level, the Vietnamese, in particular, have repeatedly  called for increasing the pace and scope of such operations, in fact since 2009.  It is crucial that  there be no reduction in DPAA’s budget or the number of personnel to enable overdue responsiveness to Vietnam’s longstanding request. Now is not the time to pull back on fielding  teams to accomplish the Vietnam War accounting. In fact the political climate, regionally and bilaterally with Vietnam, lends itself to expanding cooperation across the board.

 

It is the League’s hope that there will be no further reluctance to moving full speed ahead. The Vietnam War POW/MIA accounting mission is running out of time; that is the reality in terms of eye- witness accounts, immediate family members and preservation of skeletal material  under  very hostile conditions. NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND ENSURE THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THERE MUST BE NO REDUCTION IN BUDGET AND PERSONNEL FOR THE NEW DEFENSE POW/MIA ACCOUNTING AGENCY (DPAA).

UPDATE:  October 16, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There was recently an unannounced change to the list of missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,626.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent change, though not a recent ID; it occurred in 2012.  Several of those named this year demonstrate how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 957.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,020. Of the 1,626 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,268 (VN-467, VS-801); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

SEPTEMBER 18TH WAS NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY:  The national ceremony, always impressive due to troops marching in formation on the Pentagon parade field, was hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, USA.  The principal speaker was Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter who stated in part, “….we continue to improve our personnel accounting program and find new ways to meet one of our oldest and most sacred obligations……. Just as the lessons we learned in our 20th century wars helped us improve how we have cared for the wounded, the fallen, and their families during our recent wars…we’re using 21st century methods to meet our commitments to those who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, and remain missing……We’re looking to expand our work and expand our partnerships.  Our work with the nonprofits History Flight and BentProp are two examples of our collaboration with private organizations and individuals.  We are also working with academic and other foreign partners to help account for our missing…….We’re also harnessing new technology.  Investments and advances in forensic science will allow us to identify the previously unidentifiable remains of some of the fallen.  And we recently opened a state-of-the art facility in Hawaii to help us take advantage of these new methods.  And that’s why we’re using new communication channels to keep in touch with the families of the missing.  We’re developing a password-protected, cloud-based website that will allow our families to be informed around the clock.”  The League appreciates Secretary Carter’s commitment to expand the accounting process utilizing the latest concepts, technologies and capabilities to expedite answers for the families, as we do the uncountable number of events, runs and ceremonies held nationwide and around the world.

PRESIDENT’S POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMITMENT:  On July 21, 2015, at the 116th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the President stated in part:  “As communities across our country continue to mark 50 years since the Vietnam War, we say once more, welcome to all our Vietnam vets. As I think you heard this morning, we have a new POW/MIA agency, new leadership. We’re building stronger partnerships with veterans’ groups like the VFW. Because bringing home Americans taken prisoner or who’ve gone missing is a sacred mission, and we are stepping up our efforts for all wars, to never leave a fallen comrade behind — ever.”   The League deeply appreciates the VFW’s consistently strong support and welcomes the President’s reiteration of national commitment.

VIETNAM’S GENERAL SECRETARY VISITS WHITE HOUSE:  Unbelievable as it may seem to some in the Vietnam War generation, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong held discussions with President Obama at the White House on July 7th.  The General Secretary was accompanied to Washington by very senior level officials, including Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Vice Minister of National Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vice Minister of Public Security To Lam, and many other senior officials with whom the League has met for years.   The agenda during the General Secretary’s visit was extremely busy and included a luncheon at the State Department hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and a buffet dinner reception in his honor hosted by Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Pham Quang Vinh, both events attended by the League Chairman of the Board.  On July 30th, Ambassador Vinh also hosted a reception at the US Institute for Peace to commemorate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the US and Vietnam. Other noteworthy anniversaries in 2015 included the 70th of Vietnam’s National Day with a reception hosted by Ambassador Vinh, and another not individually celebrated, but certainly noteworthy, the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.  Seldom mentioned was the 30th anniversary of the first US-SRV joint recovery effort in northern Vietnam, also in 2015.

SRV VICE MINISTER MEETS WITH LEAGUE & VSO REPRESENTATIVES:  Vietnam’s Vice Minister of National Defense Senior LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh met September 30th with League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths and senior American veteran leaders.  At the League’s request, Veterans of Foreign Wars Executive Director Bob Wallace, Chairman of The American Legion’s National Security Commission Michael Schlee and Vietnam Veterans of America Executive Director for Government Relations Rick Weidman represented the leadership of the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).  Vice Minister Vinh was in Washington, DC, for the Bilateral Defense Dialogue (BDD) at the Pentagon, comprehensive discussions on broader issues of mutual interest in keeping with increased military-to-military relations.

Chairman’s Comment:  Vice Minister Vinh also had important meetings with members of the US Senate and House, with officials in the Defense, Commerce and State Department, Office of the US Trade Representative and a session with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  This was all following the significant, and historically symbolic, visit of the General Secretary.  The pace and scope of bilateral US-Vietnam relations have vastly expanded and continue to grow, all to the advantage of increasing POW/MIA accounting cooperation, now at an all-time high.  It will expand further if the US succeeds in sustaining the FY16 budget and level of personnel necessary to meet requirements.  Increases for FY17 and FY18 will be necessary to maximize the effort to obtain answers before it is too late.  In the years since Vietnam first proposed expanding the pace and scope of POW/MIA accounting operations, the US did not rise to the occasion by expanding its ability to be more responsive.  That now appears to have changed, and there is reason for optimism that the newly appointed DPAA leadership is moving in the right direction to meet expectations of the families and veterans.

DPAA DIRECTOR MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington, USA, was named the first Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service (SES) just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

Important now are the several steps he has taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  Recognizing that structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington inherited reorganizational plans proposed by an interim leadership no longer involved; thus structural changes are still evolving.  Dramatic changes are being made and, reportedly, are focused on adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process. As a result, the Director seems to be moving toward a complex structure geared to meet longstanding expectations, though without the transparency anticipated.

Confirmed earlier is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, in Bangkok, Hanoi and Vientiane, respectively.  They will be reporting to the DPAA Deputy Director, recently announced as BG Mark Spindler, USA, replacing Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, former JPAC Commander, and DPAA Deputy Commander since January of this year.   Maj Gen McKeague will be sorely missed.  The League is thankful that long-serving civilian specialists in these Detachments, widely recognized as indispensable, are being extended in their positions and will continue to serve.

Personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will reportedly continue as a Liaison Office, likely under the supervision of the new Europe & Mediterranean Regional Director COL Christopher Forbes, USA. The Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is included in the Europe/Mediterranean Region.  Due to its requirement to support the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with its presidentially named Chairman, General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), JCSD has a unique, dual-hatted status.  The Asia & Pacific Regional Director is Col Mike Gann, USMC, responsible for all operations in Asia and the Pacific, including the Vietnam War, Korean War and the vast majority of recoverable WWII losses.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of what was labeled the Public Private Partnership (P3) Initiative, now renamed Strategic Partnership Initiative.  DPAA is looking at the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tripartite, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment official assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting over the years.  Strategic partnerships can and likely will offer significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort and produce results more rapidly.  Areas under consideration include applying volunteer and paid contractor efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries pertaining mostly to WWII, Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War loss incidents.  In the future, DNA comparisons now done exclusively by AFDIL could also be expanded by retaining the assistance of private DNA laboratories, if needed.

There was an internal DPAA leadership symposium July 28-30th to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the evolving restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a close-to-finalized structure.  Final decisions have not yet been made, but Mr. Linnington anticipates that full operational capacity will be reached by the end of this year or by January, 2016.  Having said that, the Director has also stated that all personnel are not expected to be in place until June, 2016, and there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs. He also pledged that the process will be fully transparent.

Anticipated soon is the announcement of a senior civilian Deputy Director whose office will be in DC.  Presumably, he/she will have responsibility for managing and administering the DC-based headquarters. It is likely that DPAA-East will include several directorates:  Policy, Plans & Strategy; Outreach & Communications; Strategic Partnerships; Archival Research & Analysis, and many administrative and oversight functions.   Final structure is evolving and is as yet unclear.

DPAA Facility Opens:  A “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” was held on July 27th to officially open the new Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Center of Excellence.    League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei.  Following the formal raising and posting of the permanently-lighted US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags, and the Navy Chaplain’s invocation, Director Linnington spoke briefly.  The late Senator Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, provided the inspirational keynote address.  Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building.

The League extends special appreciation to Johnie Webb for his roughly 14 years of dedicated effort, fully supported by the League, to shepherd the new facility through to completion.  Mr. Webb is a retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), previously Deputy to the JPAC Commander, and currently serving as DPAA’s Interim Deputy Director of what was External Communications, but now is to be known as the Outreach & Communications Directorate.

Chairman’s Comment:  The League’s vision for DPAA is to develop and carry out a viable process to more effectively and efficiently pursue increased accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.  From January – June of this year, Mr. Linnington and I talked many times during his advisory role to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth about the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  He knows there is a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated, talented civilian workforce, as well as add the kind of people he is seeking and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time (three months) in the position.

At the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, he pledged he is in for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges.  I’m confident that Mike Linnington IS the right leader, and this IS the right time.  These are the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have seen since 1992 to obtain answers we have worked to achieve since the League was formed in 1970.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest ranking to the highest, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy, genuine caring and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do!

In my judgment, now IS the accounting mission’s last real chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  If this ongoing effort does not succeed, I envision no future such opportunities, precisely the reason we must ensure that DPAA Director Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from honest, caring, determined people in the accounting community.   He will also need our prayers, our full support and the loyalty and confidence of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL workforce now adjusting to being part of our new DPAA.  Based on shared experience and knowledge, they, too, must focus on what is now possible with this new agency and its leadership.

The League is grateful to Under Secretary Wormuth for selecting Mr. Linnington.  He is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, asks questions and appears unafraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing rapidly.  The accounting mission is complex, there is much to learn and dangers persist; however, many – in and out of the bureaucracy – are trying in every way possible to help him gain solid, objective insights.

DPAA truly can become the central accounting force we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting.  This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case all information that relates or may relate will be provided to the next-of-kin.  Though the missing man’s remains will remain unrecovered, his family and friends will have peace of mind in knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to them and to our Nation.

UPDATE:  October 8, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There was recently an unannounced change to the list of missing and unaccounted-for US personnel, now numbering 1,626.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent change, though not a recent ID, but reportedly in 2012.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 957.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,020. Of the 1,626 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,268 (VN-467, VS-801); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

SEPTEMBER 18TH WAS NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY:  The national ceremony, always impressive due to troops marching in formation on the Pentagon parade field, was hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, USA.  The principal speaker was Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter who stated in part, “….we continue to improve our personnel accounting program and find new ways to meet one of our oldest and most sacred obligations……. Just as the lessons we learned in our 20th century wars helped us improve how we have cared for the wounded, the fallen, and their families during our recent wars…we’re using 21st century methods to meet our commitments to those who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, and remain missing……We’re looking to expand our work and expand our partnerships.  Our work with the nonprofits History Flight and BentProp are two examples of our collaboration with private organizations and individuals.  We are also working with academic and other foreign partners to help account for our missing…….We’re also harnessing new technology.  Investments and advances in forensic science will allow us to identify the previously unidentifiable remains of some of the fallen.  And we recently opened a state-of-the art facility in Hawaii to help us take advantage of these new methods.  And that’s why we’re using new communication channels to keep in touch with the families of the missing.  We’re developing a password-protected, cloud-based website that will allow our families to be informed around the clock.”  The League appreciates Secretary Carter’s commitment to expand the accounting process utilizing the latest concepts, technologies and capabilities to expedite answers for the families, as we do the uncountable number of events, runs and ceremonies held nationwide and around the world.

PRESIDENT’S POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMITMENT:  On July 21, 2015, at the 116th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the President stated in part:  “As communities across our country continue to mark 50 years since the Vietnam War, we say once more, welcome to all our Vietnam vets. As I think you heard this morning, we have a new POW/MIA agency, new leadership. We’re building stronger partnerships with veterans’ groups like the VFW. Because bringing home Americans taken prisoner or who’ve gone missing is a sacred mission, and we are stepping up our efforts for all wars, to never leave a fallen comrade behind — ever.”   The League deeply appreciates the VFW’s consistently strong support and welcomes the President’s reiteration of national commitment.

DPAA DIRECTOR MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington, USA, was named the first Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service (SES) just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

Important now are the several steps he has taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  Recognizing that structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington inherited reorganizational plans proposed by an interim leadership no longer involved; thus structural changes are still evolving.  Dramatic changes are being made and, reportedly are focused on adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process. As a result, and hopefully, the Director appears to be moving toward a complex structure geared to meet longstanding expectations, though without the transparency anticipated.

Confirmed earlier is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, in Bangkok, Hanoi and Vientiane, respectively.  They will be reporting to the DPAA Deputy Director, recently announced as BG Mark Spindler, USA, replacing Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, former JPAC Commander, and DPAA Deputy Commander since January of this year.   He will be sorely missed.  The League is thankful that long-serving civilian specialists in these Detachments, widely recognized as indispensable, are being extended in their positions and will continue to serve.  Personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will reportedly continue as a Liaison Office, likely under the supervision of the new Europe & Mediterranean Regional Director COL Christopher Forbes, USA. The Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is included in the Europe/Mediterranean Region.  Due to its requirement to support the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with its presidentially named Chairman, General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), JCSD has a unique, dual-hatted status.  The Asia & Pacific Regional Director is Col Mike Gann, USMC, responsible for all operations in Asia and the Pacific, including the Vietnam War, Korean War and the vast majority of recoverable WWII losses.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of what was labeled the Public Private Partnership (P3) Initiative, now renamed Strategic Partnership Initiative.  DPAA is looking at the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tripartite, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment official assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting over the years.  Strategic partnerships can and likely will offer significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort and produce results more rapidly.  Areas under consideration include applying volunteer and paid contractor efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries pertaining mostly to WWII, Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War loss incidents.  In the future, DNA comparisons now done exclusively by AFDIL could also be expanded by retaining the assistance of private DNA laboratories, if needed.

There was an internal DPAA leadership symposium July 28-30th to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the evolving restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a close-to-finalized structure.  Final decisions have not yet been made, but Mr. Linnington anticipates that full operational capacity will be reached by the end of this year or by January, 2016.  Having said that, the Director has also stated that all personnel are not expected to be in place until June, 2016, and there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs. He also pledged that the process will be fully transparent.

Announcement is anticipated shortly of a senior civilian Deputy Director whose office will be in DC.  Presumably, this person will have responsibility for managing and administering the DC-based headquarters. Though unknown at this point, it is likely that DPAA-East may include several directorates – Outreach & Communications (public affairs, public diplomacy, outreach, congressional relations and family liaison, etc.), Policy, Plans & Strategy (international relations, domestic and international training and education programs and coordination), Strategic Partnerships (boundaries have yet to be set, but are likely inclusive), Macro Archival Research & Analysis, and many administrative and oversight functions.   Again, this is evolving and unclear.

DPAA Facility Opens:  A “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” was held on July 27th to officially open the new Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Center of Excellence.    League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei.  Following the formal raising and posting of the permanently-lighted US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags, and the Navy Chaplain’s invocation, Director Linnington spoke briefly.  The late Senator Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, provided the inspirational keynote address.  Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building.

The League extends special appreciation to long-time civilian Johnie Webb for his roughly 14 years of dedicated effort to shepherd the new facility through to completion, fully supported by the League.  Mr. Webb is a retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), previously Deputy to the JPAC Commander, and currently serves as DPAA’s Interim Deputy Director of what was External Communications, but now is to be known as Outreach & Communications Directorate.

Chairman’s Comment:  The League’s vision for DPAA is to develop and carry out a viable process to more effectively and efficiently pursue increased accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.  From January – June of this year, Mike Linnington and I had talked many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth about the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  Mr. Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated, talented civilian workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time (three months) in the position.

At the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, he pledged he is in for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m confident that Mike Linnington IS the right guy, and this IS the right time.  These are the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have seen since 1992 to obtain answers we have worked to achieve since the League was formed in 1970.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest ranking to the highest, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy, genuine caring and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do!

He will also need our prayers, our full support and the loyalty and confidence of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL workforce now adjusting to being part of one new DoD agency.  We urge all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside justifiable frustrations and obstacles endured for far too many years.  Just as the families, they must focus on what is now possible with our new DPAA and its leadership, based on our shared experience and knowledge.

In my judgment, right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last real chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  If this ongoing effort does not succeed, I envision no future such opportunities, precisely the reason we must ensure that DPAA Director Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from honest, caring, determined people in the accounting community.

The League is grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting Mr. Linnington who is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, and who asks questions, seemingly unafraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing rapidly.  The accounting mission is complex, there is much to learn and dangers persist; however, many – in and out of the bureaucracy – are trying in every way possible to help him gain solid, objective insights.

I sincerely believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting force we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting.  This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered and all information that relates or may relate will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

UPDATE:  September 21, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There was recently an unannounced change to the number of Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for US personnel.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates and sometimes not even made, as was the case with the most recent change, though not a recent ID, but reportedly in 2012.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using scientific technology and processes that weren’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 957.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,020. Of the 1,626 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,268 (VN-467, VS-801); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

SEPTEMBER 18TH WAS NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY:  The national ceremony, always impressive due to troops marching in formation on the Pentagon parade field, was hosted by outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, USA.  The principal speaker was Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter who stated in part, “....we continue to improve our personnel accounting program and find new ways to meet one of our oldest and most sacred obligations……. Just as the lessons we learned in our 20th century wars helped us improve how we have cared for the wounded, the fallen, and their families during our recent wars…we’re using 21st century methods to meet our commitments to those who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War, and remain missing……We’re looking to expand our work and expand our partnerships.  Our work with the nonprofits History Flight and BentProp are two examples of our collaboration with private organizations and individuals.  We are also working with academic and other foreign partners to help account for our missing…….We’re also harnessing new technology.  Investments and advances in forensic science will allow us to identify the previously unidentifiable remains of some of the fallen.  And we recently opened a state-of-the art facility in Hawaii to help us take advantage of these new methods.  And that’s why we’re using new communication channels to keep in touch with the families of the missing.  We’re developing a password-protected, cloud-based website that will allow our families to be informed around the clock.”  The League appreciates The Secretary’s commitment to expand the accounting process to expedite answers for the families and the uncountable number of events, runs and ceremonies held nationwide and around the world.

PRESIDENT’S POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMITMENT:  On July 21, 2015, at the 116th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the President stated in part:  “As communities across our country continue to mark 50 years since the Vietnam War, we say once more, welcome to all our Vietnam vets. As I think you heard this morning, we have a new POW/MIA agency, new leadership. We’re building stronger partnerships with veterans’ groups like the VFW. Because bringing home Americans taken prisoner or who’ve gone missing is a sacred mission, and we are stepping up our efforts for all wars, to never leave a fallen comrade behind — ever.”   The League deeply appreciates the VFW’s consistently strong support and welcomes the President’s reiteration of national commitment.

DPAA DIRECTOR MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington, USA, was named the first Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service (SES) just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

Important now are the several steps he has taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington’s restructure plans, though still evolving, appear to be dramatically moving the mission forward and, importantly, seem focused on adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process. As a result, the Director appears to be moving toward a comprehensive organizational restructure to meet longstanding expectations.

Confirmed earlier is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively.  They will be reporting to DPAA Deputy Director BG Mark Spindler, USA, named to replace Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, former JPAC Commander and DPAA Deputy Commander since January of this year.   He will be sorely missed as he separates from DPAA this week and retired from the USAF shortly thereafter.

The Asia & Pacific Regional Director is Col Mike Gann, USMC.  He will be responsible for all operations, all wars, in Asia and the Pacific, including the Vietnam War, Korean War and the vast majority of field-recoverable WWII losses.  We are thankful that long-serving civilian specialists in the SEA Detachments, widely recognized as indispensable, will not be lost to the mission and have been extended in their positions. Personnel stationed in Europe to support operations there will reportedly continue as a Liaison Office, working under the new Europe & Mediterranean Regional Director COL Christopher Forbes, USA.  Placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) will also be under COL Forbes.  Due to its requirement to support the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with a presidentially- named Chairman General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), JCSD has had and presumably will continue to have unique status.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of what was labeled the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, now renamed the Strategic Partnerships initiative.  DPAA is looking at areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tripartite, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment official assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting until recently.  Strategic Partnerships can and will impact the Vietnam War effort by freeing up assets internal to DPAA while offering significant opportunities to expand remains recovery efforts and produce results more rapidly.  Areas under consideration include archival research, investigations and recoveries, pertaining mostly to losses during WWII and Korean War (disinterment and IDs), but also available to consider for Cold War and Vietnam War loss incidents.  In the future, DNA comparisons now done exclusively by AFDIL could also be expanded by retaining the assistance of private DNA laboratories, if needed.

There was an internal DPAA leadership symposium July 28-30th to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the evolving restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a close-to-finalized structure.  Final decisions have not yet been made, but Mr. Linnington anticipates that full operational capacity will be reached by the end of this year or by January, 2016.  Having said that, the Director has also stated his expectation that there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs, pledging that the process will be fully transparent.

Announcement is anticipated shortly of a senior civilian Deputy Director whose office will be in DC.  Presumably, this person will have responsibility for managing and administering the DC-based headquarters. That may also mean inclusion of several directorates – Outreach & Communications (public affairs, public diplomacy, outreach to families and veteran organizations, congressional relations and liaison, etc.), Policy, Plans & Strategy (international relations, domestic and international training and education programs and coordination), Strategic Partnerships (boundaries have yet to be set, but are likely inclusive), Macro Archival Research & Analysis, and many administrative and oversight functions.

DPAA Facility Opens:  A “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” was held on July 27th to officially open the new Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Center of Excellence.    League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei.  Following the formal raising and posting of the permanently-lighted US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags, and the Navy Chaplain’s invocation, Director Linnington spoke briefly.  The late Senator Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, provided the inspirational keynote address.  Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building.

The League extends special appreciation to long-time civilian Johnie Webb for his roughly 14 years of dedicated effort to shepherd the new facility through to completion, fully supported by the League.  Mr. Webb is a retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), previously Deputy to the JPAC Commander, and currently serves as DPAA’s Interim Deputy Director of what was External Communications, but now appears to be evolving into the Outreach & Communications Directorate.

Chairman’s Comment:  The League’s vision for DPAA is to develop and carry out a viable process to more effectively and efficiently pursue increased accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.  From January – June of this year, Mike Linnington and I had talked many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth about the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  Mr. Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated, talented civilian workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.

At the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, he pledged he is in for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m confident that Mike Linnington IS the right guy, and this IS the right time, because these are the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have seen since 1992 to obtain answers we have worked to achieve since the League was formed in 1970.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest ranking to the highest, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy, genuine caring and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do!

He will also need our prayers, our full support and the loyalty and confidence of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL workforce now adjusting to being part of one new DoD agency.  We urge all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside justifiable frustrations and obstacles endured for far too many years and focus on what is now possible with our new DPAA and its leadership.

In my judgment, right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last real chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  If this ongoing effort does not succeed, I envision no future such opportunities, precisely the reason we must ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from honest, caring, determined people in the accounting community.

The League is grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to ask questions and be seen as learning, which he is doing rapidly.  Yes, he has much to learn, and   dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

I sincerely believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting force we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting.  This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered and all information that relates or may relate will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

UPDATE:  September 14, 2015

THIS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH, IS NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY, intended primarily as a time to renew our nation’s commitment to accounting for Americans still missing.  Ceremonies are being held throughout the country.   Look for one near you to show your support!

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There has been no published change to the number missing and unaccounted-for US personnel since the April 10th Update.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, meaning other related IDs may be pending.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

PRESIDENT’S POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMITMENT:  On July 21, 2015, at the 116th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the President stated in part:  “As we mark the 70th anniversary of the second end of the — or the end of the Second World War, I want to offer a special salute to all of our World War II veterans. As communities across our country continue to mark 50 years since the Vietnam War, we say once more, welcome to all our Vietnam vets. As I think you heard this morning, we have a new POW/MIA agency, new leadership. We’re building stronger partnerships with veterans’ groups like the VFW. Because bringing home Americans taken prisoner or who’ve gone missing is a sacred mission, and we are stepping up our efforts for all wars, to never leave a fallen comrade behind — ever.”   The League deeply appreciates the VFW’s consistently strong support and welcomes the President’s reiteration of national commitment.

DPAA DIRECTOR MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington, USA, was named the first Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service (SES) just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

Important now are the several steps he has taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington’s restructure plans, though still evolving, appear to be dramatically moving the mission forward and, importantly, seem focused on adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process. As a result, the Director appears to be moving toward a comprehensive organization structured to meet longstanding expectations.

Confirmed earlier is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively.  They will be reporting to the DPAA Deputy Director, very recently announced as BG Mark Spindler, USA, replacing Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, former JPAC Commander, and DPAA Deputy Commander since January of this year.   He will be sorely missed.

We are thankful that long-serving civilian specialists in the SEA Detachments, widely recognized as indispensable, will not be lost to the mission and are being extended in their positions.  Personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will reportedly continue as a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to new Europe & Mediterranean Regional Director COL Christopher Forbes, USA.  The Asia & Pacific Regional Director is Col Mike Gann, USMC, responsible for all operations, all wars, in Asia and the Pacific, including the Vietnam War, Korean War and the vast majority of recoverable WWII losses.  Placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known.  Due to its requirement to support the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with a presidentially named Chairman, General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), JCSD has a unique status.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of what was labeled the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, now renamed Strategic Partnerships initiative.  DPAA is looking at the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tripartite, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment official assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting over the years.  Strategic Partnerships can and will offer significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort and produce results more rapidly.  Areas under consideration include applying volunteer and paid contractor efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries pertaining mostly to WWII, Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War loss incidents.  In the future, DNA comparisons now done exclusively by AFDIL could also be expanded by retaining the assistance of private DNA laboratories, if needed.

There was an internal DPAA leadership symposium July 28-30th to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the evolving restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a close-to-finalized structure.  Final decisions have not yet been made, but Mr. Linnington anticipates that full operational capacity will be reached by the end of this year or by January, 2016.  Having said that, the Director has also stated his expectation that there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs, pledging that the process will be fully transparent.

Announcement is anticipated shortly of a senior civilian Deputy Director whose office will be in DC.  Presumably, this person will have responsibility for managing and administering the DC-based headquarters. That may also mean inclusion of several directorates – Outreach & Communications (public affairs, public diplomacy, outreach, congressional relations and liaison, etc.), Policy, Plans & Strategy (international relations, domestic and international training and education programs and coordination), Strategic Partnerships (boundaries have yet to be set, but are likely inclusive), Macro Archival Research & Analysis, and many administrative and oversight functions.

DPAA Facility Opens:  A “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” was held on July 27th to officially open the new Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Center of Excellence.    League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei.  Following the formal raising and posting of the permanently-lighted US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags, and the Navy Chaplain’s invocation, Director Linnington spoke briefly.  The late Senator Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, provided the inspirational keynote address.  Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building.

The League extends special appreciation to long-time civilian Johnie Webb for his roughly 14 years of dedicated effort to shepherd the new facility through to completion, fully supported by the League.  Mr. Webb is a retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), previously Deputy to the JPAC Commander, and currently serves as DPAA’s Interim Deputy Director of what was External Communications, but now appears to be evolving into the Outreach & Communications Directorate.

Chairman’s Comment:  The League’s vision for DPAA is to develop and carry out a viable process to more effectively and efficiently pursue increased accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.  From January – June of this year, Mike Linnington and I had talked many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth about the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  Mr. Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated, talented civilian workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.

At the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, he pledged he is in for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m confident that Mike Linnington IS the right guy, and this IS the right time, because these are the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have seen since 1992 to obtain answers we have worked to achieve since the League was formed in 1970.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest ranking to the highest, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy, genuine caring and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do!

He will also need our prayers, our full support and the loyalty and confidence of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL workforce now adjusting to being part of one new DoD agency.  We urge all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside justifiable frustrations and obstacles endured for far too many years and focus on what is now possible with our new DPAA and its leadership.

In my judgment, right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last real chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  If this ongoing effort does not succeed, I envision no future such opportunities, precisely the reason we must ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from honest, caring, determined people in the accounting community.

The League is grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to ask questions and be seen as learning, which he is doing rapidly.  Yes, he has much to learn, and   dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

I sincerely believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting force we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting.  This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered and all information that relates or may relate will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

UPDATE:  September 8, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There has been no published change to the number missing and unaccounted-for US personnel since the April 10th Update. For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, meaning other related IDs may be pending. Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still missing and unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss. Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

PRESIDENT’S POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMITMENT: On July 21, 2015, at the 116th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the President stated in part: “As we mark the 70th anniversary of the second end of the — or the end of the Second World War, I want to offer a special salute to all of our World War II veterans. As communities across our country continue to mark 50 years since the Vietnam War, we say once more, welcome to all our Vietnam vets. As I think you heard this morning, we have a new POW/MIA agency, new leadership. We’re building stronger partnerships with veterans’ groups like the VFW. Because bringing home Americans taken prisoner or who’ve gone missing is a sacred mission, and we are stepping up our efforts for all wars, to never leave a fallen comrade behind — ever.”   The League deeply appreciates the VFW’s consistently strong support and welcomes the President’s reiteration of national commitment.

DPAA DIRECTOR MOVING FORWARD! LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington, USA, was named the first Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in as a civilian in the Senior Executive Service (SES) just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th. While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

Important now are the several steps he has taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community. While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington’s restructure plans, though still evolving, appear to be dramatically moving the mission forward and, importantly, seem focused on adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process. As a result, the Director appears to be moving toward a comprehensive organization structured to meet longstanding expectations.

Already confirmed is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively. They will be reporting to the DPAA Deputy Director, very recently announced as BG Mark Spindler, USA, replacing Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, former JPAC Commander, and DPAA Deputy Commander since January of this year.  He will be sorely missed.

We are thankful that long-serving civilian specialists in the SEA Detachments, widely recognized as indispensable, will not be lost to the mission and are being extended in their positions. Personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will reportedly continue as a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to new Europe & Mediterranean Regional Director COL Christopher Forbes, USA. The Asia & Pacific Regional Director is Col Mike Gann, USMC, responsible for all operations, all wars, in Asia and the Pacific, including the Vietnam War, Korean War and the vast majority of recoverable WWII losses. Placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known. Due to its requirement to support the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with a presidentially named Chairman, General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), JCSD has a unique status.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of what was labeled the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, now renamed Strategic Partnerships initiative. DPAA is looking at the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tripartite, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment official assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting over the years. Strategic Partnerships can and will offer significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort and produce results more rapidly. Areas under consideration include applying volunteer and paid contractor efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries pertaining mostly to WWII, Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War loss incidents. In the future, DNA comparisons now done exclusively by AFDIL could also be expanded by retaining the assistance of private DNA laboratories, if needed.

There was an internal DPAA leadership symposium July 28-30th to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the evolving restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a close-to-finalized structure. Final decisions have not yet been made, but Mr. Linnington anticipates that full operational capacity will be reached by the end of this year or by January, 2016. Having said that, the Director has also stated his expectation that there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs, pledging that the process will be fully transparent.

Announcement is anticipated shortly of a senior civilian Deputy Director whose office will be in DC. Presumably, this person will have responsibility for managing and administering the DC-based headquarters. That may also mean inclusion of several directorates – Outreach & Communications (public affairs, public diplomacy, outreach, congressional relations and liaison, etc.), Policy, Plans & Strategy (international relations, domestic and international training and education programs and coordination), Strategic Partnerships (boundaries have yet to be set, but are likely inclusive), Macro Archival Research & Analysis, and many administrative and oversight functions.

DPAA Facility Opens: A “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” was held on July 27th to officially open the new Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Center of Excellence.  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei. Following the formal raising and posting of the permanently-lighted US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags, and the Navy Chaplain’s invocation, Director Linnington spoke briefly. The late Senator Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, provided the inspirational keynote address. Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building. The League extends special appreciation to long-time civilian Johnie Webb for his roughly 14 years of dedicated effort to shepherd the new facility through to completion, fully supported by the League. Mr. Webb is a retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CILHI), previously Deputy to the JPAC Commander, and currently serves as DPAA’s Interim Deputy Director of what was External Communications, but now appears to be evolving into the Outreach & Communications Directorate.

Chairman’s Comment: The League’s vision for DPAA is to develop and carry out a viable process to more effectively and efficiently pursue increased accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families. From January – June of this year, Mike Linnington and I had talked many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth about the “complete reorganization” of the entire community. Mr. Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated, talented civilian workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.

He pledged at the League’s 46th Annual Meeting that he is in this mission for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m confident that Mike Linnington IS the right guy, and this IS the right time, because these are the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have seen since 1992 to obtain answers we have worked to achieve since the League was formed in 1970.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th. I can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel. From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him. It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy, genuine caring and determination. That is all we can ask. All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do!

He will also need our prayers, our full support and the loyalty and confidence of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL workforce now adjusting to being part of one new DoD agency. We urge all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside justifiable frustrations and obstacles endured for far too many years and focus on what is now possible with our new DPAA and its leadership.

In my judgment, right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last real chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  If this ongoing effort does not succeed, I envision no future such opportunities, precisely the reason we must ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from honest, caring, determined people in the accounting community, rather than undue influence from the few with self-serving interests and self-preservation as their highest calling.

We all should be grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting a person like Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to ask questions and be seen as learning, which he is doing in spades. Yes, he has much to learn, and dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

I sincerely believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting force we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting. This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered and all information that relates or may relate will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing our US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

UPDATE:  August 14, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There still has been no published change to the number unaccounted-for since the April 10th Update. For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, meaning other IDs are likely pending. Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss. Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

NEW DPAA DIRECTOR NAMED & NOW MOVING FORWARD!   LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington,   USA,

was named Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting. While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

 

Important now are the several steps he has already taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically, though thoughtfully, to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community. While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington is moving out smartly. His restructure plans, though still evolving, appear to be dramatically moving the mission forward and, importantly, are adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process. As a result, he is moving beyond the recommendations he received from Vice Admiral Michael Franken, USN, whose vision for DPAA related more to a concept for production of “products” than to a viable plan to pursue accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.

 

Already confirmed is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively, reporting to incoming Deputy Director, BG Mark Spindler, USA. Long-serving civilian specialists in the Detachments, recognized as indispensable, are expected to be extended indefinitely. The small contingent of personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will also continue as a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to a European Regional Director. Placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known, but has unique status due to supporting the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with a presidentially named Chairman, General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret).

There is also a very high priority being placed on success of the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, viewing the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tri- party, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment the experienced field assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting. P3 offers significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting efforts to produce results more rapidly through applying some contractors’ efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries that pertain mostly to WWII, Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War loss incidents.

A symposium was held in Hawaii, immediately following the “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” on July 27th. League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei. Following the formal raising and permanently-lighted posting of the US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags and an invocation by a Navy Chaplain, Director Linnington gave remarks, followed by the late Senator Daniel Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, whose remarks were inspirational. Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building. The League sincerely thanks dedicated civilian Johnie E. Webb, Jr., retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory, Deputy to the Commander of JPAC, and currently Interim Deputy Director of External Communications for DPAA. His long battle, fully supported by the League, to see completion of the new DPAA building has finally ended in success. We can only hope that his historic dedication to the accounting mission will be rightfully rewarded in the new DPAA structure.

This symposium began on July 28th and was scheduled to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the newly improved restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a nearly finalized structure. Final structural decisions are expected as early as Friday, August 7th, but it is anticipated that full operational capacity won’t be reached until the end of this year or in January, 2016. Having said that, Mr. Linnington has stated his expectation that there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs.

All are anticipating the announcement soon of a senior civilian deputy to the Director whose office will be in DC and who, presumably, will have direct responsibility for managing and administering the work of the DC-based headquarters. That will likely mean several directorates, including External Communications (public affairs, public diplomacy, outreach, congressional relations/liaison, educational programs, etc.), Policy and Strategy (international relations, domestic education and outreach programs and coordination), P3 (the boundaries have yet to be set, but are inclusive), an Archival Research & Analysis group, and many administrative and oversight requirements.

 

Chairman’s Comment: Mike Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated and talented workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward. He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position. He pledged at the League’s 46th Annual Meeting that he is in this for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m convinced that Mike Linnington IS the right guy, and this IS the right time and the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have seen since 1992 to obtain answers we have worked to achieve since the League was formed in 1970.

Right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required. There will be NO further such opportunities, precisely the reason I’m determined to ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from the many honest, caring and determined people working in the accounting community, and not be influenced by the self-serving, insecure people who are likely doing their best to remain in positions they should not hold.

We all should be grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting a person like Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing in spades. Yes, he has much to learn, and many self-serving people still surround him, so dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th. I had talked with him many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth, VADM Franken and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague relating to the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  I can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel. From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him. Mr. Linnington was sworn in on Monday, June 22nd, as the civilian Senior Executive Service Level 3 Director of DPAA. It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy and determination. That is all we can ask. All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do, but he will also need our full support and that of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the demoralized former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL personnel now in DPAA.

Therefore, we, the Vietnam War families and our many concerned Veteran organizations, individual Veterans and civilian supporters, ask all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside justifiable frustrations and obstacles you have endured for far too many years and focus on what is possible with our new DPAA Director.

I sincerely believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting focus we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting. This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered, but all information will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing our US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

46TH ANNUAL MEETING: The June 24-27th meeting was the largest, most comprehensive and compelling annual meeting in years. The Hilton sold out, responses from senior leaders were positive, and official animosity toward the League seems to have disappeared in favor of a partnership not seen since 1992. The long-overdue League Newsletter is being finalized and will be distributed and posted on the League’s web site (www.pow-miafamilies.org) and Facebook page by the end of next week.

UPDATE:  August 5, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There still has been no published change to the number unaccounted-for since the April 10th Update.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, meaning other IDs are likely pending.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

NEW DPAA DIRECTOR NAMED & NOW MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (Ret) Mike Linnington, USA, was named Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and sworn in just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background.

Important now are the several steps he has already taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically, though thoughtfully, to follow the directive issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, Mr. Linnington is moving out smartly.  His restructure plans, though still evolving, appear to be dramatically moving the mission forward and, importantly, are adhering to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting process.   As a result, he is moving beyond the recommendations he received from Vice Admiral Michael Franken, USN, whose vision for DPAA related more to a concept for production of “products” than to a viable plan to pursue accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.

Already confirmed is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively, reporting to incoming Deputy Director, BG Mark Spindler, USA. Long-serving civilian specialists in the Detachments, recognized as indispensable, are expected to be extended indefinitely.  The small contingent of personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will also continue as a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to a European Regional Director.  Placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known, but has unique status due to supporting the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs, with a presidentially named Chairman, General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret).

There is also a very high priority being placed on success of the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, viewing the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, tri-party, etc.) could be formed as a means to augment the experienced field assets and resources that have focused primarily on Vietnam War accounting.  P3 offers significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting efforts to produce results more rapidly through applying some contractors’ efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries that pertain mostly to WWII, Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War loss incidents.

A symposium was held in Hawaii, immediately following the “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony” on July 27th.  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths represented the POW/MIA families by helping to cut the traditional lei.  Following the formal raising and permanently-lighted posting of the US, POW/MIA and State of Hawaii flags and an invocation by a Navy Chaplain, Director Linnington gave remarks, followed by the late Senator Daniel Inouye’s long-time Chief of Staff, Jennifer Sabas, whose remarks were inspirational. Prayers and blessings by a native Hawaiian clergyman concluded with the PACOM Band playing the Military Service Songs, after which a reception was held in the front foyer of the new, incredible DPAA building. The League sincerely thanks dedicated civilian Johnie E. Webb, Jr., retired Army LTC, former Commander of the Central Identification Laboratory, Deputy to the Commander of JPAC, and currently Interim Deputy Director of External Communications for DPAA.  His long battle, fully supported by the League, to see completion of the new DPAA building has finally ended in success.  We can only hope that his historic dedication to the accounting mission will be rightfully rewarded in the new DPAA structure.

This symposium began on July 28th and was scheduled to provide an opportunity for DPAA leaders, including interim-appointed Directors and Deputies, to utilize the newly improved restructure as the basis for helping to determine a viable sub-structure, moving tasks and numbers of personnel as required, but getting to a nearly finalized structure.  Final structural decisions are expected as early as Friday, August 7th, but it is anticipated that full operational capacity won’t be reached until the end of this year or in January, 2016.  Having said that, Mr. Linnington has stated his expectation that there will be in-process reviews, assessments and, potentially, adjustments as implementation occurs.

All are anticipating the announcement soon of a senior civilian deputy to the Director whose office will be in DC and who, presumably, will have direct responsibility for managing and administering the work of the DC-based headquarters.  That will likely mean several directorates, including External Communications (public affairs, public diplomacy, outreach, congressional relations/liaison, educational programs, etc.), Policy and Strategy (international relations, domestic education and outreach programs and coordination), P3 (the boundaries have yet to be set, but are inclusive), an Archival Research & Analysis group, and many administrative and oversight requirements.

Chairman’s Comment:  Mike Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated and talented workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.  He pledged at the League’s 46th Annual Meeting that he is in this for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m convinced that he really IS the right guy and this IS the right time, and the best circumstances we, the POW/MIA families, have ever had to obtain the answers we seek and have worked to achieve since 1970.

Right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  There will be NO further such opportunities, precisely the reason I’m determined to ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from the many honest, caring and determined people working in the accounting community, and not be influenced by the self-serving, insecure people who are likely doing their best to remain in positions they should not hold.

We all should be grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting a person like Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing in spades.  Yes, he has much to learn, and many self-serving people still surround him, so dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th.  I had talked with him many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth, VADM Franken and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague relating to the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  I can personally attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  Mr. Linnington was sworn in on Monday, June 22nd, as the civilian Senior Executive Service Level 3 Director of DPAA.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do, but he will also need our full support and that of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the demoralized former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL personnel now in DPAA.

Therefore, we, the Vietnam War families and our many concerned Veteran organizations, individual Veterans and civilian supporters, ask all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside justifiable frustrations and obstacles you have endured for far too many years and focus on what is possible with our new DPAA Director.

I sincerely believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting focus we all have sorely missed since 1992 – with cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting.  This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered, but all information will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing our US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  The June 24-27th meeting was the largest, most comprehensive and compelling annual meeting in years. The Hilton sold out, responses from senior leaders were positive, and official animosity toward the League seems to have disappeared in favor of a partnership not seen since 1992.  The long-overdue League Newsletter is being finalized and will be distributed and posted on the League’s web site (www.pow-miafamilies.org) and Facebook page by the end of the week.

UPDATE:  July 13, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There still has been no published change to the number  unaccounted-for since the April 10th Update.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, and others are likely pending.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  The League seeks the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

NEW DPAA DIRECTOR NAMED & NOW MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (ret) Mike Linnington, USA, the new permanent Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), was named just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background that is explained more fully in the upcoming League Newsletter.

Important now are the several steps he has already taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically, though thoughtfully, to follow directives issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, as the League has experienced repeatedly, Mr. Linnington is moving out smartly.  His restructure plans dramatically move the mission forward and, importantly, adhere to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting community.  As a result, he is moving beyond the recommendations he received from Vice Admiral Michael Franken, USN, whose vision for DPAA related more to a concept for production of “products” than to a viable plan to pursue accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.

Already confirmed is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively, reporting to the incoming Deputy Director (an active-duty Army Brigadier General) who will likely be announced next week.   The long-serving, indispensable civilian specialists in the Detachments are expected to be extended.  The small contingent of personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will also continue to be a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to a European Regional Director.  The placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known, but has unique status within DPAA due to also supporting the work of the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, viewing the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, three party, etc.) could be formed as the way in which established processes and personnel can be freed up from WWII missions to focus on Vietnam War accounting.  This initiative offers significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort to produce results more rapidly through applying some contractors’ efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries that pertain mostly to WWII, the Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War.

A symposium will be held in Hawaii, immediately following the “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony) on July 27th.  This symposium will provide an opportunity for the DPAA leadership, including all Directors and Deputies, to utilize the newly improved restructure and sort out the sub-structure, moving tasks as needed, but getting to a nearly finalized structure.  I look forward to seeing that product.

Chairman’s Comment:  Mike Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated and talented workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.  He pledged at the League’s 46th Annual Meeting that he is in this for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m convinced that he really IS the right guy and this IS the right time.

Right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  There will be NO further such opportunities, precisely the reason I’m determined to ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from the many honest, caring and determined people working in the accounting community, and not be influenced by the self-serving, insecure people who are likely doing their best to remain in positions they should not hold.

We all should be grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting a person like Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a  know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing in spades.  Yes, he has much to learn, and many self-serving people still surround him, so dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

Finally, I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and had talked with him many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth, VADM Franken and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague relating to the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  As a result, I can attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  Mr. Linnington was sworn in on Monday, June 22nd, as the civilian Senior Executive Service Level 3 Director of DPAA.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do, but he will also need our full support and that of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the demoralized former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL personnel now in DPAA.

Therefore, we, the Vietnam War families and our many concerned Veteran organizations, individual veterans and civilian supporters, ask all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside the justifiable frustrations and obstacles you have endured for far too many years and focus on what is possible with our new DPAA Director.  I honestly believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting focus we all have sorely missed since 1992 – a cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting.  This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered, but all information will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  The June 24-27th meeting was the largest, most comprehensive and compelling annual meeting in years. The Hilton sold out, responses from senior leaders were positive, and official animosity toward the League seems to have disappeared in favor of a partnership not seen since 1992.  A full report will be in the upcoming League Newsletter.

UPDATE:  June 20, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There has been no published change to the number still unaccounted-for since the April 10th Update.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, and others are likely pending.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These numbers occasionally fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.)  The League seeks the fullest possible accounting for those still missing and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

 

NEW DPAA DIRECTOR ANNOUNCEDLTG Mike Linnington, USA, retired from active duty on June 17th, has been announced as the new permanent Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).  He previously served as the Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding background.   LTG Linnington was born in Cape May, NJ. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1980 and was commissioned an Infantry Officer. His civilian education includes a BS from the US Military Academy at West Point, NY, and an MS in Applied Mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. His military education includes the Infantry Officer’s Basic and Advanced Courses at Ft Benning, Georgia, US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth, KS, and the National War College in Washington, DC where he earned a Masters Degree in National Security Strategy.   His 33 year active duty career includes duties in key command and staff positions at Ft Ord, CA; Ft Riley, KS; West Berlin (Divided), Germany; multiple assignments at Fort Campbell, KY; the Republic of Korea, and several tours in Washington, DC (Army and Joint Staffs). From Jun ’02 to Jun ’04, then COL Linnington commanded the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) where he deployed both in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  After selection to Flag Rank, LTG Linnington held positions of responsibility at Ft Benning, GA (Deputy Commanding General), West Point, NY (Commandant of Cadets), Kabul, Afghanistan (International Security Assistance Force), and in Washington, DC (Commander, US Army Military District of Washington). LTG Linnington assumed his duties as Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness) in July 2013, the position from which he retired on June 17, 2015.  LTG Linnington’s wife of 32 years is the former Brenda Zachary of Salinas, CA.  They have two children, a son, Army CAPT Michael, and a daughter, Tracy, a Program Manager, Navy Federal Credit Union; she and her husband are expecting the Linnington’s first grandchild soon.

 

Chairman’s Comment:  I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and had talked with him in his POW/MIA advisory role to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, VADM Mike Franken and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague relating to the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  As a result, I can attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  LTG Linnington will be sworn in on Monday, June 22nd, as the civilian Senior Executive Service Level 3 Director.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do, but he will also need our full support and that of the currently demoralized former JPAC and DPMO workforce.   Therefore, we, the Vietnam War families and our many concerned Veteran groups, individual Veterans and civilian supporters, ask all POW/MIA-related personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside the countless obstacles and justifiable frustrations you have endured over far too many years and focus on what is possible with our new DPAA Director.  I believe DPAA truly can become the accounting agency we all have sorely missed since 1992, a cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting, the League’s longstanding, entirely reasonable objective.       

46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  The June 24-27th meeting will be the largest, most comprehensive and compelling annual meeting in years. The Hilton is sold out, responses from senior leaders have been positive, and animosity toward the League seems to have disappeared, and we are most grateful.

UPDATE:  May 1, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: Since the League Newsletter, November 24, 2014, 11 US personnel have been announced as accounted for, the latest being US Army SGT Rodney L. Griffin, previously listed as missing in Cambodia. (For various reasons, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates.) Those most recently announced are:

 

Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, MIA, LA, 1/11/70, RR 2/11/03, ID 12/17/14

LT Richard C. Clark, USNR, MIA, NVN, 10/24/67, RR1/17/91, ID 11/7/14

Col William E. Cooper, USAF, MIA, NVN, 4/24/66, RR 11/16/98, ID 12/4/14

SGT Rodney L. Griffin, USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

MSG James W. Holt, USA, MIA, SVN, 2/6/68, RR 6/21/89, ID 1/10/15

CMSgt Edwin E. Morgan, USAF, MIA, LA, 3/13/66, RR 11/19/11, ID 1/29/15

SSG Warren E. Newton, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/8/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

CW3 Larry Phipps, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

SSG Bunyan D. Price, Jr., USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

CW3 Ranier S. Ramos, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

Maj Dale W. Richardson, USAR, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

LTJG Neil B. Taylor, USNR, KIA/BNR, 9/14/65, RR 6/24/13, ID 11/25/14

 

Several of those named serve as examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,267 (VN-465, VS-802); Laos-304; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. (The announcement regarding SGT Griffin included change of location on two USAF personnel from North Vietnam to Laos.) Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.

ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION: Things continue to move fairly rapidly and with no small amount of confusion and dissension internal to the three major organizations–DPMO, JPAC and LSEL–being restructured into one agency, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA.   RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, appointed by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP) Christine Wormuth as the Interim Director, met with the Board of Directors on March 14th. His presentation gave reason for optimism that he was open to new ideas, such as Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) now under consideration. The League Board welcomed the concept, while recognizing that P3s would likely be more useful on WWII incidents that occurred in Europe, as well as Pacific Islands and other countries in Asia, than to Vietnam War losses, noting longstanding, hard-earned agreements reached with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, for USG access in the context of bilateral government-to-government cooperation.

Chairman’s Assessment: Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave reason for optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial. The outcome is now less certain; however, senior military officers were selected to restructure the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   Clearly, former Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and other inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process. While that may seem simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team. We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and she did, supported initially by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach René Bardorf. Since January of this year, reorganization has primarily been in the hands of Interim Director RADM Mike Franken, USN, assisted by Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, with LTG Mike Linnington, USA, in an advisory role. A permanent Director is due to be in place before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting in June.

UPDATE:  April 10, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: Since the League Newsletter, November 24, 2014, 11 US personnel have been announced as accounted for, including one this week, US Army SGT Rodney L. Griffin, previously listed as missing in Cambodia. (DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates.) Those most recently announced are:

 

Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, MIA, LA, 1/11/70, RR 2/11/03, ID 12/17/14

LT Richard C. Clark, USNR, MIA, NVN, 10/24/67, RR1/17/91, ID 11/7/14

Col William E. Cooper, USAF, MIA, NVN, 4/24/66, RR 11/16/98, ID 12/4/14

SGT Rodney L. Griffin, USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

MSG James W. Holt, USA, MIA, SVN, 2/6/68, RR 6/21/89, ID 1/10/15

CMSgt Edwin E. Morgan, USAF, MIA, LA, 3/13/66, RR 11/19/11, ID 1/29/15

SSG Warren E. Newton, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/8/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

CW3 Larry Phipps, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

SSG Bunyan D. Price, Jr., USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

CW3 Ranier S. Ramos, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

Maj Dale W. Richardson, USAR, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

LTJG Neil B. Taylor, USNR, KIA/BNR, 9/14/65, RR 6/24/13, ID 11/25/14

 

Several of those named serve as examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,267 (VN-465, VS-802); Laos-304; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. (The announcement regarding SGT Griffin included change of location on two USAF personnel from North Vietnam to Laos.) Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.

ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION: Things continue to move fairly rapidly and with no small amount of confusion and dissension internal to the three major organizations–DPMO, JPAC and LSEL–being restructured into one agency, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA.   RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, appointed by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP) Christine Wormuth as the Interim Director, met with the Board of Directors on March 14th. His presentation gave reason for optimism that he was open to new ideas, such as Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) now under consideration. The League Board welcomed the concept, while recognizing that P3s would likely be more useful on WWII incidents that occurred in Europe, as well as Pacific Islands and other countries in Asia, than to Vietnam War losses, noting longstanding, hard-earned agreements reached with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, for USG access in the context of bilateral government-to-government cooperation.

Chairman’s Assessment: Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave reason for optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial. The outcome is now less certain; however, senior military officers were selected to restructure the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   Clearly, former Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and other inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process. While that may seem simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team. We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and she did, supported by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach René Bardorf. Now, the reorganization is in the hands of RADM Franken, USN, for the initial six months. A permanent Director is due to be in place before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting in June, meaning again we wait and see.

 

UPDATE:  April 7, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: Since the League Newsletter, November 24, 2014, 11 US personnel have been announced as accounted for, including one this week, US Army SGT Rodney L. Griffin, previously listed as missing in Cambodia. (DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates.) Those most recently announced are:

Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, MIA, LA, 1/11/70, RR 2/11/03, ID 12/17/14

LT Richard C. Clark, USNR, MIA, NVN, 10/24/67, RR1/17/91, ID 11/7/14

Col William E. Cooper, USAF, MIA, NVN, 4/24/66, RR 11/16/98, ID 12/4/14

SGT Rodney L. Griffin, USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

MSG James W. Holt, USA, MIA, SVN, 2/6/68, RR 6/21/89, ID 1/10/15

CMSgt Edwin E. Morgan, USAF, MIA, LA, 3/13/66, RR 11/19/11, ID 1/29/15

SSG Warren E. Newton, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/8/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

CW3 Larry Phipps, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

SSG Bunyan D. Price, Jr., USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

CW3 Ranier S. Ramos, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

LTJG Neil B. Taylor, USNR, KIA/BNR, 9/14/65, RR 6/24/13, ID 11/25/14

 

Several of those named serve as examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 955. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,018. Of the 1,628 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,267 (VN-465, VS-802); Laos-304; Cambodia-50; PRC territorial waters-7. (The announcement regarding SGT Griffin included change of location on two USAF personnel from North Vietnam to Laos.) Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.

ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION: Things continue to move fairly rapidly and with no small amount of confusion and dissension internal to the three major organizations–DPMO, JPAC and LSEL–being restructured into one agency, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, or DPAA.   RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, appointed by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP) Christine Wormuth as the Interim Director, met with the Board of Directors on March 14th. His presentation gave reason for optimism that he was open to new ideas, such as Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) now under consideration. The League Board welcomed the concept, while recognizing that P3s would likely be more useful on WWII incidents that occurred in Europe, as well as Pacific Islands and other countries in Asia, than to Vietnam War losses, noting longstanding, hard-earned agreements reached with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, for USG access in the context of bilateral government-to-government cooperation.

Chairman’s Assessment: Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave reason for optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial. The outcome is now less certain; however, senior military officers were selected to restructure the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   Clearly, former Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and other inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process. While that may seem simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team. We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and she did, supported by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach René Bardorf. Now, the reorganization is in the hands of RADM Franken, USN, for the initial six months. A permanent Director is due to be in place before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting in June, meaning again we wait and see.

UPDATE:  March 12, 2015

 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: Since the League Newsletter, November 24, 2014, 10 US personnel have been announced as accounted for; those most recently announced are:

Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, MIA, LA, 1/11/70, RR 2/11/03, ID 12/17/14

LT Richard C. Clark, USNR, MIA, NVN, 10/24/67, RR1/17/91, ID 11/7/14

Col William E. Cooper, USAF, MIA, NVN, 4/24/66, RR 11/16/98, ID 12/4/14

MSG James W. Holt, USA, MIA, SVN, 2/6/68, RR 6/21/89, ID 1/10/15

CMSgt Edwin E. Morgan, USAF, MIA, LA, 3/13/66, RR 11/19/11, ID 1/29/15

SSG Warren E. Newton, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/8/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

CW3 Larry Phipps, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

SSG Bunyan D. Price, Jr., USA, MIA, CB, 5/2/70, RR 4/3/14, ID 1/27/15

CW3 Ranier S. Ramos, USA, MIA, SVN, 1/9/68, RR 9/8/11, ID 5/30/14

LTJG Neil B. Taylor, USNR, KIA/BNR, 9/14/65, RR 6/24/13, ID 11/25/14

Several of those named serve as examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 954. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,017. Of the 1,629 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-51; PRC territorial waters-7. Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.

ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) and League letter was sent to former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on December 11, 2014, laying out very serious concerns over lost momentum and lack of confidence in the ongoing reorganization effort. The former Secretary again responded to our concerns, but it was not until January 9, 2015, that specific decisions were announced. While Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USDP) Christine Wormuth will continue to be the senior DoD official directly responsible, RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, was named Interim Director of the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and former JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, was named the Interim Deputy Director. In addition, and as promised, LTG Michael Linnington, USA, currently serving as Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, was named as special advisor to USDP Wormuth.

The PACT (Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force) was terminated, as were the PACT-directed Working Groups. The Clearing, a private consulting firm retained by the PACT Director, is continuing to provide assistance, though now to newly organized and directed functional task forces. Despite former Secretary Hagel’s admonition to be fully transparent, Working Group recommendations were not released publicly; therefore the League is unable to provide insights on the usefulness of their efforts. The League, Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and other groups received pledges from senior DoD officials that secrecy was over, there would be full transparency and a real working partnership would be established with the families, in particular.

Chairman’s Assessment: Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial. The outcome is now less certain; however, senior military officers were selected to restructure the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   Clearly, former Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and other inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process. While that may seem simple enough, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team. We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and she did, supported by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach René Bardorf. Now, the reorganization is in the hands of RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, for the initial six months. A permanent Director is due to be in place before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting in June so, again, we wait and see.

 

 

UPDATE:  February 25, 2015

  AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There are still 1,636 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  The remains of Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, lost January 11, 1970, in Laos were identified on December 17, 2014.   Unilaterally repatriated by Vietnam on June 21, 1989, the remains of MSG James William Holt, USA, were identified on January 10, 2015.  MSG Holt had been listed as MIA in South Vietnam since February 6, 1968. This ID provides another example of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 946.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,009. Of the 1,636 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,272 (VN-468, VS-804); Laos-305; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a letter signed by the major national Veterans Service Organizations and the League  was sent to then Secretary of Defense Hagel on December 11th, laying out serious concerns over lost momentum and lack of confidence in the ongoing reorganization effort.  He again responded to our concerns, but it was not until January 9, 2015, that specific decisions were announced.  While Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth will continue to be the senior DoD official directly responsible, RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, was named Interim Director of the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and former JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, was named the Interim Deputy Director.  In addition, and as promised by Secretary Hagel, LTG Michael Linnington, USA, currently serving as Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, was named as Special Advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. The role of the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT) was reportedly terminated, as were the Working Groups, directed by senior civilian Alisa Stack, aided by Ross Brown and Scott Schless.  The PACT strategy to “transform” the accounting mission was facilitated by The Clearing, a consulting firm hired for over $8 million dollars by Ms. Stack; however, she, her PACT colleagues and The Clearing continue to be involved, despite earlier assurances to the contrary.  Senior DoD officials pledged to the League and other “family groups,” Military Service Organizations (MSOs) and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) that the reign of secrecy is over, full transparency would prevail, and a working partnership with the families would be formed.  As an initial step in that direction, the League and others were offered an opportunity to provide input to the requirements under which the new Agency Director will be hired.  Also, reportedly, the new Director is to be in place by June 1st, to take over the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that, hopefully, will include Major General McKeague, now named on an interim basis, as the permanent Deputy Director.  It is crucial that there be continuity and knowledge at the top of the new agency, despite the complete restructure from three DoD elements into one agency.   Chairman’s Comment:  Former Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave us reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he has left, the outcome is somewhat uncertain; however, reinforcing the positive was selection of the senior military officers to restructure into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and sustained budget and support.   There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and inexperienced staff resisted direction to build on existing strengths and look for ways to improve the process.  While that seemed simple enough, the PACT neither sought nor welcomed educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals, seeking instead to create a new agency from zero, refusing to recognize, much less appreciate, the 40 years of struggle and effort that to date has brought answers to over 1,000 families.  We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and it is obvious that she did so by rejecting the PACT and its proposals, supported throughout by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach René Bardorf.   We’ll know the results soon!   LEAGUE DELEGATION TO SOUTHEAST ASIA:  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths led a delegation to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam from January 20th until February 10th.  Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen traveled separately to Bangkok where the three-member delegation united.  Elli Childress and Doneta Stephensen accompanied their husbands and, as has been the case for years, all paid their own expenses for travel, accommodations and meals.  The schedule was very full, with senior level appointments in the three Indochina countries and field visits to ongoing recovery operations at three sites in Laos and one in Cambodia.  No operations were taking place in Vietnam.  . The Delegation met with US Ambassadors Dan Clune (Laos), Bill Todd (Cambodia) and Ted Osius (Vietnam), and Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Murphy (Thailand), all of whom were very helpful and supportive.  The group also had briefings by each Embassy’s Country Team, JPAC (now DPAA) and DIA’s Stony Beach specialists to get updates before meeting with foreign officials. The League sincerely appreciates the assistance and support provided by now former JPAC Headquarters and Detachment personnel, analysts at DPMO, officials at State Department, DIA and, lastly, the Washington, DC-based Ambassadors and Embassies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for again extending courtesy visas, as they have over the years.  The Chairman will provide a written trip summary in the upcoming League Newsletter and a full report at the 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th In the interim, it is important that all recognize the changes that have occurred and are occurring in all of these countries, including the positive, responsive attitudes with which the League Delegation was met.  The changes are striking and welcome, though responses to specific requests related to continuing field operations and greater acceptance of and flexibility for DIA’s Stony Beach Team to operate most effectively and efficiently will come through future government-to-government discussions, as is appropriate.   As in all of the many League Delegations since 1981, the primary objective was to propose initiatives that could bring greater accounting results more rapidly, efficiently and effectively, to reinforce the existing strengths of the accounting process that has evolved (with the League’s help and support) over the past 4+ decades, and convey the strong support of the American people, especially Congress, the POW/MIA families and our nation’s veterans.  Also critical was to clearly signal the priority we place on standing behind those serving our nation, military and civilian, should they be captured or listed as missing and unaccounted-for during wars and conflicts.  FIELD OPERATIONS:  The 134th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos was conducted October 21 – December 7th in Xepon and Salavan Provinces and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.  The 135th JFA began January 10th and continued through February 15th, with four recovery teams.  The League Delegation flew commercial aircraft from Vientiane to Savannakhet, drove from there to the Xiengxai Hotel in Xepon.  We flew by helicopter early the next morning to 3 of the 4 field recovery sites, but were unable to land in a safe landing zone at the fourth.  We spent an interesting, educational and inspirational evening with that recovery team at their base camp, the Somsanit Guest House in Vilabouli.  DPAA Interim Deputy Director Major General Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, just led POW/MIA Consultations in Vientiane, receiving positive responses on several specific issues raised earlier by the League Delegation and US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune, an effective advocate for the mission.  Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  The 50th JFA began January14th and will continue through March 23rd; however, due to border disputes in Stung Treng Province and concern for team safety, the JFA was reduced to a single, but expanded recovery team conducting operations on Koh Tang.  The League Delegation flew by helicopter with then JPAC/now DPAA Detachment 1 Commander Lt Col Rob Culpepper, USAF, to Koh Tang, location of those still unaccounted-for from the tragic USS Mayaguez incident in 1975, in which three Marines were inadvertently left behind alive, killed by the Khmer Rouge, then buried on the island. The recovery team was given approval to extend time to complete the one site and move to others in close proximity. Maj Gen McKeague just visited Cambodia and met with the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee Leadership and visited the US team on Koh Tang.       On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts.  Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams conducted the 117th JFA from October 30th to December 7th, with Recovery Teams excavating sites in Dien Bien, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Son La Provinces.  These operations in Vietnam were said to be the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, and again to the 2015 League Delegation, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  The 118th JFA is scheduled to begin March 8th and continue through April 14th, with Recovery Teams scheduled to excavate sites in Kontum, Khanh Hoa, Tra Vinh, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai Provinces. 

UPDATE:  February 22, 2015

  AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There are still 1,636 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  The remains of Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, lost January 11, 1970, in Laos were identified on December 17, 2014.   Unilaterally repatriated by Vietnam on June 21, 1989, the remains of MSG James William Holt, USA, were identified on January 10, 2015.  MSG Holt had been listed as MIA in South Vietnam since February 6, 1968. This ID provides another example of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 946.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,009. Of the 1,636 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,272 (VN-468, VS-804); Laos-305; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a letter signed by the major national Veterans Service Organizations and the League  was sent to then Secretary of Defense Hagel on December 11th, laying out serious concerns over lost momentum and lack of confidence in the ongoing reorganization effort.  He again responded to our concerns, but it was not until January 9, 2015, that specific decisions were announced.  While Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth will continue to be the senior DoD official directly responsible, RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, was named Interim Director of the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and former JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, was named the Interim Deputy Director.  In addition, and as promised by Secretary Hagel, LTG Michael Linnington, USA, currently serving as Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, was named as Special Advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. The role of the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT) was reportedly terminated, as were the Working Groups, directed by senior civilian Alisa Stack, aided by Ross Brown and Scott Schless.  The PACT strategy to “transform” the accounting mission was facilitated by The Clearing, a consulting firm hired for over $8 million dollars by Ms. Stack; however, she, her PACT colleagues and The Clearing continue to be involved, despite earlier assurances to the contrary.  Senior DoD officials pledged to the League and other “family groups,” Military Service Organizations (MSOs) and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) that the reign of secrecy is over, full transparency would prevail, and a working partnership with the families would be formed.  As an initial step in that direction, the League and others were offered an opportunity to provide input to the requirements under which the new Agency Director will be hired.  Also, reportedly, the new Director is to be in place by June 1st, to take over the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that, hopefully, will include Major General McKeague, now named on an interim basis, as the permanent Deputy Director.  It is crucial that there be continuity and knowledge at the top of the new agency, despite the complete restructure from three DoD elements into one agency.   Chairman’s Comment:  Former Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave us reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he has left, the outcome is somewhat uncertain; however, reinforcing the positive was selection of the senior military officers to restructure into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and sustained budget and support.   There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and inexperienced staff resisted direction to build on existing strengths and look for ways to improve the process.  While that seemed simple enough, the PACT neither sought nor welcomed educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals, seeking instead to create a new agency from zero, refusing to recognize, much less appreciate, the 40 years of struggle and effort that to date has brought answers to over 1,000 families.  We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and it is obvious that she did so by rejecting the PACT and its proposals, supported throughout by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community Outreach René Bardorf.   We’ll know the results soon!   LEAGUE DELEGATION TO SOUTHEAST ASIA:  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths led a delegation to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam from January 20th until February 10th.  Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen traveled separately to Bangkok where the three-member delegation united.  Elli Childress and Doneta Stephensen accompanied their husbands and, as has been the case for years, all paid their own expenses for travel, accommodations and meals.  The schedule was very full, with senior level appointments in the three Indochina countries and field visits to ongoing recovery operations at three sites in Laos and one in Cambodia.  No operations were taking place in Vietnam.  . The Delegation met with US Ambassadors Dan Clune (Laos), Bill Todd (Cambodia) and Ted Osius (Vietnam), and Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Murphy (Thailand), all of whom were very helpful and supportive.  The group also had briefings by each Embassy’s Country Team, JPAC (now DPAA) and DIA’s Stony Beach specialists to get updates before meeting with foreign officials. The League sincerely appreciates the assistance and support provided by now former JPAC Headquarters and Detachment personnel, analysts at DPMO, officials at State Department, DIA and, lastly, the Washington, DC-based Ambassadors and Embassies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for again extending courtesy visas, as they have over the years.  The Chairman will provide a written trip summary in the upcoming League Newsletter and a full report at the 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th In the interim, it is important that all recognize the changes that have occurred and are occurring in all of these countries, including the positive, responsive attitudes with which the League Delegation was met.  The changes are striking and welcome, though responses to specific requests related to continuing field operations and greater acceptance of and flexibility for DIA’s Stony Beach Team to operate most effectively and efficiently will come through future government-to-government discussions, as is appropriate.   As in all of the many League Delegations since 1981, the primary objective was to propose initiatives that could bring greater accounting results more rapidly, efficiently and effectively, to reinforce the existing strengths of the accounting process that has evolved (with the League’s help and support) over the past 4+ decades, and convey the strong support of the American people, especially Congress, the POW/MIA families and our nation’s veterans.  Also critical was to clearly signal the priority we place on standing behind those serving our nation, military and civilian, should they be captured or listed as missing and unaccounted-for during wars and conflicts.  FIELD OPERATIONS:  The 134th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos was conducted October 21 – December 7th in Xepon and Salavan Provinces and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.  The 135th JFA began January 10th and continued through February 15th, with four recovery teams.  The League Delegation flew commercial aircraft from Vientiane to Savannakhet, drove from there to the Xiengxai Hotel in Xepon.  We flew by helicopter early the next morning to 3 of the 4 field recovery sites, but were unable to land in a safe landing zone at the fourth.  We spent an interesting, educational and inspirational evening with that recovery team at their base camp, the Somsanit Guest House in Vilabouli.  DPAA Interim Deputy Director Major General Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, just led POW/MIA Consultations in Vientiane, receiving positive responses on several specific issues raised earlier by the League Delegation and US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune, an effective advocate for the mission.  Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  The 50th JFA began January14th and will continue through March 23rd; however, due to border disputes in Stung Treng Province and concern for team safety, the JFA was reduced to a single, but expanded recovery team conducting operations on Koh Tang.  The League Delegation flew by helicopter with then JPAC/now DPAA Detachment 1 Commander Lt Col Rob Culpepper, USAF, to Koh Tang, location of those still unaccounted-for from the tragic USS Mayaguez incident in 1975, in which three Marines were inadvertently left behind alive, killed by the Khmer Rouge, then buried on the island. The recovery team was given approval to extend time to complete the one site and move to others in close proximity. Maj Gen McKeague is now in Cambodia to meet with the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee Chairman and visit US teams on Koh Tang.       On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts.  Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams conducted the 117th JFA from October 30th to December 7th, with Recovery Teams excavating sites in Dien Bien, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Son La Provinces.  These operations in Vietnam were said to be the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, and again to the 2015 League Delegation, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  The 118th JFA is scheduled to begin March 8th and continue through April 14th, with Recovery Teams scheduled to excavate sites in Kontum, Khanh Hoa, Tra Vinh, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai Provinces. 

UPDATE:  February 10, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There are now 1,636 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  The remains of Capt Richard D. Chorlins, USAF, lost January 11, 1970, in Laos were identified on December 17, 2014.   Unilaterally repatriated by Vietnam on June 21, 1989, the remains of MSG James William Holt, USA, were identified on January 10, 2015. MSG Holt had been listed as MIA in South Vietnam since February 6, 1968. This ID provides another example of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 946.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,009. Of the 1,636 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,272 (VN-468, VS-804); Laos-305; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a Veteran Service Organization and League letter was sent to Secretary of Defense Hagel on December 11th, laying out serious concerns over lost momentum and lack of confidence in the ongoing reorganization effort.  He again responded to our concerns, but it was not until January 9th that specific decisions were announced.  While Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth will continue to be the senior DoD official directly responsible, RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, has been named Interim Director of the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and former JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, was named the Interim Deputy Director.  In addition, and as promised by Secretary Hagel, LTG Michael Linnington, USA, currently serving as the Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, was named as special advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. Reportedly, the role of the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT), directed by senior civilian Alisa Stack, assisted by senior civilians Ross Brown and Scott Schless, was ended, as were the Working Groups directed by the PACT, facilitated by The Clearing, a consulting firm, hired for over $8 million dollars by Ms. Stack; however, she and her PACT colleagues continue to be involved, and it is unknown when they will move to other positions within DoD.  Ms. Stack was selected as Principal Director for Detainee Affairs, working for Under Secretary Wormuth.  Once again, the League and other “family groups,” Military Service Organizations (MSOs) and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) received pledges from senior DoD officials that the reign of secrecy is over, and there will be full transparency and a working partnership with the families, in particular.  As a positive step in that direction, the League and others were offered an opportunity to provide input to the document that will instruct the new Agency Director, when selected, of his duties and responsibilities. Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave us reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he is leaving, the outcome is somewhat uncertain; however, reinforcing the positive was selection of such senior military officers to lead restructuring, and reorganizing of the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, The Clearing and inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process.  While that seemed simple enough, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team.  We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully, and it is obvious that she did so, supported throughout by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for  Community Outreach René Bardorf. LEAGUE DELEGATION TO SOUTHEAST ASIA:  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths led a delegation to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam from January 20th until February 10th.  Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen traveled separately to Bangkok where the three-member delegation united.  Elli Childress and Doneta Stephensen accompanied their husbands and, as has been the case for years, all paid their own expenses for travel, accommodations and meals.  The schedule was very full, with senior level appointments in the three Indochina countries and field visits to ongoing recovery operations at three sites in Laos and one in Cambodia.  No operations were taking place in Vietnam during this timeframe. The Delegation met with US Ambassadors Dan Clune (Laos), Bill Todd (Cambodia) and Ted Osius (Vietnam), and Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Murphy (Thailand), all of whom were very helpful and supportive.  Ambassador Clune had graciously invited the Chairman and the Childresses to stay at the official residence, very familiar to Mills-Griffiths and the Childresses from government and League delegations over the years, and Detachment 3 Commander LTC Marcus Ferrara, USA, invited the Stephensens to stay at the Detachment Team House.  These were very welcome invitations, providing unique experiences for the delegation and saving hundreds of dollars.  The group also had briefings by each Embassy’s Country Team, JPAC (now DPAA) and DIA’s Stony Beach specialists to get updates before meeting with foreign officials. The League sincerely appreciates the assistance and support provided by now former JPAC Headquarters and Detachment personnel, analysts at DPMO, officials at State Department, DIA and, lastly, the Washington, DC-based Ambassadors and Embassies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for again extending courtesy visas as they have over the years.  The Chairman will provide a written trip summary in the upcoming League Newsletter and give a full report at the 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th. In the interim, it is important that all recognize the changes that have occurred and are occurring in all of these countries, including the positive, responsive attitudes with which the League Delegation was met.  The changes are striking and welcome, though responses to specific requests related to continuing field operations and greater acceptance of and flexibility for DIA’s Stony Beach Team to operate most effectively and efficiently will come through future government-to-government discussions, as is appropriate.   As in all of the many League Delegations since 1981, the primary objective is to propose initiatives that could bring greater accounting results more rapidly, efficiently and effectively, to reinforce the existing strengths of the accounting process that have evolved (with the League’s help and support) over the past 4+ decades, and convey the strong support of the American people, especially Congress, the POW/MIA families and our nation’s veterans, for the priority placed on standing behind those who serve our country, military and civilian, should they be captured, listed as missing or unaccounted-for due to past wars and conflicts. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  The 134th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos was conducted October 21 – December 7th in Xepon and Salavan Provinces and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.  The 135th JFA began January 10th and will continue through February 15th, with four recovery teams.  The League Delegation flew commercial aircraft from Vientiane to Savannakhet, then drove on to Xepon and the Xiengxai Hotel.  We flew by helicopter to three of the four field operations and were unable to land in a safe landing zone at the fourth, but spent an interesting, educational and inspirational evening with that recovery team at their base camp, the Somsanit Guest House in Vilabouli, Laos. Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  The 50th JFA began January 14th and will continue through March 23rd; however, due to border disputes in Stung Treng Province, and concern for team safety, the JFA was reduced to a single, but expanded recovery team conducting operations on Koh Tang.  The League Delegation flew by helicopter with then JPAC Detachment 1 Commander (now termed “Task Element 1” in the new interim DPAA structure) LtCol Rob Culpepper, USAF, to Koh Tang, location of those still unaccounted-for from the tragic USS Mayaguez incident in 1975, in which three Marines were inadvertently left behind alive, killed by the Khmer Rouge, then buried on the island. The recovery team was awaiting approval to extend time on island to complete the one site and move to others in close proximity. Maj Gen McKeague is scheduled to visit Cambodia later this month. On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts.  Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams conducted the 117th JFA from October 30th to December 7th, with Recovery Teams excavating sites in Dien Bien, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Son La Provinces.  These operations in Vietnam were said to be the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, and again to the League Delegation, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  The 118th JFA is scheduled to begin March 8th and continue through April 14th, with Recovery Teams scheduled to excavate sites in Kontum, Khanh Hoa, Tra Vinh, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai Provinces. LEAGUE 46TH ANNUAL MEETING:   This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 25th, 9:00 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.   Certainly, Interim Director RADM Michael Franken and Interim Deputy Director Maj Gen Kelly McKeague will be asked to provide their views and, in this era of mandated transparency, it should be very informative.  We also hope to see the return of familiar, trusted people such as Johnie Webb, Jennifer Nasarenko, Ron Ward, Bill Gadoury, Bob Maves, Bill Habeeb, our “Task Element 1, 2 & 3” leaders, all Stony Beach Team specialists, and many other dedicated civilians who play key roles in the accounting mission. IT IS CRUCIAL THAT ALL LEAGUE MEMBERS ATTEND! COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes, and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member.

UPDATE:  February 3, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,636 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.The remains of Capt. David Chorlins, U.S. Air Force, 602nd Special Operations Squadron, 34th Tactical Group, lost Jan. 11, 1970, in Laos were identified by on December 17, 2014. Unilaterally repatriated by Vietnam on June 21, 1989, the remains of MSG James William Holt, USA, were identified on January 10, 2015. MSG Holt, of the 5th Special Forces Group, had been listed as MIA in South Vietnam since February 6, 1968. This latest ID provides another example of how remains repatriated many years ago can be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years. The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 946. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,009. Of the 1,636 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,272 (VN-468, VS-804); Laos-305; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7. Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a Veteran Service Organization and League letter was sent to Secretary of Defense Hagel on December 11th, laying out serious concerns over lost momentum and lack of confidence in the ongoing reorganization effort.  He again responded to our concerns, but it was not until January 9th that specific decisions were announced.  While Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth will continue to be the senior DoD official directly responsible, RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, has been named Interim Director of the new agency and current JPAC commander Maj Gen Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, has been named the Interim Deputy Director.  In addition, and as promised by Secretary Hagel, LTG Michael Linnington, USA, currently serving as the Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, has been named as special advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. Reportedly, the role of the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT), directed by senior civilian Alisa Stack, assisted by senior civilians Ross Brown and Scott Schless, has ended, as have the Working Groups directed by the PACT, facilitated by The Clearing, a consulting firm, hired  for over $8 million dollars by Ms. Stack; however, and her PACT colleagues continue to be involved, and it is unknown when they will move to other positions within DoD.  Ms. Stack has been selected as Principal Director for Detainee Affairs, working for Under Secretary Wormuth.  Once again, the League and other “family groups,” Military Service Organizations (MSOs) and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) have received pledges from senior DoD officials that the reign of secrecy is over, there will be full transparency and a working partnership with the families, in particular.  A positive step in that direction, the League and others have been offered an opportunity to provide input to the document that will instruct the new Agency Director, when selected, of his duties and responsibilities. Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave us reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he is leaving, the outcome is somewhat uncertain; however, reinforcing the positive was selection of such senior military officers to lead restructuring, and reorganizing of the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   Now, as President Reagan advised, “Trust, but verify,” and that is precisely what all should do, and the League will. There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, Clearing and inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process.  While that seemed simple enough, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team.  We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully.  It is obvious that she did so, supported throughout by ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for  Community Outreach René Bardorf. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  The 134th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos was conducted October 21 – December 7th in Xekong and Salavan Provinces and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of Us personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.  The 135th JFA began January 10th and will continue through February 15th, with four recovery teams. Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  The 50th JFA began January 14th and will continue through March 23rd; however, due to border disputes in Stung Treng Province, and concern for team safety, the JFA was reduced to a single recovery team which will conduct an excavation on Koh Tang.  Maj Gen McKeague is scheduled to make a visit to Cambodia in late February to meet with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leaders. On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts.  Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams conducted the 117th JFA from October 30th to December 7th, with Recovery Teams excavating sites in Dien Bien, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Son La Provinces.  These operations in Vietnam were said to be the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  The 118th JFA is scheduled to begin sMarch 8th and continue through Aril 14th, with Recovery Teams scheduled to excavate sites in Kontum, Khanh Hoa, Tra Vinh, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai Provinces. LEAGUE DELEGATION TO SOUTHEAST ASIA:  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths will again lead a delegation to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, meeting up with Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen in Bangkok to unite the three-member delegation.  Elli Childress and Doneta Stephensen will accompany their husbands and, as has been the case for years, all are paying their own expenses for travel, accommodations and meals.  The schedule is very full, with senior level appointments in the three Indochina countries and field visits to ongoing recovery operations at two sites in Laos and one in Cambodia.  No operations are taking place in Vietnam during this timeframe, January 20th–February 10th. The Delegation will meet with US Ambassadors Dan Clune, Bill Todd and Ted Osius, and Chargè d’Affaires, Patrick Murphy, all of whom have been very helpful and supportive.  Ambassador Clune has graciously invited the Chairman and the Childresses to stay at the official residence, very familiar to Mills-Griffiths and Mr. Childress from government and League delegations over the years, and the Detachment 3 Commander has invited the Stephensen’s to stay at the Detachment Team House.  These are very welcome invitations and will provide a unique experience for the delegation and save hundreds of dollars.  The group will also have briefings by each Embassy’s Country Team, JPAC and DIA’s Stony Beach specialists to get updates before meeting with foreign officials. The League sincerely appreciates the assistance and support provided by JPAC Headquarters and Detachment personnel, analysts at DPMO, officials at State Department, DIA and, lastly, the Ambassadors and Embassies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for again extending courtesy visas as they have over the years.  The Chairman will provide a written trip summary  in the late February Newsletter and give a full report at the 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th. LEAGUE 46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 25th, 9 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.   Certainly, Interim Director RADM Michael Franken and Interim Deputy Director Maj Gen Kelly McKeague will be asked to provide their views and, in this era of mandated transparency, it should be very informative.  We also hope to see the return of Johnie Webb, Tom Holland, Jennifer Nasarenko, Ron Ward, Bill Gadoury, Bob Maves, Bill Habeeb, all of our Stony Beach specialists, and many other dedicated civilians who play a key role in the accounting mission.  IT IS CRUCIAL THAT ALL LEAGUE MEMBERS ATTEND! COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes, and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member.

UPDATE:  January 17, 2015

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,637 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  Unilaterally repatriated by Vietnam on June 21, 1989, the remains of MSG James William Holt, USA, were identified on January 10, 2015.  MSG Holt, of the 5th Special Forces Group, had been listed as MIA in South Vietnam since February 6, 1968.  This latest ID provides another example of how remains repatriated many years ago can be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years.  The number of Americans listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 946.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,009.  Of the 1,637 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,272 (VN-468, VS-804); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a Veteran Service Organization and League letter was sent to Secretary of Defense Hagel on December 11th, laying out serious concerns over lost momentum and lack of confidence in the ongoing reorganization effort.  He again responded to our concerns, but it was not until January 9th that specific decisions were announced.  While Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth will continue to be the senior DoD official directly responsible, RADM Michael T. Franken, USN, has been named Interim Director of the new agency and current JPAC commander Maj Gen Kelly K. McKeague, USAF, has been named the Interim Deputy Director.  In addition, and as promised by Secretary Hagel, LTG Michael Linnington, USA, currently serving as the Military Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, has been named as special advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth. Reportedly, the role of the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT), directed by senior civilian Alisa Stack, assisted by senior civilians Ross Brown and Scott Schless, has ended, as have the Working Groups directed by the PACT, facilitated by The Clearing, a consulting firm, hired  for over $8 million dollars by Ms. Stack; however, and her PACT colleagues continue to be involved, and it is unknown when they will move to other positions within DoD.  Ms. Stack has been selected as Principal Director for Detainee Affairs, working for Under Secretary Wormuth.  Once again, the League and other “family groups,” Military Service Organizations (MSOs) and Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) have received pledges from senior DoD officials that the reign of secrecy is over, there will be full transparency and a working partnership with the families, in particular.  A positive step in that direction, the League and others have been offered an opportunity to provide input to the document that will instruct the new Agency Director, when selected, of his duties and responsibilities.  Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment gave us reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he is leaving, the outcome is somewhat uncertain; however, reinforcing the positive was selection of such senior military officers to lead restructuring, and reorganizing of the various elements into one efficient, effective agency with higher priority and support.   Now, as President Reagan advised, “Trust, but verify,” and that is precisely what all should do, and the League will.  There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerant of excuses; however, initial implementation by the PACT, Clearing and inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on strengths and look for ways to improve the existing process.  While that seemed simple enough, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals were neither sought nor welcomed by the earlier transition team.  We urged Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully.  It is obvious that she did so, supported throughout by ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for  Community Outreach René Bardorf. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  The 134th Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos was conducted October 21 – December 7th in Xekong and Salavan Provinces and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of Us personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.  The 135th JFA began January 10th and will continue through February 15th, with four recovery teams.  Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  The 50th JFA began January 14th and will continue through March 23rd; however, due to border disputes in Stung Treng Province, and concern for team safety, the JFA was reduced to a single recovery team which will conduct an excavation on Koh Tang.  Maj Gen McKeague is scheduled to make a visit to Cambodia in late February to meet with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leaders.  On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts.  Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams conducted the 117th JFA from October 30th to December 7th, with Recovery Teams excavating sites in Dien Bien, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Son La Provinces.  These operations in Vietnam were said to be the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  The 118th JFA is scheduled to begin sMarch 8th and continue through Aril 14th, with Recovery Teams scheduled to excavate sites in Kontum, Khanh Hoa, Tra Vinh, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai Provinces.  LEAGUE DELEGATION TO SOUTHEAST ASIA:  League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths will again lead a delegation to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, meeting up with Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress and Vice Chairman of the Board Mark Stephensen in Bangkok to unite the three-member delegation.  Elli Childress and Doneta Stephensen will accompany their husbands and, as has been the case for years, all are paying their own expenses for travel, accommodations and meals.  The schedule is very full, with senior level appointments in the three Indochina countries and field visits to ongoing recovery operations at two sites in Laos and one in Cambodia.  No operations are taking place in Vietnam during this timeframe, January 20th–February 10th The Delegation will meet with US Ambassadors Dan Clune, Bill Todd and Ted Osius, and Chargè d’Affaires, Patrick Murphy, all of whom have been very helpful and supportive.  Ambassador Clune has graciously invited the Chairman and the Childresses to stay at the official residence, very familiar to Mills-Griffiths and Mr. Childress from government and League delegations over the years, and the Detachment 3 Commander has invited the Stephensen’s to stay at the Detachment Team House.  These are very welcome invitations and will provide a unique experience for the delegation and save hundreds of dollars.  The group will also have briefings by each Embassy’s Country Team, JPAC and DIA’s Stony Beach specialists to get updates before meeting with foreign officials. The League sincerely appreciates the assistance and support provided by JPAC Headquarters and Detachment personnel, analysts at DPMO, officials at State Department, DIA and, lastly, the Ambassadors and Embassies of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for again extending courtesy visas as they have over the years.  The Chairman will provide a written trip summary  in the late February Newsletter and give a full report at the 46th Annual Meeting, June 24-27th LEAGUE 46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 25th, 9 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.   Certainly, Interim Director RADM Michael Franken and Interim Deputy Director Maj Gen Kelly McKeague will be asked to provide their views and, in this era of mandated transparency, it should be very informative.  We also hope to see the return of Johnie Webb, Tom Holland, Jennifer Nasarenko, Ron Ward, Bill Gadoury, Bob Maves, Bill Habeeb, all of our Stony Beach specialists, and many other dedicated civilians who play a key role in the accounting mission.  IT IS CRUCIAL THAT ALL LEAGUE MEMBERS ATTEND! COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes, and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member

UPDATE:  December 31, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,638 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  Unilaterally repatriated by Vietnam in 1989, augmented by joint recovery January 16, 1998, the remains of COL William Earl Cooper, USAF, missing in North Vietnam since April 24, 1966, were identified on December 4, 2014.  This again demonstrates that remains repatriated many years ago can be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 945.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,008.  Of the 1,638 still missing, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,273 (VN-468, VS-805); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a meeting was called on October 31st, during which Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged momentum had slowed and confidence in the reorganization had diminished.  He responded to our concerns with very specific pledges of support, in the presence of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, the senior DoD official directly responsible, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs/Community Relations René Bardorf, PACT staff, five major national veteran organization representatives and the League Chairman, as well as other family and veteran group participants by conference call.  The Secretary made the following specific commitments:  1) Failure is not an option; 2) Secrecy will end now, and there will be full transparency; 3) Agreed to name, in consultation with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey, a senior uniformed military advisor to the USDP; and 4) Expressed full confidence in Under Secretary Wormuth’s ability to get the reorganization right.   Due to Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment, there was reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he has resigned or been removed, the outcome is uncertain. Success of the ongoing transition effort is now the responsibility of Under Secretary Wormuth, with the PACT transition team coming directly under her purview.  Senior Executive Service (SES) civilian Alisa Stack leads the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT), aided by Mr. Ross Brown, COL, USA (Ret), and Mr. Scott Schless, both also SES civilians.  Their qualifications for this critical task reportedly include expertise in structuring a new agency, determining budget and personnel requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, strategy and integration, and communication.  The “pause” sought by Under Secretary Wormuth to assess how things were progressing has long-since expired, and results were anticipated by December 12th but, to date, no further announcements have been made.  All – JPAC, DPMO, LSEL, the families and veterans – are in the dark concerning the mission’s future, post reorganization.   The League will publish results as soon as they are made available, hoping at least to soon learn the name of the new agency, the name of the assigned Interim Director and Deputy Director, plus some structural aspects. There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerating excuses; however, initial implementation by inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on existing strengths and look for ways to improve the process.  While this seems simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals are neither being sought nor welcomed by the transition team.  We urge Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully. OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  Joint Field Activities (JFAs) resumed in Laos late last month, though reportedly downsized from the five Recovery Teams (RTs), one Investigation Team (IT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducting a trilateral (LPDR, SRV & US) investigation initially planned.  That JFA concluded in early December and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.       Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  A JFA is scheduled in Cambodia in early 2015, but that could still change. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks were not held with Cambodia in 2014, and plans were scrapped for senior level, operational discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leaders this month. On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts. Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams just concluded operations in Vietnam, the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continue to strongly support DIA’s specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite long overdue agreement to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, there are continuing challenges to his being allowed freedom to conduct small-scale investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  We hope for better when his replacement, Duffy Spivey, arrives early in the New Year.  Vietnamese leaders have thus far failed to approve PCS for two Vietnam specialists, but this should soon occur due to ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.  46TH ANNUAL MEETING IS CRUCIAL:  The 46th Annual Meeting will be held June 24-27th at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel.  This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 25th, 9 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.  IT IS CRUCIAL THAT ALL MEMBERS ATTEND! COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member

UPDATE:  December 30, 2014

  AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,638 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  Though recovered January 16, 1998, the remains of COL William Earl Cooper, USAF, missing in North Vietnam since April 24, 1966, were identified on December 4, 2014, again showing that remains recovered many years ago can be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in the early years.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 945.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,008.  Of the 1,638 still missing, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,273 (VN-468, VS-805); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.    ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a meeting was called on October 31st, during which then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged momentum had slowed and confidence in the reorganization had diminished.  He responded to our concerns with very specific pledges of support, in the presence of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, the senior DoD official directly responsible, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs/Community Relations René Bardorf, PACT staff, five major national veteran organization representatives and the League Chairman, as well as other family and veteran group participants by conference call.  The Secretary made the following specific commitments:  1) Failure is not an option; 2) Secrecy will end now, and there will be full transparency; 3) Agreed to name, in consultation with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey, a senior uniformed military advisor to the USDP; and 4) Expressed full confidence in Under Secretary Wormuth’s ability to get the reorganization right.   Due to Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment, there was reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he has resigned or been removed, the outcome is uncertain.   Success of the ongoing transition effort is now the responsibility of Under Secretary Wormuth, with the PACT transition team coming directly under her purview.  Senior Executive Service (SES) civilian Alisa Stack leads the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT), aided by Mr. Ross Brown, COL, USA (Ret), and Mr. Scott Schless, both also SES civilians.  Their qualifications for this critical task reportedly include expertise in structuring a new agency, determining budget and personnel requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, strategy and integration, and communication.    The “pause” sought by Under Secretary Wormuth to assess how things were progressing has long-since expired, and results were anticipated by December 12th, but to date, no further announcements have been made.  All – JPAC, DPMO, LSEL, the families and veterans – are in the dark concerning the mission’s future, post reorganization.   The League will publish results as soon as they are made available, hoping at least to soon learn the name of the new agency, the name of the assigned Interim Director and Deputy Director, plus some structural aspects.           There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and was not tolerating excuses; however, initial implementation by inexperienced staff showed reluctance to build on existing strengths and look for ways to improve the process.  While this seems simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals are being neither sought nor welcomed by the transition team.  We urge Under Secretary Wormuth to proceed thoughtfully.         OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  Joint Field Activities (JFAs) resumed in Laos late last month, though reportedly downsized from the five Recovery Teams (RTs), one Investigation Team (IT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducting a trilateral (LPDR, SRV & US) investigation initially planned.  That JFA concluded in early December and was the first in a long time to nearly maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel.        Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  A JFA is scheduled in Cambodia in early 2015, but that could still change. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks were not held with Cambodia in 2014, and plans were scrapped for senior level, operational discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leaders this month.   On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts. Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams just concluded operations in Vietnam, the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s 2009 offer to the League, repeated often to US officials, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.    DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continue to strongly support DIA’s specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite long overdue agreement to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, there are continuing challenges to his being allowed freedom to conduct small-scale investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  We hope for better when his replacement, Duffy Spivey, arrives early in the New Year.  Vietnamese leaders have thus far failed to approve PCS for two Vietnam specialists, but this should soon occur due to ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.    46TH ANNUAL MEETING IS CRUCIAL:  The 46th Annual Meeting will be held June 24-27th at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel.  This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 25th, 9 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.  IT IS CRUCIAL THAT ALL MEMBERS ATTEND! COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member

UPDATE:  December 1, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,639 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number finally changed after several months.   The remains of SSG James L Van Bendegom, USA, missing in Cambodia since July 12, 1967, were recovered March 21, 1986, and identified August 26, 2014. The remains of Capt Richard L. Whitesides, USAF, missing in South Vietnam on March 26, 1964, were recovered September 9, 2013, and identified September 22, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 944.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,007.  Of the 1,639 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,274 (VN-469, VS-805); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a meeting was called on October 31st, during which then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged momentum had slowed and confidence in the reorganization had diminished.  He responded to our concerns with very specific pledges of support, in the presence of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, the senior DoD official directly responsible, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs/Community Relations René Bardorf, PACT staff, five major national veteran organization representatives and the League Chairman, as well as other family and veteran group participants by conference call.  The Secretary made the following specific commitments:  1) Failure is not an option; 2) Secrecy will end now, and there will be full transparency; 3) Agreed to name, in consultation with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey, a senior uniformed military advisor to the USDP; and 4) Expressed full confidence in Under Secretary Wormuth’s ability to get the reorganization right.   Due to Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment, there was reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he has resigned or been removed, the outcome is uncertain. Success of the ongoing transition effort is now the responsibility of Under Secretary Wormuth, with the PACT transition team coming directly under her purview.  Senior Executive Service (SES) civilian Alisa Stack leads the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT), aided by Mr. Ross Brown, COL, USA (Ret), and Mr. Scott Schless, both also SES civilians.  Their qualifications for this critical task reportedly include expertise in structuring a new agency, determining budget and personnel requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, strategy and integration, and communication.  During the October 31st meeting, Under Secretary Wormuth stated she wanted “a pause” to assess how the Working Groups were functioning and moving toward reaching Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in January 2015.   Due to family and veterans representatives’ concerns about composition and objectives of the PACT Working Groups, the names of participants were requested.  In light of the Secretary’s firm edict on transparency beginning now, it was surprising to learn the PACT Director had since noted in an email that DoD has not released the names. There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and would accept no excuses; however, initial implementation by inexperienced personnel shows reluctance to build on existing strengths and look for ways to improve the process.  While this seems incredibly simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals are being neither sought nor welcomed by the transition team.  Under Secretary Wormuth should be deciding changes are needed, but her “pause” is long over, and we encourage her to proceed thoughtfully. OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  Joint Field Activities (JFAs) resumed in Laos late last month, though reportedly downsized from the five Recovery Teams (RTs), one Investigation Team (IT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducting a trilateral (LPDR, SRV & US) investigation initially planned.  This JFA, expected to conclude this week, was to have been the first in a long time to maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel, but apparently, such did not occur.     Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA thus far in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  A JFA is scheduled in Cambodia in early 2015, but that could still change. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks were not held with Cambodia in 2014, but plans are being considered for senior level, operational discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leaders in the near future. On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts. Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams are now operating in Vietnam, the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s offer to the League in 2009, repeated often to US officials, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continue to strongly support DIA’s specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite long overdue agreement to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, there are continuing challenges to his being allowed freedom to conduct small-scale investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  We hope for better when his replacement arrives, hopefully before the end of this year.  Vietnamese leaders have thus far failed to approve PCS for two Vietnam specialists, but this should soon occur due to ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.  46TH ANNUAL MEETING IS CRUCIAL:  The 46th Annual Meeting will be held June 24-27th at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel.  This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 24th, 9 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.  IT IS CRUCIAL THAT ALL MEMBERS ATTEND! COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member

UPDATE:  November 24, 2014

  AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,639 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number finally changed after several months.   The remains of SSG James L Van Bendegom, USA, missing in Cambodia since July 12, 1967, were recovered March 21, 1986, and identified August 26, 2014. The remains of Capt Richard L. Whitesides, USAF, missing in South Vietnam on March 26, 1964, were recovered September 9, 2013, and identified September 22, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 944.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,007.  Of the 1,639 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,274 (VN-469, VS-805); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over direction, a meeting was called on October 31st, during which then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged that momentum had slowed and confidence in the reorganization had diminished He then responded to our concerns with very specific pledges of support.  In the presence of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, the senior DoD official directly responsible, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs/Community Relations René Bardorf, PACT staff, five major national veteran organization representatives and the League Chairman, as well as other family and veteran group participants by conference call, the Secretary made the following specific commitments:  1) Failure is not an option; 2) Secrecy will end now, and there will be full transparency; 3) Agreed to name, in consultation with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey, a senior uniformed military advisor to the USDP; and 4) Expressed full confidence in Under Secretary Wormuth’s ability to get the reorganization right.   Due to Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment, there was reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed would prove to be beneficial.  Now that he has resigned or been removed, God only knows. Success of the ongoing transition effort is now the responsibility of Under Secretary Wormuth, with the PACT transition team coming directly under her purview.  Senior Executive Service (SES) civilian Alisa Stack leads the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT), aided by COL Ross Brown, USA (Ret), and Mr. Scott Schless, both also believed to be SES civilians.  Their qualifications for this critical task reportedly include expertise in structuring a new agency, determining budget and personnel requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, archival research, strategy and integration, and communication.  During the October 31st meeting, Under Secretary Wormuth stated she wanted “a pause” to assess how the Working Groups were functioning and moving toward reaching Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in January 2015.   Due to family and veterans representatives’ concerns about composition and objectives of the PACT Working Groups, the names of participants were requested.  In light of the Secretary’s firm edict on transparency beginning now, it was surprising to learn the PACT Director had since noted in an email that DoD has not released the names. There is no question that Secretary Hagel was determined to “get this right” and would accept no excuses; however, initial implementation by inexperienced personnel shows reluctance to build on existing strengths and look for ways to improve the process.  While this seems incredibly simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals are being neither sought nor welcomed by the transition team.  Under Secretary Wormuth could decide changes are needed.  We encourage her to think in that direction and proceed without delay. OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in Hawaii in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  Joint Field Activities (JFAs) resumed in Laos late last month, though reportedly downsized from the five Recovery Teams (RTs), one Investigation Team (IT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducting a trilateral (LPDR, SRV & US) investigation initially planned.  This JFA, expected to conclude in early December, was to have been the first in a long time to maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53 personnel, but apparently, such was not to be.   Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA thus far in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  A JFA is scheduled in Cambodia in early 2015, but that could still change. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks were not held with Cambodia in FY2014, but plans are being considered for senior level, operational discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leaders in the near future. On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks in Hawaii with Vietnamese counterparts. Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams are now operating in Vietnam, the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s offer to the League in 2009, repeated often, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continue to strongly support DIA’s specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite long overdue agreement to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, There are continuing challenges to his being allowed freedom to conduct small-scale investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  We hope for better when his replacement arrives, hopefully before the end of this year.  Vietnamese leaders have thus far failed to approve PCS for two Vietnam specialists, but this should soon occur due to ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.  46TH ANNUAL MEETING IS CRUCIAL:  The 46th Annual Meeting will be held June 24-27th at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel.  This national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR) on complete reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting process.  The Secretary of Defense will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 24th, 9 a.m.  Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new Agency will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL MEMBERS ATTEND!  COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member

UPDATE:  November 20, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,639 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number finally changed after several months.   The remains of SSG James L Van Bendegom, USA, missing in Cambodia since July 12, 1967, were recovered March 21, 1986, and identified August 26, 2014. The remains of Capt Richard L. Whitesides, USAF, missing in South Vietnam on March 26, 1964, were recovered September 9, 2013, and identified September 22, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 944.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,007.  Of the 1,639 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,274 (VN-469, VS-805); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING POW/MIA REORGANIZATION:   In response to growing concerns over the direction being pursued, a meeting was called on October 31st, during which Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel generally acknowledged that momentum had slowed and confidence had diminished in the reorganization, then responded with very specific pledges of support.  In the presence of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth, the senior DoD official directly responsible, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs/Community Relations René Bardorf, PACT staff, five major national veteran organization representatives and the League Chairman, as well as other family and veteran group participants by conference call, the Secretary made the following specific commitments:  1) Failure is not an option; 2) Secrecy will end now, and there will be full transparency; 3) Agreed to name, in consultation with Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey, a senior uniformed military advisor to the USDP; and 4) Expressed full confidence in Under Secretary Wormuth’s ability to get the reorganization right.   Due to Secretary Hagel’s personal involvement and commitment, there is reason for cautious optimism that the reorganization he directed and is now monitoring will prove to be beneficial. Success of the ongoing transition effort is now the responsibility of Under Secretary Wormuth, with the PACT transition team coming directly under her purview.  Senior Executive Service (SES) civilian Alisa Stack leads the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT), aided by COL Ross Brown, USA (Ret), and Mr. Scott Schless, both also believed to be SES civilians.  Their qualifications for this critical task reportedly include expertise in structuring a new agency, determining budget and personnel requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, archival research, strategy and integration, and communication.  During the October 31st meeting, Under Secretary Wormuth stated she wanted “a pause” to assess how the Working Groups were functioning and moving forward to reach Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in January 2015.   Due to family and veteran representatives’ concerns about the composition and objectives of the PACT Working Groups, the names of participants were requested.  In light of the Secretary’s firm edict on transparency beginning now, it was surprising to learn the PACT Director had since noted in an email that DoD has not released the names.    Under Secretary Wormuth could decide changes are needed, and we encourage her to think in that direction and proceed without delay but, in the interim, things are going forward as before. There is no question that Secretary Hagel is determined to “get this right” and will accept no excuses; however, disappointment within the public and private accounting communities lies in initial implementation by inexperienced personnel who are reluctant to build on existing strengths, then look for ways to improve the process.  While this seems incredibly simple, educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals are too often neither sought nor welcomed by the transition team.  . OPERATIONS:  JPAC hosted Lao officials for POW/MIA Consultations in mid-August for necessary exchanges related to field operations.  Joint Field Activities (JFAs) resumed in Laos late last month with five Recovery Teams (RTs), one Investigation Team (IT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducting a trilateral (LPDR, SRV & US) investigation.  This JFA, expected to conclude in early December, will be the first in a long time to maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53.   Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA thus far in 2014, postponed twice in 2013.  A JFA is scheduled in Cambodia in early 2015, but that could still change. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks were not held with Cambodia in FY2014, ending September 30th, but plans are being considered for senior level, operational discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the year. On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts. Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, depending on funding and weather-related challenges.  A total of nine US teams are now operating in Vietnam, the largest deployment ever, finally responding to Vietnam’s offer to the League in 2009, repeated often, to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continues to strongly support DIA’s specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite agreement at long last to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, he was not allowed to conduct small-scale investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  We hope for better when his replacement is in place, hopefully before the end of this year.  In Vietnam, the leadership has thus far failed to approve PCS for the two Vietnam specialists, but I am optimistic that such will soon occur due to the ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.  46TH ANNUAL MEETING IS CRUCIAL:  The 46th Annual Meeting will be held June 24-27th at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel.  As we will be in the midst of Secretary Hagel’s decision on complete reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting process, this national convention will be the first opportunity to receive an In-Process Review (IPR).  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will be invited as Keynote Speaker at the Opening Session on Thursday, June 24th, 9:00 a.m. At that time, the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the new “Defense Personnel Accounting Agency” will have been in place for six months, so there should be ample information to share with the families.  IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL MEMBERS ATTEND!  Make plans now to be with us.  COIN Assist transportation – Congressionally mandated, DoD-directed and Service-provided – will once again be available for two family members per man still missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War to attend.  Funding, personnel and leadership changes and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during the briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every interested family member

UPDATE:  October 25, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,639 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number finally changed after several months. The remains of SSG James L Van Bendegom, USA, missing in Cambodia since July 12, 1967, were recovered March 21, 1986, and identified August 26, 2014. The remains of Capt Richard L. Whitesides, USAF, missing in South Vietnam on March 26, 1964, were recovered September 9, 2013, and identified September 22, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 944.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,007.  Of the 1,639 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,274 (VN-469, VS-805); Laos-306; Cambodia-52; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ON NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY:  At the national ceremony held at the Pentagon on September 19th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in part:  “The United States appreciates the ongoing support of many allies and partners across the globe – many represented here today – and on behalf of the men and women of our military, I thank you.  You have helped us in recovering our missing.  A good example of many of these efforts is Vietnam.  Vietnam has been providing an increasing amount of archival documents to support our pursuit of our missing Americans. We appreciate these efforts and will continue to build on this partnership going forward…..As many of you know, earlier this year I directed the Defense Department to organize this effort into a single, accountable operation that has the responsibility for personnel accounting resources, research, and operations….resolving issues of duplication and inefficiency, while also making that organization stronger, more effective, more transparent, and more responsive….DoD has been working closely with everyone who has a stake in this mission – including families, the veterans’ service organizations that are represented here today, and I thank them, Congress, and the agencies’ workforce.  We’ve made progress in this transformation, and the new Defense Personnel Accounting Agency will achieve initial operating capability this January.”     OPERATIONS:  On August 26th, JPAC hosted POW/MIA Consultations with the Lao that were not especially significant in terms of results achieved, but important in that views were exchanged, and the US request for renewed cooperation by Laos on archival documents was not rejected.  Little progress was made on other requests by both governments.  The lack of positive Lao responsiveness was somewhat predictable, based on uncertainty within the Lao leadership brought about by the recent untimely death of the Lao Ministers of Defense and Public Security.  Another possible reason was the lack of US dependability on field operations due to budget fluctuations, sequestration and revised JPAC operational plans. Joint Field Activities (JFAs) will resume late this month with five Recovery Teams (RTs), one Investigation Team (IT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT) conducting a trilateral (LPDR, SRV & US) investigation.  This JFA, expected to conclude in early December, will be the first in a long time to maximize the number of US personnel allowed in-country at one time, i.e. 53.   Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, with only one JFA thus far in 2014, postponed twice in 2013. Due to the “complete reorganization” now ongoing, the PACT (for DoD) has authorized JPAC to proceed with planned field operations, whether or not Congress has approved the budget for FY15 or a Continuing Resolution to carry over the existing budget for contracting and other operations requirements.  The Cambodia Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed.  No JFAs were scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015, but that could still change. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks were not held with Cambodia in FY2014, ending September 30th, but plans are being considered for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year. Another series of field operations took place in Vietnam from August 5th to September 7th that included a Joint Forensic Review (JFR), and it was a busy year in Vietnam with regularly scheduled, implemented joint operations.  On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts. Once again, US officials heard Vietnamese requests for expanding the pace and scope of field operations that have been sporadic at best, again depending on funding, as well as weather-related issues.   On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts.  A total of nine US teams will be fielded in the upcoming JFA, the largest deployment ever, finally responding to the Vietnamese offer to the League in 2009 to expand the pace and scope of field operations.  DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While DIA’s Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continues to strongly support their specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite agreement at long last to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, he has not been allowed to conduct small-scale investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  In Vietnam, the leadership has thus far failed to approve PCS for the two Vietnam specialists, but I am optimistic that such will soon occur due to the ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   Ongoing efforts are led by Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, head of the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT).  The PACT reportedly includes government specialists with expertise ranging from how to structure the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, archival research, strategy and integration, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since appointment, PACT officials, aided by The Clearing (see below) have been conducting many interviews and appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard – responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational – so the outcome could be interesting.  The Clearing, an outside consulting firm, was initially contracted for a reported $2,000,000, and more recently, an added $6,689,586 (yes, millions) to obtain input from family members from all wars on their experiences in dealing with various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in Secretary Hagel’s restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL and DIA’s Stony Beach POW/MIA team.   The Clearing is reportedly also interviewing and receiving input from all US officials willing to provide it concerning the overall mission and their own specific agency/organization.  The Clearing staff can be reached by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com.  In light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind PACT staff, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that the greatest uncertainty surrounds Vietnam War missing, though the same can be said of a relatively small number of Korean War servicemen who were last known alive or in POW camps, but never returned; therefore, the need for concrete answers is urgent.  Recovery and identification of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts, as well as disinterment of personnel buried as “unknowns” in American cemeteries, are important, but their families are not dealing with uncertainty.  The League supports efforts to account for WWII, Korean War and Cold War losses as an important, though vastly different from ending uncertainty surrounding the missing.            Secretary of Defense Hagel personally directed the “complete reorganization” of the accounting community and offered assurance to the League of his personal engagement, it is to him the League will look for confirmation that he is satisfied with the prospects for success of the reorganized community.  Several interim briefings have been given, though without details or specifics in which we have keen interest.  Another conference call briefing was held September 26th with USD(P) Wormuth.  Unfortunately, nothing new was learned; it was more or less an introductory session, lacking any specific details in which the League, other family members and the major national VSOs have great interest.  Hopefully, the PACT will become more transparent and consult knowledgeable, responsible current and former officials, as well as the League and the major national veteran organizations, before plans are finalized.  Valid input into the process can help assure acceptance by those most directly impacted, the Vietnam War POW/MIA families and family members of US personnel lost in earlier wars and conflicts.  

UPDATE:  October 6, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still1,641 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that has not changed for several months. The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 942.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,005.  Of the 1,641 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-306; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ON NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY:  At the national ceremony held at the Pentagon on September 19th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in part:  “The United States appreciates the ongoing support of many allies and partners across the globe – many represented here today – and on behalf of the men and women of our military, I thank you.  You have helped us in recovering our missing.  A good example of many of these efforts is Vietnam.  Vietnam has been providing an increasing amount of archival documents to support our pursuit of our missing Americans.  We appreciate these efforts and will continue to build on this partnership going forward…..As many of you know, earlier this year I directed the Defense Department to organize this effort into a single, accountable operation that has the responsibility for personnel accounting resources, research, and operations….resolving issues of duplication and inefficiency, while also making that organization stronger, more effective, more transparent, and more responsive….DoD has been working closely with everyone who has a stake in this mission – including families, the veterans’ service organizations that are represented here today, and I thank them, Congress, and the agencies’ workforce.  We’ve made progress in this transformation, and the new Defense Personnel Accounting Agency will achieve initial operating capability this January.”     OPERATIONS:  On August 26th, JPAC hosted POW/MIA Consultations with the Lao that were not especially encouraging in terms of results achieved, but important in that views were exchanged, and the US request for renewed cooperation by Laos on archival documents was not rejected.  Field operations will resume later this month, providing funds are available, though again not reaching the full number allowed of 53 US personnel operating in-country at the same time.  Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, and only one field operation occurred in 2014, postponed twice in 2013, but another is scheduled later this month if funds are available.  For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks are not being held with Cambodia in FY2014 that just ended, but plans are being considered for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year.   Another series of field operations took place in Vietnam from August 5th to September 7th that included a Joint Forensic Review (JFR).  On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts, and the VNOSMP Delegation again asked for an increase in the pace and scope of field operations, now scheduled to begin in late October, ending before the Christmas holidays.  DIA’S STONY BEACH:  While DIA’s Acting Director David Shedd and his team at Headquarters continues to strongly support their specialized, highly trained and motivated team, only in Cambodia are Stony Beach specialists allowed to perform their assigned tasks as intended.  In Laos, despite agreement at long last to allow PCS (permanent change of station) for the one SB specialist, he has not been allowed to conduct the investigations and interviews that best serve the mission.  In Vietnam, the leadership has thus far failed to approve PCS for the two Vietnam specialists, but I am optimistic that such will soon occur due to the increased military-to-military cooperation. ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   The work that is ongoing is led by Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, who is the head of a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT).  The PACT reportedly includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, archival research, strategy and integration and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and other PACT members, aided by The Clearing (see below) have been interviewing people, in and out of government, and appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome could be interesting.  The Clearing, an outside firm, was initially contracted for a reported $2,000,000, and more recently, an added $6,689,586 (yes, millions) to obtain input from family members from all wars on their experiences in dealing with various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in Secretary Hagel’s restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL and DIA’s Stony Beach POW/MIA team.   The Clearing is reportedly also interviewing and receiving input from all US officials who wish to provide it concerning the overall mission and their own specific agency/organization.  Apparently, the number of people willing to talk with The Clearing personnel is significant and, thus the need for additional funding to keep them engaged. The Clearing can be reached by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com and is seeking views from all who are willing.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men remains a significant factor for the families.   The greatest uncertainty surrounds Vietnam War missing personnel, though the same can be said of a relatively small number of Korean War servicemen who were last known alive or in POW camps, but never returned; therefore, the need for concrete answers is paramount, more so than identifications from remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  This is particularly relevant to  disinterment of personnel buried as “unknowns” in American cemeteries.  Their families know they perished, sadly.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, as an important, though vastly different mission than ending uncertainty with answers.            Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, PACT recommendations on implementation were provided to recently appointed and confirmed Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work. With his approval, implementation began and several timelines were announced.  Incremental steps were set to begin, including naming of an Interim Director for the new Defense Personnel Accounting Agency sometime this fall. The first of many adjustments applies to the budget and to communications, with instructions to begin acting now as one agency, with the Interim Operational Capability (IOC) set for January 15, 2015.  Full Operational Capability (FOC) is set to occur on January 15, 2016.  Until the start-up date early next year, DPMO, JPAC and LSEL, plus all other active elements of the accounting community, have been directed to continue work uninterrupted by reorganization/transformation/consolidation plans and implementation. Since Secretary of Defense Hagel personally directed the “complete reorganization” of the accounting community and offered assurance to the League of his personal engagement, it is to him the League will look for confirmation that he is satisfied with the prospects for success of the reorganized community.  Several interim briefings have been given, though without details or specifics in which we have keen interest.  Another conference call briefing was held September 26th with USD(P) Wormuth.  Unfortunately, nothing new was learned; it was more or less an introductory session, lacking any specific details in which the League, other family members and the major national VSOs have great interest.  Hopefully, the PACT will become more transparent and consult knowledgeable, responsible current and former officials, as well as the League and the major national veteran organizations, before plans are finalized.  Valid input into the process can help assure acceptance by those most directly impacted, the Vietnam War POW/MIA families and family members of US personnel lost in earlier wars and conflicts.  

UPDATE:  September 25, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still1,641 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that has not changed for several months. The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 942.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,005.  Of the 1,641 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-306; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ON NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY:  At the national ceremony held at the Pentagon on September 19th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in part:  “The United States appreciates the ongoing support of many allies and partners across the globe – many represented here today – and on behalf of the men and women of our military, I thank you.  You have helped us in recovering our missing.  A good example of many of these efforts is Vietnam.  Vietnam has been providing an increasing amount of archival documents to support our pursuit of our missing Americans.  We appreciate these efforts and will continue to build on this partnership going forward…..As many of you know, earlier this year I directed the Defense Department to organize this effort into a single, accountable operation that has the responsibility for personnel accounting resources, research, and operations….resolving issues of duplication and inefficiency, while also making that organization stronger, more effective, more transparent, and more responsive….DoD has been working closely with everyone who has a stake in this mission – including families, the veterans’ service organizations that are represented here today, and I thank them, Congress, and the agencies’ workforce.  We’ve made progress in this transformation, and the new Defense Personnel Accounting Agency will achieve initial operating capability this January.”     ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   The work that is ongoing is led by Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, who is the head of a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT).  The PACT reportedly includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, archival research, strategy and integration and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and other PACT members, aided by The Clearing (see below) have been interviewing people, in and out of government, and appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome could be interesting.  The Clearing, an outside firm, was initially contracted for a reported $2,000,000, and more recently, an added $6,689,586 (yes, millions) to obtain input from family members from all wars on their experiences in dealing with various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in Secretary Hagel’s restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL and DIA’s Stony Beach POW/MIA team.   The Clearing is reportedly also interviewing and receiving input from all US officials who wish to provide it concerning the overall mission and their own specific agency/organization.  Apparently, the number of people willing to talk with The Clearing personnel is significant, and continuing; thus, the need for additional funding to keep them engaged. The Clearing can be reached by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com and is seeking views from all who are willing.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men remains a significant factor for the families.   The greatest uncertainty surrounds Vietnam War missing personnel, though the same can be said of a relatively small number of Vietnam War servicemen who were last known alive or in POW camps, but never returned; therefore, the need for concrete answers is paramount, more so than identificitons from remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  This is particularly relevant to  disinterments of personnel buried as “unknowns” in American cemeteries.  Their families know they perished, sadly.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, as an important, though vastly different mission than ending uncertainty with answers.            Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, PACT recommendations on implementation were provided to recently appointed and confirmed Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work. With his approval, implementation began and several timelines were announced.  Incremental steps were set to begin, including naming of an Interim Director for the new Defense Personnel Accounting Agency sometime this fall. The first of many adjustments applies to the budget and to communications, with instructions to begin acting now as one agency, with the Interim Operational Capability (IOC) set for January 15, 2015.  Full Operational Capability (FOC) is set to occur on January 15, 2016.  Until the start-up date early next year, DPMO, JPAC and LSEL, plus all other active elements of the accounting community, have been directed to continue work uninterrupted by reorganization/transformation/consolidation plans and implementation. Since Secretary of Defense Hagel personally directed the “complete reorganization” of the accounting community and offered assurance to the League of his personal engagement, it is to him the League will look for confirmation that he is satisfied with the prospects for success of the reorganized community.  Several interim briefings have been given, though without details or specifics in which we have keen interest.  Another conference call briefing is scheduled for September 26th with recently confirmed Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth.  Hopefully, the briefing from USD(P) Wormuth will provide specifics.  Also, hopefully, the PACT will become more transparent and consult knowledgeable, responsible current and former officials, as well as the League and the major national veteran organizations, before plans are finalized.  Valid input into the process can help assure acceptance by those most directly impacted, the Vietnam War POW/MIA families and family members of US personnel lost in earlier wars and conflicts.   JPAC OPERATIONS:  On August 26th, JPAC hosted POW/MIA Consultations with the Lao that were underwhelming in terms of results achieved, but important in that views were exchanged, and the US request for renewed cooperation by Laos on archival documents was not rejected.  Little progress was made on other requests by both governments.  The lack of positive Lao responsiveness was somewhat predictable, based on uncertainty within the Lao leadership brought about by the recent untimely death of the Lao Ministers of Defense and Public Security. Another probable reason was the lack of US dependability with on-again, off-again field operations due to budget fluctuations, sequestration and revised JPAC operational plans.  Field operations are now ongoing with a larger team, but not yet the full number allowed of 53 US personnel operating in-country at the same time.   Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, and only one field operation occurred in 2014, postponed twice in 2013. The Stony Beach Cambodia specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks are not being held with Cambodia in FY2014, ending September 30th, but plans are being considered for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year.   Another series of field operations took place in Vietnam from August 5th to September 7th that included a Joint Forensic Review (JFR), and it was a busy year in Vietnam with regularly scheduled, implemented joint operations.  DIA’s Stony Beach is still engaged, but on a rotating TDY schedule that is unacceptable and needs to be made permanent, especially with the ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.  On September 23rd, JPAC hosted annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts.   

UPDATE:  September 18, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still1,641 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that has not changed for several months. The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 942.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,005.  Of the 1,641 total, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-306; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, is continuing work as the head of a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce (PACT).  The PACT reportedly includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and PACT members have been actively interviewing interested people, in and out of government, plus appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome will be interesting.  An outside firm, The Clearing, was contracted to obtain input from family members from all wars on their personal experiences in dealing with various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in Secretary Hagel’s restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL and DIA’s Stony Beach POW/MIA team.  The Clearing can be reached by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com and is seeking views from all who are willing.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men is still a significant factor for the families, much more so than remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, as an add-on mission, not to the detriment of Vietnam War answers.          Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, PACT recommendations on implementation were provided to Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work. With his approval, several timelines were announced and incremental steps were set to begin, including naming of an Interim Director for the new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (actual name is not yet announced) sometime this fall. The first of many adjustments applies to the budget and to communications, with instructions to begin acting now as one agency, with the agency start-up set for January 15, 2015.  Completion and full operational integration is being planned for January 15, 2016.  Until the start-up date early next year, DPMO, JPAC and LSEL, plus all other active elements of the accounting community, have been directed to continue work uninterrupted by reorganization/transformation/consolidation plans and implementation. Since Secretary of Defense Hagel personally directed the “complete reorganization” of the accounting community and offered assurance to the League of his personal engagement, it is to him the League will look for confirmation that he is satisfied with the prospects for success of the reorganized community.  Several interim briefings have been given, but without details or specifics in which we have keen interest.  Hopefully, the PACT will become more transparent and will consult knowledgeable, responsible current and former officials, as well as the League and the major national veteran organizations before plans are finalized.  Valid input into the process can help assure acceptance by those most directly affected, the Vietnam War POW/MIA families whom the League represents and family members of US personnel lost in earlier wars and conflicts.   JPAC OPERATIONS:  On August 26th, JPAC hosted POW/MIA Consultations with the Lao that were underwhelming in terms of results achieved, but important in that views were exchanged and the US request for renewed cooperation by Laos on archival documents was not rejected.  Little substantive progress was made on other requests by both governments, but the lack of positive Lao responsiveness was predictable, based on several factors, including the uncertainty brought about by the recent untimely, tragic death of the Lao Ministers of both Defense and Public Security.   Another likely reason was the lack of US dependability with on-again, off-again field operations due to budget fluctuations, the sequestration and revised JPAC operational plans.  DIA’s Stony Beach Lao specialist, Dustin Roses, has returned to HQ on a scheduled reassignment, but the incoming Stony Beach Lao specialist is due to be on post before the end of December, if all goes well.  Field operations are now ongoing, with a larger team, but not yet the full number allowed of 53 US personnel operating in-country at the same time. Operations in Cambodia have been sporadic at best, and only one field operation occurred in 2014, postponed twice in 2013. The Stony Beach Cambodia specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed, so JPAC investigations are not routinely scheduled in conjunction with field operations.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting excavation/recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks will not be held with Cambodia in FY2014, but plans are being considered for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year.   Another series of field operations took place in Vietnam from August 5th to September 7th that included a Joint Forensic Review (JFR), and it was a busy year in Vietnam with regularly scheduled, implemented joint operations.  DIA’s Stony Beach is still engaged, but on a rotating TDY schedule that is unacceptable and needs to be made permanent, especially with the ever-increasing, broadening military-to-military cooperation.  On September 23rd, JPAC will host annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts.   Chairman’s Comment:  With the above record of on-again, off-again field operations, it is no wonder that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are questioning US commitment to the accounting mission, especially when the “complete reorganization” is added into the equation.  The relatively well-developed working relationship that has evolved since the first joint recovery in Laos in 1984 should mean that field operations are conducted at the pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  There are multiple reasons, including congressionally-imposed sequestration and mandatory budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately, due to PACOM “borrowing” some of JPAC’s funding for other uses.  Cutbacks and cancellations are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists, weather restrictions in some areas, and often complicated by lack of specialists needed for specific recoveries.  The list goes on and on, with many complications that can arise unexpectedly. Of immediate concern is the need to change existing policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations.  If not changed, there will continue to be sporadic reductions in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the congressionally-mandated quest for higher numbers of IDs. 

UPDATE:  August 13, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,641 personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that changed with release in late July of the name of Col Thomas W. Dugan, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968.  Colonel Dugan’s remains were recovered June 6, 2012, and identified as part of a group ID on August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 942.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,005.  Of the 1,641 missing and unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-306; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, is continuing work as the head of a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT).  Reportedly, the PACT includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and PACT members have been actively interviewing interested people, in and out of government, plus appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome will be interesting. An outside firm, The Clearing, was contracted to obtain input from family members from all wars on their personal experiences in dealing with various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in the restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL and DIA’s Stony Beach POW/MIA team.  The Clearing is seeking views from all who are willing and can be reached by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men is still a significant factor for the families, much more so than remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, but in addition to focusing priority on Vietnam War accounting, not to its detriment. Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, the PACT recommendations will be provided to Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work.  That presentation is anticipated this week and, once he has approved, final recommendations should go to Secretary Hagel.  In the interim, ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin testified before the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Subcommittee on Military Personnel on July 15th, along with the newly named head of DoD’s Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, Dr. Jamie Morin.  Dr. Morin, very recently confirmed, reported on CAPE’s findings from their lengthy investigation.  ASD Lumpkin testified about ongoing efforts to restructure the accounting community, pledging continued efforts by JPAC, DPMO, LSEL and others as the consolidation and restructuring occurs.  He provided the date of January 1, 2015 as the initial start date for the new POW/MIA Accounting Agency, assuring the Subcommittee of full implementation in place by January 1, 2016. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos in October-November of last year, but it was cancelled due to complications related to receipt of timely funding.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted a JFA January 15-February 17th.  A longer JFA began March 4th and concluded April 14th; but only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA was conducted May 9th to June 22nd, with only two RTs, due to the lack of deployable scientific personnel.  JPAC will host bi-annual POW/MIA Consultations with Laos on August 26th in Hawaii. Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd.  The Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed, so ITs are not routinely scheduled in conjunction with JPAC’s Cambodia operations.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting excavation/recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. The 2013 cancellations had little to do with funding shortages and much to do with internal mishandling of contractual authorities by some in JPAC with no mission-related experience in SEA.  Objections were raised to the payment authorization process that had been in place for over 20 years.  As a result, all operations were halted while a solution was found that was satisfactory to puzzled Cambodian leaders, the US Ambassador and his staff.  An “Order for Services” document was devised that satisfied previously unimportant/ignored criteria, and the Cambodians, always accommodating, agreed to the new process.   For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks will not be held with Cambodia in FY2014, but plans are being considered for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year. Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs and two ITs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  A JFA in Vietnam. August 5th to September 7th, involves four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT), one IT, and the RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations on LKA cases. On September 23rd, JPAC will host annual Technical Talks with Vietnamese counterparts in Hawaii. Worldwide: While Vietnam War-related accounting missions slowed, six RTs worked in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st, and overlapping June 15th to July 23rd, working on the same two large WWII bomber sites, there was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  A special RT recently concluded work on a 1952 US loss being exposed by a melting glacier in Alaska.  On this unusual site, there have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects for additional accountability are high.  There was an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off.  One RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains began July 8th and concluded August 6th. Chairman’s Comment:  With the above record of on-again, off-again field operations, is it any wonder that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are questioning US commitment to the accounting mission?  The relatively well-developed working relationship that has evolved since the first joint recovery in Laos in 1984 should mean that field operations are conducted at the pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  There are multiple reasons, initially from congressionally-imposed sequestration, to mandatory budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately, due to PACOM “borrowing” some of JPAC’s funding for other uses.  Cutbacks and cancellations are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists, weather restrictions in some areas, often complicated by lack of specialists needed for specific recoveries, and the list goes on and on, with many complications that can arise unexpectedly. Of immediate concern is the need to change existing policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations.  If not changed, there will continue to be sporadic reductions in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the congressionally-mandated quest for higher numbers of IDs.

UPDATE:  July 23, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,641 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that just changed with release of the name of Colonel Thomas W. Dugan, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968.  Colonel Dugan’s remains were recovered June 6, 2012, and identified as part of a group ID on August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 942.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,005.  Of the 1,641 missing and unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-306; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, was appointed to head a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT) that, reportedly, includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and PACT members have been actively interviewing interested people, in and out of government, plus appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome will be interesting.  An outside firm, The Clearing, was contracted to branch out to obtain input from family members from all wars on their personal experiences in dealing with the various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in the restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL, and individuals within the various organizations.  The Clearing is seeking the views of all who are willing to talk with them and can be reached via the Internet by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members affected, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men is still a significant factor for the families, much more so than remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, but in addition to focusing priority on Vietnam War accounting, not to its detriment.     Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, the PACT recommendations will be provided to Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work.  That presentation is anticipated in mid-August and, once he has approved, final recommendations will go to Secretary Hagel.  In the interim, ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin testified before the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Subcommittee on Military Personnel on July 15th, along with the newly named head of DoD’s Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, Dr. Jamie Morin.  Dr. Morin, only confirmed two weeks ago, reported on CAPE’s findings from their lengthy investigation.  ASD Lumpkin testified about ongoing efforts to restructure the accounting community, pledging continued efforts by JPAC, DPMO, LSEL and others as the consolidation occurs.  He provided the date of January 1, 2015 as the initial start date for the new POW/MIA Accounting Agency, assuring the Subcommittee of full implementation in place by January 1, 2016. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos in October-November of last year, but it was cancelled due to complications related to receipt of timely funding.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted a JFA January 15-February 17th.  A longer JFA began March 4th and concluded April 14th; but only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA was conducted May 9th to June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos.  JPAC will host bi-annual POW/MIA Consultations with Laos on August 26th in Hawaii.  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014. Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed, ITs are not routinely scheduled in conjunction with JPAC Cambodia operations.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting excavation/recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. The 2013 cancellations had little to do with funding shortages and much to do with internal mishandling of contractual authorities by some in JPAC with no mission-related experience in SEA.  Objections were raised to the payment authorization process that had been in place for over 20 years.  As a result, all operations were halted while a solution was found that was satisfactory to the puzzled Cambodian leaders, as well as the US Ambassador and his staff.  An “Order for Services” document was devised that satisfied previously unimportant/ignored criteria, and the Cambodians, always accommodating, agreed to the new process.   For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks will not be held with Cambodia in FY2014, but plans are being made for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year.   Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA, plus two ITs.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  There will be another JFA in Vietnam before the end of FY2014, August 5th to September 7th, involving four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) and one IT, plus the RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations on LKA cases.  JPAC will host the annual Technical Talks with the Vietnamese on September 23rd in Hawaii.  Worldwide: While Vietnam War-related accounting missions slowed, six RTs worked in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st, and overlapping June 15th to July 23rd, working on the same two large WWII bomber sites, there was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  A special RT recently concluded work on a 1952 US loss being exposed by a melting glacier in Alaska.  On this unusual site, there have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects for additional accountability are high.  There was an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off.  One RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains began July 8th and concludes August 6th.  Chairman’s Comment:  With the above record of on-again, off-again field operations, is it any wonder that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are questioning US commitment to the accounting mission?  The relatively well-developed working relationship that has evolved since the first joint recovery in Laos in 1984 should mean that field operations are conducted at the pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  There are multiple reasons, initially from congressionally-imposed sequestration, to mandatory budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately, due to PACOM “borrowing” some of JPAC’s funding for other uses.  Cutbacks and cancellations are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists, weather restrictions in some areas, often complicated by lack of specialists needed for specific recoveries, and the list goes on and on, with many complications that can arise unexpectedly. Of immediate concern is the need to change existing policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations.  If not changed, there will continue to be sporadic reductions in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the congressionally-mandated quest for higher numbers of IDs.   

 

UPDATE:  July 16, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,641 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that just changed with release of the name of Colonel Thomas W. Dugan, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968.  Colonel Dugan’s remains were recovered June 6, 2012, and identified as part of a group ID on August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 942.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,005.  Of the 1,641 missing and unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-306; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, was appointed to head a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT) that, reportedly, includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and PACT members have been actively interviewing interested people, in and out of government, plus appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome will be interesting. An outside firm, The Clearing, was contracted to branch out to obtain input from family members from all wars on their personal experiences in dealing with the various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in the restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL, and individuals within the various organizations.  The Clearing is seeking the views of all who are willing to talk with them and can be reached via the Internet by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in light of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members affected, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men is still a significant factor for the families, much more so than remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, but in addition to focusing priority on Vietnam War accounting, not to its detriment. Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, the PACT recommendations will be provided to Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work.  That presentation is anticipated in mid-August and, once he has approved, final recommendations will go to Secretary Hagel.  In the interim, ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin testified before the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Subcommittee on Military Personnel on July 15th, along with the newly named head of DoD’s Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, Dr. Jamie Morin.  Dr. Morin, only confirmed two weeks ago, reported on CAPE’s findings from their lengthy investigation.  ASD Lumpkin testified about ongoing efforts to restructure the accounting community, pledging continued efforts by JPAC, DPMO, LSEL and others as the consolidation occurs.  He provided the date of January 1, 2015 as the initial start date for the new POW/MIA Accounting Agency, assuring the Subcommittee of full implementation in place by January 1, 2016.   FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos in October-November of last year, but it was cancelled due to complications related to receipt of timely funding.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted a JFA January 15-February 17th.  A longer JFA began March 4th and concluded April 14th; but only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA was conducted May 9th to June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos.  JPAC will host bi-annual POW/MIA Consultations with Laos on August 26th in Hawaii. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014. Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed, ITs are not routinely scheduled in conjunction with JPAC Cambodia operations.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting excavation/recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. The 2013 cancellations had little to do with funding shortages and much to do with internal mishandling of contractual authorities by some in JPAC with no mission-related experience in SEA.  Objections were raised to the payment authorization process that had been in place for over 20 years.  As a result, all operations were halted while a solution was found that was satisfactory to the puzzled Cambodian leaders, as well as the US Ambassador and his staff.  An “Order for Services” document was devised that satisfied previously unimportant/ignored criteria, and the Cambodians, always accommodating, agreed to the new process.   For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks will not be held with Cambodia in FY2014, but plans are being made for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year. Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA, plus two ITs.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  There will be another JFA in Vietnam before the end of FY2014, August 5th to September 7th, involving four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) and one IT, plus the RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations on LKA cases.  JPAC will host the annual Technical Talks with the Vietnamese on September 23rd in Hawaii. Worldwide: While Vietnam War-related accounting missions slowed, six RT’s worked in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st  some overlapping June 15th to July 23rd, working on the same two large WWII bomber sites, there was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  A special RT recently concluded work on a 1952 US loss being exposed by a melting glacier in Alaska.  On this unusual site, there have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects for additional accountability are high.  There was an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off.  One RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains began July 8th and concludes August 6th. Chairman’s Comment:  With the above record of on-again, off-again field operations, is it any wonder that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are questioning US commitment to the accounting mission?  The relatively well-developed working relationship that has evolved since the first joint recovery in Laos in 1984 should mean that field operations are conducted at the pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  There are multiple reasons, initially from congressionally-imposed sequestration, to mandatory budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately, due to PACOM “borrowing” some of JPAC’s funding for other uses.  Cutbacks and cancellations are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists, weather restrictions in specific areas that then complicate the availability of specialists needed for specific recoveries, and the list goes on. Of immediate concern is the need to change existing policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations.  If not changed, there will continue to be sporadic reductions in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the congressionally-mandated quest for higher numbers of IDs.

 

UPDATE:  July 10, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same.  Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.   ONGOING REORGANIZATION:   Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, was appointed to head a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT) that, reportedly, includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and PACT members have been actively interviewing interested people, in and out of government, plus appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome will be interesting. An outside firm, The Clearing, was contracted to branch out to obtain input from family members from all wars on their personal experiences in dealing with the various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in the restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL, and individuals within the various organizations.  The Clearing is seeking the views of all who are willing to talk with them and can be reached via the Internet by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in view of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members affected, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men is still a significant factor for the families, much more so than remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, but in addition to focusing priority on Vietnam War accounting, not to its detriment. Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, the PACT recommendations will be provided to Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work.  That presentation is anticipated for mid-August and, once he has approved, the final recommendations will go to Secretary Hagel.  In the interim, ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin has been invited to testify before the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Subcommittee on Military Personnel on July 15th, 2:00 p.m., 2212 Rayburn House Office Building, as has the newly named head of DoD’s CAPE, Dr. Jamie Morin.  Reportedly, Dr. Morin will report on CAPE’s findings from their lengthy investigation, and ASD Lumpkin will testify about ongoing efforts to restructure the accounting community.  It should be interesting!   FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos in October-November of laslt year, but it was cancelled due to complications related to receipt of timely funding.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, did conduct a JFA January 15o-February 17th.  A longer JFA began March 4th and concluded April 14th; only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA was conducted May 9th to June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos.  JPAC will host bi-annual POW/MIA Consultations with Laos on August 26th in Hawaii.   Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014. Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed, ITs are not routinely scheduled in conjunction with JPAC Cambodia operations.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting excavation/recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. The 2013 cancellations had little to do with funding shortages and much to do with internal mishandling of contractual authorities by some in JPAC with no mission-related experience in SEA.  Objections were raised to the payment authorization process that had been in place for over 20 years.  As a result, all operations were halted while a solution was found that was satisfactory to the puzzled Cambodians leaders, as well as the US Ambassador and his staff.  An “Order for Services” document was devised that satisfied previously unimportant/ignored criteria, and the Cambodians, always accommodating, agreed to the new process.   For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks will not be held with the Cambodians in FY2014, but plans are being made for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership before the end of the calendar year. . Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA, plus two ITs.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  There will be another JFA in Vietnam before the end of FY2014, August 5th to September 7th, involving four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) and one IT, plus the RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations on LKA cases.  JPAC will host the annual Technical Talks with the Vietnamese on September 23rd in Hawaii. Worldwide: While Vietnam War-related accounting missions slowed, six RT’s worked in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st, and again overlapping June 15th to July 23rd, working on the same two large WWII bomber sites, there was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  A special RT has reportedly just concluded its work on a 1952 US loss being exposed by a melting glacier in Alaska.  On this unusual site, there have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects for additional accountability are high.  There will also be an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off, and one RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains July 8th to August 6th. Chairman’s Comment:  With the above record of on-again, off-again field operations, is it any wonder that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are questioning US commitment to the accounting mission?  The relatively well-developed working relationship that has evolved since the first joint recovery in Laos in 1984 should mean that field operations are conducted at the pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  There are multiple reasons, initially from congressionally-imposed sequestration, but also required budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately, due to PACOM “borrowing” some of JPAC’s funding for other uses.  Cutbacks and cancellations are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists, weather restrictions in specific areas that then complicate obtaining specialists needed for specific recoveries, and the list goes on. Of immediate concern is the need to change existing policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations.  If not changed, there will continue to be sporadic reductions in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the congressionally-mandated quest for higher numbers of IDs.

UPDATE:  July 7, 2014 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same.  Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  ONGOING REORGANIZATION ACTION:   Senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, was appointed to head a transition team, the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT) that, reportedly, includes government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency, to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin both stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. Since her appointment, Ms. Stack and PACT members have been actively interviewing interested people, in and out of government, plus appear to be focused on ensuring that a wide variety of voices are heard, responsible and irresponsible, rational and irrational, so the outcome will be interesting. An outside firm, The Clearing, was contracted to branch out to obtain input from family members from all wars on their personal experiences in dealing with the various accounting community organizations.  In addition to DPMO, JPAC and LSEL (specifically named in the restructure directive and by Congress), these include the Service Casualty Offices, AFDIL, and individuals within the various organizations.  The Clearing is seeking the views of all who are willing to talk with them and can be reached via the Internet by emailing voiceofthefamilies@theclearing.com.  Family members from all wars are urged to provide their views and, in view of the comparatively small number of Vietnam War family members affected, the League is hopeful that ALL Vietnam War families take this opportunity to remind members of PACT, The Clearing and senior DoD officials that uncertainty about Vietnam War missing men is still a significant factor for the families, much more so than remains recoveries of known dead from earlier wars and conflicts.  The League supports accounting for losses in WWII, Korean War and Cold War, but in addition to focusing priority on Vietnam War accounting, not to its detriment. Following review and approval by newly confirmed Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) Christine Wormuth, the PACT recommendations will be provided to Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef) Robert Work.  That presentation is anticipated for mid-August and, once he has approved, the final recommendations will go to Secretary Hagel.  In the interim, ASD/SOLIC Lumpkin has been invited to testify before the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Subcommittee on Military Personnel on July 15th, as has the newly named head of DoD’s CAPE, Dr. Jamie Morin.  Reportedly, he will report on CAPE’s findings from their 12 months investigation, and ASD Lumpkin will testify about ongoing efforts to restructure the accounting community. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th, but it was cancelled due to complications related to receipt of timely funding.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) had been scheduled, along with one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist.  A longer JFA began March 4th and concluded April 14th, though only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA in Laos started May 9th and concluded June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos.  JPAC will host bi-annual POW/MIA Consultations with Laos on August 26th in Hawaii. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014. Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations when and where needed, ITs are not routinely scheduled in conjunction with JPAC Cambodia operations.  There are no identified sites currently awaiting excavation/recovery; therefore, no JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early 2015. The 2013 cancellations had little to do with funding shortages and much to do with internal mishandling of contractual authorities by some in JPAC with no mission-related experience in SEA.  Objections were posed to the payment authorization process that had been in place for over 20 years.  As a result, all operations were halted while a solution was found, satisfactory to the puzzled Cambodians leaders, as well as the US Ambassador and his staff.  The solution was establishing an “Order for Services” document, then convincing Cambodian officials that it was acceptable, though they regularly accommodate all US requests and concerns.  For the first time in over 20 years, technical level talks will not be held with the Cambodians in FY2014, but plans are being made for senior level discussions with Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee leadership in late October or early November. Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA, plus two ITs.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  There will be another JFA in Vietnam before the end of FY2014, August 5th to September 7th, involving four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) and one IT, plus the RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations on LKA cases.  JPAC will host the annual Technical Talks with the Vietnamese on September 23rd in Hawaii. Worldwide: While Vietnam War-related accounting missions slowed, six RT’s worked in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st, and an overlapping team June 15th to July 23rd working on the same two large WWII bomber sites, there was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  A special RT has reportedly just concluded its work on a 1952 US loss being exposed by a melting glacier in Alaska.  On this unusual site, there have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects for additional accountability are high.  There will also be an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off, and one RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains July 8th to August 6th. Chairman’s Comment:  With the above record of on-again, off-again field operations, is it any wonder that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are questioning US commitment to the accounting mission?  The relatively well-developed working relationship that has evolved since the first joint recovery in Laos in 1984 should mean that field operations are conducted at the pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  There are multiple reasons, initially from congressionally-imposed sequestration, required budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately, due to PACOM “borrowing” some of JPAC’s funding for other uses.  Cutbacks and cancellations are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists, weather restrictions in specific areas that then complicate obtaining specialists needed for specific recoveries, and the list goes on. Of immediate concern is the need to change existing policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations.  If not changed, there will continue to be sporadic reductions in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the congressionally-mandated quest for higher numbers of IDs.

UPDATE:  June 18, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same.  Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.  SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible to the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”   League Chairman’s Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gave a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Navy officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) conducted an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League on April 3rd, as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.     Since that time, Secretary Lumpkin appointed a senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, to head a transition team that, reportedly, will include government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Lumpkin have stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) were scheduled, along with one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, but the JFA was cancelled due to complications in timely funding.  A longer JFA in Laos began March 4th and concluded April 14th, though only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA in Laos, now ongoing, started May 9th and is to conclude June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the Lao Government’s long ago approved cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, again due to funding limitations, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014. Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there were no ITs scheduled in conjunction with JFAs in Cambodia.    There are no identified excavation/recovery sites identified; therefore, no further JFAs are scheduled in Cambodia until early in 2015. Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA, plus two ITs.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  There will be another JFA in Vietnam before the end of FY2014, August 5th to September 7th, involving four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) and one IT.  The RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations on LKA cases. Worldwide: While Vietnam War-related accounting missions slowed, six RT’s worked in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st, and an overlapping team June 15th to July 23rd working on the same two large WWII bomber sites, there was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  A special RT, June 22nd – July 19th, is scheduled to recover remains from a 1952 US loss being exposed by a melting glacier in Alaska.  On this unusual site, there have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects are good for additional recoveries and identifications.  There will also be an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off, and one RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains July 8th to August 6th. Chairman’s Comment:  Is it any wonder that the key countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are confused and questioning the commitment of the US Government to the accounting mission?  With budget agreement reached, one would think that field operations would be conducted on a sustainable pace and scope needed to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  Despite the relatively sophisticated working environment that has evolved since the first joint recovery occurred in Laos, in 1984, too often it is the US causing cutbacks in joint cooperation.  There are multiple reasons, from weather realities, to congressionally mandated sequestration, requiring budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately due to PACOM direction.  The cutbacks are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists for in-country operations.  If the internal policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations is not changed, there will continue to be an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the quest for higher numbers of identifications.

UPDATE:  June 9, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same.  Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.   SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible to the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”   League Chairman’s Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gave a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Navy officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) conducted an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League on April 3rd, as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.     Since that time, Secretary Lumpkin appointed a senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, to head a transition team that, reportedly, will include government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Lumpkin have stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. FIELD OPERATIONS:  JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) were scheduled, along with one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, but the JFA was cancelled due to complications in timely funding.  A longer JFA in Laos began March 4th and concluded April 14th, though only one RT and one IT were deployed.  The next JFA in Laos, now ongoing, started May 9th and is to conclude June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the Lao Government’s long ago approved cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, again due to funding limitations, finally took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014. Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there were no ITs scheduled in conjunction with JFAs in Cambodia.    There are no further JFAs scheduled in Cambodia until early in 2015. Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) at the end of the JFA.  Only three RTs were deployed to Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA, plus two ITs.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, again reportedly due to lack of available funding.  There will be another JFA in Vietnam before the end of FY2014, August 5th to September 7th, involving four RTs, one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT), one IT and the RIT will again conduct interviews and investigations. Worldwide:   While Vietnam War-related accounting missions were reduced, there were six RT’s working in Germany from April 1st to May 18th on WWII recoveries.   In addition to returning to Germany May 10th – June 21st, and again June 15th to July 23rd, working on the same two large WWII bomber sites.  There was one IT in Burma from April 28th to May 29th.  There will also be a special RT June 22nd  – July 19th, to recover remains from a 1952 US loss being exposed by a glacier in Alaska.  There have already been 17 remains recovered and identified, and prospects are good for additional recoveries and identifications from this unusual site.  There will also be an underwater recovery in Botwood Bay, a harbor in Canada, of a WWII “flying boat” that crashed on take-off.   There also will be one RT in the Solomon Islands to recover WWII remains July 8th to August 6th. Chairman’s Comment:  Is it any wonder that the key countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are confused and questioning the commitment of the US Government to the accounting mission?  With budget agreement reached, one would think that field operations would be conducted on a sustainable pace and scope needed to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  Despite the relatively sophisticated working environment that has evolved since the first joint recovery occurred in Laos, in 1984, too often it is the US causing cutbacks in joint cooperation.  There are multiple reasons, from congressionally mandated sequestration, required budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately due to PACOM direction.  The cutbacks are also due to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC forensic anthropologists for in-country operations.  If the internal policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations is not changed, there will continue to be an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in Vietnam War accounting operations, due to competing attention to WWII recoveries in the quest for higher numbers of identifications.

UPDATE:  May 10, 2014

45Th ANNUAL MEETING DEADLINE NEARS:  By now, all primary-next-of-kin (PNOK) of those still missing should have received information from your Service Casualty Office (SCO) providing information on Service-funded flights for 2 NOK of each missing man to have free flights to attend this critical meeting.  If your family has not yet received this information, please contact the SCO or the League office immediately.  Deadline for registration with the League:  envelope must be postmarked by May 30th; however, the SCO deadline for travel is earlier, and the Hilton Crystal City Hotel deadline for reservations at the reduced rate of only $149.00+ taxes per nights (single or double) is May 16th.  Call 1-800-445-8667, and the Group Code is MIA2014 to get the special rate. AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same.  Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7.  Over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.   SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible to the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”     League Chairman of the Board Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gave a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Navy officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) conducted an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League on April 3rd, as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.     Since that time, Secretary Lumpkin appointed a senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, to head a transition team that, reportedly, will include government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Lumpkin have stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs. FIELD OPERATIONS:  With budget agreement reached, one would think that field operations would be conducted on a sustainable pace and scope needed to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, but such is not the case.  Despite the relatively sophisticated working environment that has evolved since the first joint recovery occurred in Laos, in 1984, too often it is the US causing cutbacks in joint cooperation.  There are multiple reasons, from congressional sequestration, mandated budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately due to PACOM direction, to an inadequate number of deployable JPAC Lab forensic anthropologists for in-country operations.  If the policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations is not changed, there will be an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in the scope of Vietnam War accounting operations. JPAC conducted a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) conducted operations and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted several investigations.  A longer JFA in Laos began March 4th and concluded April 14th, though only one RT and one IT were scheduled.  The next US team did increase in size to three ITs.  Initially,  the May 9th – June 6th JFA was to have been comprised of only 2 RTs, and the League appreciates the increase to 3 RTs, though the Lao Government long ago approved a cap of 53 personnel to operate simultaneously in Laos. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, took place January 28th – April 2nd, 2014.  Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there are no ITs scheduled in conjunction with JFAs in Cambodia. Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28th – March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on that JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR) Team.    Only four RTs are scheduled in Vietnam for the May 20th – June 22nd JFA.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, reportedly due to lack of available funding. Worldwide:   From April 1st – May 18th, there are six RTs working in Germany on WWII recoveries.

UPDATE: April 28, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same.  Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible to the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”   League Chairman of the Board Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gives a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Naval officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) conducted an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League on April 3rd, as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.     Since that time, Secretary Lumpkin appointed a senior DoD civilian, Alisa Stack, to head a transition team that, reportedly, will include government specialists in each area to be addressed, from structure of the new agency to the number of personnel, budget requirements, interface with other departments and agencies, and communication with the families.  Both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Lumpkin have stated that communication with the families must be a very high priority consideration in how the new agency performs.   FIELD OPERATIONS:  With budget agreement reached, one would think that field operations would be conducted on a sustainable pace and scope necessary to achieve long-stated accounting objectives, such is not the case.  Despite the relatively sophisticated working environment that has evolved since the first joint recovery occurred in Laos, in 1984, too often it is the US causing cutbacks in joint cooperation.  There are multiple reasons, ranging from congressional sequestration, or mandated budget cuts that hit JPAC disproportionately due to PACOM direction, or an inadequate number of deployable forensic anthropologists for in-country operations.  If the policy concerning deployable scientific personnel for field operations is now changed, it means an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in the scope of Vietnam War accounting operations. JPAC conducted a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) conducted operations and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted several investigations.  A longer JFA in Laos began March 4th and concluded April 14th, though only one RT and one IT were scheduled.  Unless the next US team is increased in size, the May 9-June 6th JFA will again be comprised of only 2 RTs, though the Lao Government long ago approved a cap of 53 personnel operating at one time in Laos. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, took place January 28-April 2, 2014.  Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there are no ITs scheduled in conjunction with the JFA. Vietnam:  Four RTs conducted operations in Vietnam February 28-March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on this JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR).    Only four RTs are scheduled in Vietnam for the May 20-June 22nd JFA.  An underwater operation previously scheduled along the coast of northern Vietnam was cancelled, reportedly due to lack of available funding. Worldwide:   There is a total of six RT’s working in Germany on WWII recoveries from April 1-May 18th.

UPDATE:  March 20, 2014 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until this month.  Very recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”   League Chairman of the Board Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gives a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Naval officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P), must provide his recommendations to Secretary Hagel by the end of March.  Secretary Lumpkin held an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.  The League looks forward to actions that will finally correct systemic dysfunction.   As previously reported, Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths met on December 4th with the Secretary of Defense to discuss the way ahead for the entire accounting community.  Recognizing the growing negative impact on Vietnam War accounting caused by the US bureaucracy’s internal dysfunction and the bias of some in pursuing accounting objectives, the League leadership determined the need to develop a cohesive structure to reorganize the entire effort. Critical August 1st hearings in the House and Senate reinforced the urgency of moving quickly.  The usual outcome of such hearings, held by lawmakers frustrated in seeking answers, is to require investigations and assessments; however, they are too often limited in scope and based on pursuing answers to unverified, misleading accusations from biased, relatively uninformed individuals. Rather than awaiting results from further internal investigations and assessments, and based on decades of experience dealing with successive organizations and administrations, Mills-Griffiths quietly sought input from selected former and current US officials who are firmly committed to the mission.  The task for the League of generating a reorganization proposal was made more critical by negative media focused almost solely and, in many instances, unfairly on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).  The Secretary pledged to carefully review the League’s background memo and proposed reorganization plan and respond. The challenges are complex and so will be the solutions based on recommendations and resulting decisions.  Many factors led to Secretary Hagel’s February 20th Directive and, hopefully, he found helpful and instructive the League’s background memo and reorganization plan provided on December 4th.  There undoubtedly were also many other inputs to Secretary Hagel from individuals, organizations and Congress, but few have the League’s four decades of experience, knowledge and consistent dedication to the accounting mission. In reality, the League has the greatest direct investment in Secretary Lumpkin’s recommendations and Secretary Hagel’s resulting decisions, but many thousands will be affected by the ultimate outcome, including those serving our Nation today. LAOS & US HOLD POW/MIA CONSULTATIONS:  On February 28th, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, led a US delegation for talks in Vientiane.  Discussions reportedly were very positive and affirmed the significant maturity that has evolved over decades, with real exchanges and dialogue, rather than the relatively stiff, formal presentations of old.  In reality, less formal discussions have been ongoing at higher levels for many years, but due to complex technical questions and specific arrangements required for field operations, greater formality had continued at the technical level. General McKeague and his staff, as well as Lao Ambassador Southam and his staff, are to be commended for bringing this constructive dialogue into a more suitable, cordial atmosphere, in keeping with the broader bilateral relationship that exists today. Laos: With budget agreement reached, JPAC conducted a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) conducted operations and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted several investigations.  A longer JFA in Laos began March 4th and is expected to conclude April 14th, though only one RT and one IT are taking place.  It also appears that the next JFA in Laos will be comprised of only one RT and one IT, though possibly two RTs.   If these reductions hold, it means an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in the scope of Vietnam War accounting operations. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice in 2013, have been ongoing since January 28th  and are expected to conclude on April 2nd.   Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there are no ITs scheduled in conjunction with the JFA. Vietnam:  Four RTs began conducting operations in Vietnam on February 28th and expect to conclude on March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on this JFA, plus the RIT (Research Investigation Team) and a Field Forensic Review (FFR).

UPDATE:  March 11, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year.  After five months, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, will shortly be released.  Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.  Of the 1,642 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-307; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”   League Chairman of the Board Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gives a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Naval officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also then serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P), must provide his recommendations to Secretary Hagel by March 20th.  Before then, Secretary Lumpkin will hold an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.  The League looks forward to actions that will finally correct systemic dysfunction.   As previously reported, League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths met on December 4th with the Secretary of Defense to discuss the way ahead for the entire accounting community.  Recognizing the growing negative impact on Vietnam War accounting caused by the US bureaucracy’s internal dysfunction and the bias of some in pursuing accounting objectives, the League leadership determined the need to develop a cohesive structure to reorganize the entire effort. Critical August 1st hearings in the House and Senate reinforced the urgency of moving quickly.  The usual outcome of such hearings, held by lawmakers frustrated in seeking answers, is to require investigations and assessments; however, they are too often limited in scope and based on pursuing answers to unverified, misleading accusations from biased, relatively uninformed individuals. Rather than awaiting results from further internal investigations and assessments, and based on decades of experience dealing with successive organizations and administrations, Mills-Griffiths sought suggestions from former and current US officials who are firmly committed to the mission.  The task of generating a League reorganization proposal was made more critical by negative media focused almost solely and, in many instances, unfairly on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).  The Secretary pledged to carefully review the League’s background memo and proposed reorganization plan and respond. The challenges are complex and so will be the solutions, as well as the impact from recommendations and resulting decisions.  Many factors led to Secretary Hagel’s February 20th Directive and, hopefully, he found helpful and instructive the background memorandum and reorganization the League provided on December 4th.  There undoubtedly was a great deal of input from individuals, organizations and Congress; however, few have the experience and knowledge gained from over four decades of consistent dedication to the accounting mission. In reality, the League has the greatest direct investment in Secretary Lumpkin’s recommendations and Secretary Hagel’s resulting decisions, but many thousands will be affected by the ultimate outcome, including those serving our Nation today. LAOS & US HOLD POW/MIA CONSULTATIONS:  On February 28th, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, led a US delegation for talks in Vientiane.  Discussions reportedly went well and affirmed the significant maturity that has evolved over the decades, with real exchanges and dialogue, rather than the relatively stiff, formal presentations of old.  In reality, less formal discussions have been ongoing at higher levels for many years, but due to complex technical questions and specific arrangements required for field operations, greater formality had continued at the technical level. General McKeague and his staff, as well as Lao Ambassador Southam and his staff, are to be commended for bringing this constructive dialogue into a more suitable, cordial atmosphere, in keeping with the broader bilateral relationship. Laos: With budget agreement reached, JPAC conducted a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) conducted operations and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted several investigations.  A longer JFA in Laos began yesterday, March 4th, and is expected to conclude April 14th, though only one RT and one IT are is scheduled.  It also appears that the follow-on JFA in Laos is scheduling only one RT and one IT.   If these reductions hold, it means an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in the scope of Vietnam War accounting operations. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice this past year, are ongoing and have been since January 28th.  They are expected to conclude on April 2nd.   Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there are no investigations scheduled in conjunction with the JFA. Vietnam:  Four RTs began conducting operations in Vietnam on February 28th and expect to conclude on March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on this JFA.

UPDATE:  March 5, 2014 

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,643 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that has not changed since October of last year.  The most recent DoD posting on the issue identified SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964. His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is still 940.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,003.  Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION:  Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th directive was addressed to all senior officials in the Department of Defense, as follows:  “After intensive review, I have determined that the Department of Defense must change the way it manages accounting for personnel missing from past conflicts.  I have directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to provide me, within 30 days, a plan for how to organize the Department most effectively to increase to the maximum extent possible the numbers of missing Service personnel accounted for annually while ensuring timely and accurate information is provided to their families. This plan should address organizational and process changes required to consolidate all Departmental assets into a single, accountable entity that has oversight of all personnel accounting resources, research, and operations across the Department.  It should propose methods to maximize the number of identifications, improve transparency for families, reduce duplicative functions, and establish a system for centralized, complete, fully accessible personnel case files for missing personnel.  At a minimum, this plan should articulate recommendations for changes to the civilian and military personnel policies, contracting and acquisition policies, statutory and regulatory authorities, facilities, budgets, and procedures to ensure effective oversight of laboratory operations.  This effort should be informed by past studies and reviews. The Military Departments, Combatant Commands, and OSD Components shall provide the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy with all information and materials needed for this planning effort.  This is a top priority for the Department. I am deeply committed to the fullest extent possible the accounting for missing Servicemembers.  Upon receipt of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy’s plan, I am prepared to direct changes to use the Department’s resources for this mission more effectively and efficiently.”   League Chairman of the Board Comment:   Secretary Hagel’s welcome action gives a short-term deadline to the senior official he selected to lead the POW/MIA accounting community reorganization effort – recently confirmed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC) Michael Lumpkin, retired Naval officer and former SEAL Team Commander.  Assistant Secretary Lumpkin, also then serving as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P), must provide his recommendations to Secretary Hagel by March 20th.  Before then, Secretary Lumpkin will hold an in-process review of where things stand with major national veteran organizations and the League as follow-up to the teleconference briefing he provided prior to Secretary Hagel’s announced directive.  The League looks forward to actions that will finally correct systemic dysfunction.   As previously reported, League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths met on December 4th with the Secretary of Defense to discuss the way ahead for the entire accounting community.  Recognizing the growing negative impact on Vietnam War accounting caused by the US bureaucracy’s internal dysfunction and the bias of some in pursuing accounting objectives, the League leadership determined the need to develop a cohesive structure to reorganize the entire effort. Critical August 1st hearings in the House and Senate reinforced the urgency of moving quickly.  The usual outcome of such hearings, held by lawmakers frustrated in seeking answers, is to require investigations and assessments; however, they are too often limited in scope and based on pursuing answers to unverified, misleading accusations from biased, relatively uninformed individuals. Rather than awaiting results from further internal investigations and assessments, and based on decades of experience dealing with successive organizations and administrations, Mills-Griffiths sought suggestions from former and current US officials who are firmly committed to the mission.  The task of generating a League reorganization proposal was made more critical by negative media focused almost solely and, in many instances, unfairly on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).  The Secretary pledged to carefully review the League’s background memo and proposed reorganization plan and respond. The challenges are complex and so will be the solutions, as well as the impact from recommendations and resulting decisions.  Many factors led to Secretary Hagel’s February 20th Directive and, hopefully, he found helpful and instructive the background memorandum and reorganization the League provided on December 4th.  There undoubtedly was a great deal of input from individuals, organizations and Congress; however, few have the experience and knowledge gained from over four decades of consistent dedication to the accounting mission. In reality, the League has the greatest direct investment in Secretary Lumpkin’s recommendations and Secretary Hagel’s resulting decisions, but many thousands will be affected by the ultimate outcome, including those serving our Nation today. LAOS & US HOLD POW/MIA CONSULTATIONS:  On February 28th, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, led a US delegation for talks in Vientiane.  Discussions reportedly went well and affirmed the significant maturity that has evolved over the decades, with real exchanges and dialogue, rather than the relatively stiff, formal presentations of old.  In reality, less formal discussions have been ongoing at higher levels for many years, but due to complex technical questions and specific arrangements required for field operations, greater formality had continued at the technical level. General McKeague and his staff, as well as Lao Ambassador Southam and his staff, are to be commended for bringing this constructive dialogue into a more suitable, cordial atmosphere, in keeping with the broader bilateral relationship. Laos: With budget agreement reached, JPAC conducted a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th.  Three Recovery Teams (RTs) conducted operations and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, conducted several investigations.  A longer JFA in Laos began yesterday, March 4th, and is expected to conclude April 14th, though only one RT and one IT are is scheduled.  It also appears that the follow-on JFA in Laos is scheduling only one RT and one IT.   If these reductions hold, it means an unsatisfactory, dramatic reduction in the scope of Vietnam War accounting operations. Cambodia:  Operations in Cambodia by one RT and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice this past year, are ongoing and have been since January 28th.  They are expected to conclude on April 2nd.   Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there are no investigations scheduled in conjunction with the JFA. Vietnam:  Four RTs began conducting operations in Vietnam on February 28th and expect to conclude on March 27th.  Two ITs also deployed on this JFA.

UPDATE:  January 15, 2014

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,643 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as  missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  The most recent DoD posting on the issue identified SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964. His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013.  Earlier, DoD posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, Jr., USAF, of CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968.  His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is still 940.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,003.  Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. LEAGUE CHAIRMAN MET WITH SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths met on December 4th with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss the way ahead for the entire accounting community.  Recognizing the growing negative impact on Vietnam War accounting caused by the US bureaucracy’s internal dysfunction and the bias of some in pursuing accounting objectives, the League leadership determined the need to develop a cohesive structure to reorganize the entire effort.  Critical August 1st hearings in the House and Senate reinforced the urgency of moving quickly.  The usual outcome of such hearings held by lawmakers frustrated in seeking answers is to require investigations and assessments; however, they are usually limited in scope and based on pursuing answers to questions based on unverified, misleading accusations from biased, relatively uninformed individuals.  Rather than awaiting results from further internal investigations and assessments, and based on decades of experience dealing with successive organizations and administrations, Mills-Griffiths sought suggestions from former and current US officials who are firmly committed to the mission.  The task of generating a League reorganization proposal was made more critical by negative media focused on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).  The Secretary pledged to carefully review the League’s background memo and proposed reorganization plan and respond directly to the League. US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION ON POW/MIA AFFAIRS (USRJC) FINALLY POISED FOR ACTION:  On December 11th, US Co-Chairman of the USRJC called a meeting of US Commissioners and staff to update the Commissioners and discuss the way ahead.  VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace, former USRJC Executive Secretary, now League Advisor on Russia and the former USSR, Norm Kass, and League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths were also invited to attend.  This was the first USRJC meeting in over two years, and the first since US Co-Chairman General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), was formally re-named by the President and reinforced in his position by the Secretary of Defense, who also designated him a special employee of the Defense Department, primarily for logistical support. The newly named, long overdue replacement for former Senate Democrat, now Secretary of State, John Kerry, is a very welcome addition; however, the Honorable Joe Manchin (D-WV) was unable to attend.  Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Representative Tim Walz (D-NE) were present and contributed significantly, but the Honorable Sam Johnson (R-TX), a returned Vietnam War POW, was unable to make it due to hearing conflicts.  The State Department’s Commissioner, Ambassador Paul W. Jones, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, was present and promises to be actively engaged. Ambassador Jones has prior service at US Embassy Moscow, as well as in Southeast Asia, most recently serving as US Ambassador to Malaysia. The night before the meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Montague Winfield was formally named a DoD Commissioner, as was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Mark Handy.  Dr. Tim Nenninger, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), will continue serving as Commissioner, another positive. Mr. Stephen Aldridge, National Security Staff, and Acting USRJC Executive Secretary Dr. James Connell, DPMO, organized the session, with active support and assistance of congressional staff, additional DPMO staff and the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD), now cut to only four positions in DPMO, led by Rich Lyda, previously Deputy Chief of JCSD-Moscow.  The current Moscow Chief is Major Rob Patterson, USA, ably assisted by four Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs).  The very talented linguist and capable Foreign Affairs Specialist, Svetlana Shevchenko, was illogically removed from her JCSD position by DASD Winfield and assigned to DPMO’s External Affairs Directorate, focusing on liaison with Congress, family members and veterans. As to future USRJC direction, the immediate need is for Russian President Vladimir Putin to name a Russian Co-Chairman as counterpart to General Foglesong.   Reportedly, President Putin intends to name someone soon and the delay is simply bureaucratic; however, that remains to be seen.  The US and Russia have serious and substantive differences at present; however, this issue is one on which both countries should be able to work together toward achieving humanitarian objectives despite other political and policy challenges.  It is hoped that all senior US officials will note to their Russian counterparts that it is time to resume this humanitarian channel for cooperation. Chairman’s Comment:  The League appreciates the patience that General Foglesong and these Commissioners have shown and is grateful for their tenacity and determination to help.  If President Putin can quickly name a Russian Co-Chair, and with the significant addition of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the USRJC may finally be sufficiently restored to contribute as intended.  Sadly, that will be without skilled, principled former officials who spent years supporting and fighting for the USRJC’s mission, dedicated professionals such as Norm Kass, Roger Schumaker and Dave Martin – all forced out of their JCSD positions by a former DPMO Director.   VIETNAM WAR FIELD OPERATIONS:  Despite nearly endless challenges, including budget glitches, operational postponements and juggling required to reschedule Joint Field Activities (JFAs), JPAC is deploying teams to two Southeast Asian countries during this first month of 2014, despite more last-minute scares regarding funding reliability. LAOS: With budget agreement reached, JPAC started a JFA in Laos January 14th that is expected to conclude on February 17th.  Three teams are conducting recovery operations and one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist, will also conduct several investigations. CAMBODIA:  Operations in Cambodia by one Recovery Teams (RT) and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT), postponed twice this past year, are now scheduled for January 28th – April 2nd.   Since the Stony Beach specialist is permanently in-country and conducts investigations whenever needed, there are no investigations scheduled in conjunction with the JFA. VIETNAM:  Four RTs are scheduled to conduct operations in Vietnam from February 28th to March 27th.  Two ITs will also deploy on this JFA.

UPDATE:  December 16, 2013

  AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,643 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as  missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  DoD recently posted the identification of SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964. His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013.  Earlier, DoD posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, Jr., USAF, of CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968.  His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 940.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,003.  Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. LEAGUE CHAIRMAN MEETS WITH SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths met on December 4th with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss the way ahead for the entire accounting community.  Recognizing the growing negative impact on Vietnam War accounting being caused by the US bureaucracy’s internal dysfunction and bias in pursing accounting objectives, the League leadership, supported by League Advisors, determined the need to develop a cohesive structure to reorganize the entire effort.  Critical hearings held on August 1st in the House and Senate reinforced the urgency of moving quickly due to investigations and assessments demanded by Congress, the usual outcome of lawmakers frustrated in seeking answers to questions based on unverified, misleading accusations from biased, relatively uninformed individuals. Rather than awaiting results from further internal investigations and assessments, and based on decades of experience dealing with successive organizations and administrations, Mills-Griffiths sought suggestions from former and current US officials known to be firmly committed to the mission.  The task was made more critical by negative media focused on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).  The Secretary pledged to carefully review the background memo and proposed reorganization and respond directly to the League. 131204-M-EV637-004 US-RUSSIA JOINT COMMISSION ON POW/MIA AFFAIRS (USRJC) FINALLY POISED FOR ACTION:  On December 11th, US Co-Chairman of the USRJC called a meeting of US Commissioners and staff to update the Commissioners and discuss the way ahead.  VFW Executive Director Bob Wallace, former USRJC Executive Secretary, now League Advisor on Russia and the former USSR, Norm Kass, and League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths were also invited to attend.  This was the first USRJC meeting in over two years, and the first since US Co-Chairman General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), was formally re-named by the President and reinforced in his position by the Secretary of Defense, who also designated him a special employee of the Defense Department, primarily for logistical support. The newly named, long overdue replacement for former Senate Democrat, now Secretary of State, John Kerry, is a very welcome addition; however, the Honorable Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) was unable to get away from Senate business for the discussions, despite holding the session in the Russell Senate Office Building.  Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Representative Tim Walz (D-NE) were present and contributed significantly; however the Honorable Sam Johnson (R-TX), a returned Vietnam War POW, was unable to make it due to hearing conflicts.  The State Department’s Commissioner, Ambassador Paul W. Jones, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, was present and promises to be actively engaged.  He has prior service at US Embassy Moscow, as well as in Southeast Asia, most recently serving as US Ambassador to Malaysia.  The night before the meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Montague Winfield was formally named a DoD Commissioner, as was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Mark Handy.  Dr. Tim Nenninger, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), will continue serving as Commissioner, another positive. Mr. Stephen Aldridge, National Security Staff, and Acting USRJC Executive Secretary Dr. James Connell, DPMO, put things together, with active support and assistance of congressional staff, additional DPMO staff and the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD), now cut to only four positions in DPMO, led by Rich Lyda, previously Deputy Chief of JCSD-Moscow.  The current Moscow Chief is Major Rob Patterson, USA, ably assisted by four Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs).  The very talented linguist and capable Foreign Affairs Specialist, Svetlana Shevchenko, was illogically removed from her JCSD position by DASD Winfield and assigned to DPMO’s External Affairs Directorate, focusing on liaison with Congress, family members and veterans. As to future USRJC direction, the immediate need is for Russian President Vladimir Putin to name a Russian Co-Chairman as counterpart to General Foglesong.   Reportedly, President Putin intends to name someone soon and the delay is simply bureaucratic; however, that remains to be seen.  The US and Russia have serious and substantive differences at present; however, this issue is one on which both countries should be able to work together toward achieving humanitarian objectives despite other political challenges.  It is hoped that all senior US officials will note to their Russian counterparts that it is time to resume this humanitarian channel for cooperation. Chairman’s Comment:  We commend General Foglesong for his extraordinary patience over the last few years, during which little action occurred. The League is hopeful that, at long last, the USRJC will resume its important mission. Other USRJC Congressional members who have shown extraordinary patience are Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Tim Walz (D-MN) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).   The League appreciates the patience these Commissioners have shown and is grateful for their tenacity and determination to help.  If President Putin can quickly name a Russian Co-Chair, and with the significant addition of Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.VA), the USRJC may finally be sufficiently restored to contribute as intended.  Sadly, that will be without skilled, principled former officials who spent years supporting and fighting for the USRJC’s mission, dedicated professionals such as Norm Kass, Roger Schumaker and Dave Martin – all forced out of their JCSD positions by a former DPMO Director. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN PLEDGE SUPPORT:  On September 20th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in part, “…..a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home.  It’s a great honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.” VIETNAM:  US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation.  A commemorative dinner was held the night before to celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation.  Although invited to attend, the League’s Chairman of the Board regretted and sent a letter that was read aloud and well-received, according to the JPAC Commander.  The Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Vietnam, scheduled for November, was initially postponed due to lack of funding.  Once agreement was reached on a Continuing Resolution to temporarily fund the government, the Vietnam JFA was back on, though significantly reduced in scope.  It is now concluded, and the team has returned to Hawaii. In a very important development, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh was in Washington, DC, for October 29th bilateral Defense Policy Dialogue.  In response to a League request, Minister Vinh and his delegation met with Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths on Sunday, October 27th. Mills-Griffiths thanked Minister Vinh for taking the time to meet and for significant improvements in cooperation, particularly since 2009, including increased provision of archival documents, access to previously restricted areas, and improved quality and professionalism of SRV participants working with US counterparts.  Mills-Griffiths then highlighted two areas on which support is needed:  1) agreement for the US to field additional teams in the central highlands where most of the remaining unresolved losses occurred; and 2) agreement for the two DIA Stony Beach POW/MIA investigation specialists to be permanently assigned at the US Embassy in Hanoi. Minister Vinh stated 1) he had brought more documents sought by the US to turn over to DoD officials, 2) agreed to additional US personnel operating in the central provinces, and 3) saw no problem with permanent stationing of the two DIA specialists, providing their mission was clear, i.e. focused solely on POW/MIA-related information, indicating it should simply be handled as other such requests through the US Embassy. Minister Vinh asked for additional US emphasis on and support for addressing “war legacy issues,” including de-mining and humanitarian assistance for the disabled and their families, and for information that might help locate Vietnamese who died and whose remains are not yet recovered.  He suggested that bilateral US-Vietnam cooperation on the humanitarian accounting mission should be publicized to serve as an example to the world of what can be accomplished by working together on such matters.  In a post-DoD meeting wrap-up, observers reported that Minister Vinh indicated there were no barriers to his government’s willingness to assist and again suggested publicizing the success of bilateral US-Vietnam cooperation on the humanitarian accounting mission. Chairman’s Comment:  There was noticeable warmth and responsiveness during discussions with the Deputy Defense Minister, a willingness to cooperate that has been evident to the League since 2009 and, along with the improved level of cooperation, there have also been a significant improvements in the professionalism  of working level officials, clearly having received authorization and encouragement from senior officials.  These welcome developments, especially a commitment that there are “no barriers” to POW/MIA accounting cooperation by such a senior MND official as Senior LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh, bode well for achieving greater success on Vietnam War accounting, so long as US Government funding and personnel levels meet long-established expectations. CAMBODIA:  Consultations were held September 30th in Phnom Penh, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh participation.  It is hoped the legal obstacles raised earlier by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further difficulties for JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though puzzled, have been most patient.  The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia was scheduled to take place from October 23 – December 6th but was again postponed, as noted above.  Operations in Cambodia by two Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) have been postponed twice this year, but are now scheduled for January 28 – April 2, 2014.. LAOS: On August 16th, US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA Consultations, also led by the JPAC Commander, with DPMO and Embassy-Vientiane representatives participating, were held in Vientiane, Laos.  The talks were the most productive such discussions in quite some time.  At long last, the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed basis. Though the details have yet to be worked out, the League welcomes Lao responsiveness to specific appeals, including approval of year-round Stony Beach investigations, contracting the use of smaller helicopters, and on-site base-camping. These Lao Government decisions are in keeping with the improved political, economic and military relationship.  The agreement on base-camping was to have been tested during the October 16 – November 29th JFA that was postponed due to lack of funding.  With budget agreement reached, JPAC is now planning a JFA in Laos January 14 – February 17th. JPAC PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRACTICE:  Investigative journalist Bill Dedman recently published a story on what he touts as JPAC’s “fake” arrival ceremonies.  JPAC’s attempt to honor those recovered by re-creating a formal arrival ceremony should be viewed for what it was – a well-intentioned effort to honor deserving US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from our nation’s past wars and conflicts. Comment:  JPAC was re-enacting what used to be real-time ceremonies, inviting the media and local veterans, and holding the “arrival ceremony” with all the tradition and formality earned.  In reality, the remains had arrived earlier and the timing was staged.  Was it smart?  Not really!  Was it well-intended?  Yes, but in the current poisonous environment of unproven accusations, investigations, legal actions and EEO complaints, the timing further undercut JPAC, the command at the heart of the accounting process.  It is very sad, but this relative “hiccup” in the process should not be allowed to destroy confidence in the quality of in-country investigations, interviews, and surveys based on responsible analysis, nor in the end-result, the identification processes.  

UPDATE: December 14, 2013

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are still 1,643 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as  missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  DoD recently posted the identification of SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964. His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013.  Earlier, DoD posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, USAF, of CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968, as now accounted for.  His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 940.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted-for from the Vietnam War to 1,003.  Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DoD’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. LEAGUE CHAIRMAN MEETS WITH SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths met on December 4th with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to discuss the way ahead for the entire accounting community.  Recognizing the growing negative impact on Vietnam War accounting being caused by the US bureaucracy’s internal dysfunction and bias in pursing accounting objectives, the League leadership, supported by League Advisors, determined the need to develop a cohesive structure to reorganize the entire effort.  Critical hearings held on August 1st in the House and Senate reinforced the urgency of moving quickly due to investigations and assessments demanded by Congress, the usual outcome of lawmakers frustrated in seeking answers to questions based on unverified, misleading accusations from biased, relatively uninformed individuals. Rather than awaiting results from further internal investigations and assessments, and based on decades of experience dealing with successive organizations and administrations, Mills-Griffiths sought suggestions from former and current US officials known to be firmly committed to the mission.  The task was made more critical by negative media focused on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).  The Secretary pledged to carefully review the background memo and proposed reorganization and respond directly to the League. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN PLEDGE SUPPORT:  On September 20th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in part, “…..a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home.  It’s a great honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.” VIETNAM:  US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation.  A commemorative dinner was held the night before to celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation.  Although invited to attend, the League’s Chairman of the Board regretted and sent a letter that was read aloud and well-received, according to the JPAC Commander.  The Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Vietnam, scheduled for November, was initially postponed due to lack of funding.  Once agreement was reached on a Continuing Resolution to temporarily fund the government, the Vietnam JFA was back on, though significantly reduced in scope and now completed. In a very important development, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh was in Washington, DC, for October 29th bilateral Defense Policy Dialogue.  In response to a League request, Minister Vinh and his delegation met with Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths on Sunday, October 27th. Mills-Griffiths thanked Minister Vinh for taking the time to meet and for significant improvements in cooperation, particularly since 2009, including increased provision of archival documents, access to previously restricted areas, and improved quality and professionalism of SRV participants working with US counterparts.  Mills-Griffiths then highlighted two areas on which support is needed:  1) agreement for the US to field additional teams in the central highlands where most of the remaining unresolved losses occurred; and 2) agreement for the two DIA Stony Beach POW/MIA investigation specialists to be permanently assigned at the US Embassy in Hanoi. Minister Vinh first stated 1) he had brought more documents sought by the US to turn over to DoD officials, 2) agreed to additional US personnel operating in the central provinces, and 3) saw no problem with permanent stationing of the two DIA specialists, providing their mission was clear, i.e. focused solely on POW/MIA-related information, indicating it should simply be handled as other such requests through the US Embassy.  Minister Vinh asked for additional US emphasis on and support for addressing “war legacy issues,” including demining and humanitarian assistance for the disabled and their families, and for information that might help locate Vietnamese who died and whose remains are not yet recovered.  He suggested that bilateral US-Vietnam cooperation on the humanitarian accounting mission should be publicized to serve as an example to the world of what can be accomplished by working together on such matters.  In a post-DoD meeting wrap-up, observers reported that Minister Vinh indicated there were no barriers to his government’s willingness to assist and again suggested publicizing the success of bilateral US-Vietnam cooperation on the humanitarian accounting mission. Chairman’s Comment:  There was noticeable warmth and responsiveness during discussions with the Deputy Defense Minister, a willingness to cooperate that has been evident to the League since 2009 and, along with the improved level of cooperation, there have also been a significant improvements in the professionalism of working level officials, clearly having received authorization and encouragement from senior officials.  These welcome developments, especially a commitment that there are “no barriers” to POW/MIA accounting cooperation by such a senior MND official as Senior LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh, bode well for achieving greater success on Vietnam War accounting, so long as US Government funding and personnel levels meet long-established agreements.. CAMBODIA:  Consultations were held September 30th in Phnom Penh, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh participation.  It is hoped the legal obstacles raised by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further difficulties for JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though puzzled, have been most patient.  The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia was scheduled to take place from October 23 – December 6th but was again postponed, as noted above.  Operations in Cambodia by two Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) have been postponed twice this year. LAOS: On August 16th, US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA Consultations, also led by the JPAC Commander, with DPMO and Embassy-Vientiane representatives participating, were held in Vientiane, Laos.  The talks were the most productive such discussions in quite some time.  At long last, the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed basis. Though the details have yet to be worked out, the League welcomes Lao responsiveness to specific appeals, including approval of year-round Stony Beach investigations, contracting the use of smaller helicopters, and on-site base-camping. These Lao Government decisions are in keeping with the improved political, economic and military relationship.  The agreement on base-camping was to have been tested during the October 16 – November 29th JFA that was postponed due to lack of funding. JPAC PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRACTICE:  Investigative journalist Bill Dedman recently published a story on what he touts as JPAC’s “fake” arrival ceremonies.  JPAC’s attempt to honor those recovered by re-creating a formal arrival ceremony should be viewed for what it was – a well-intentioned effort to honor deserving US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from our nation’s past wars and conflicts. Comment:  JPAC was re-enacting what used to be real-time ceremonies, inviting the media and local veterans, and holding the “arrival ceremony” with all the tradition and formality earned.  In reality, the remains had arrived earlier and the timing was staged.  Was it smart?  Not really!  Was it well-intended?  Yes, but in the current poisonous environment of unproven accusations, investigations, legal actions and EEO complaints, the timing further undercut JPAC, the command at the heart of the accounting process.   It is very sad, but this relative “hiccup” in the process should not be allowed to destroy confidence in the quality of in-country investigations, interviews, and surveys based on responsible analysis, nor in the end-result, the identification processes.  

UPDATE: November 1, 2013

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are still 1,643 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  DPMO recently posted the identification of SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964. His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013.  Earlier, DPMO posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, USAF, CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968, as now accounted for.  His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 940.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted-for from the Vietnam War to 1,003.  Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DPMO’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, PLEDGE SUPPORT:  On September 20th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in part, “…..a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home.  It’s a great honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.” VIETNAM:  US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation.  A commemorative dinner was held the night before to celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation.  Although invited to attend, the League’s Chairman of the Board regretted and sent a letter that was read aloud and well-received, according to the JPAC Commander.  The Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Vietnam, scheduled for November, was initially postponed due to lack of funding.  Once agreement was reached on a Continuing Resolution to temporarily fund the government, the Vietnam JFA was back on, though significantly reduced in scope.  JFAs scheduled earlier in Laos, Cambodia and the PRC were indefinitely postponed due to lack of funding in time to continue, even at a reduced scope.  In a very important development, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh was again in Washington, DC, for October 29th bilateral Defense Policy Dialogue.  In response to a League request, Minister Vinh and his delegation agreed to meet with Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths on Sunday, October 27th.   After thanking Minister Vinh for taking the time to meet and for significant improvements in cooperation, particularly since 2009, including increased provision of archival documents, access to previously restricted areas, and improved quality and professionalism of SRV participants working with US counterparts, Mills-Griffiths highlighted two areas on which support is needed:  1) agreement for the US to field additional teams in the central highlands where most of the remaining unresolved losses occurred; and 2) agreement for the two DIA Stony Beach POW/MIA investigation specialists to be permanently assigned at the US Embassy in Hanoi. In response, Minister Vinh stated 1) he had brought more documents sought by the US to turn over to DoD officials, 2) agreed to additional US personnel operating in the central provinces, and 3) that he saw no problem with permanent stationing of the two DIA specialists, providing their mission was clear, i.e. focused solely on POW/MIA-related information, indicating it should simply be handled as other assignments to the USEMB.  Minister Vinh asked for additional US emphasis on and support for addressing “war legacy issues,” including demining and humanitarian assistance for the disabled and their families, and for information that might help locate Vietnamese who died and whose remains are not yet recovered.  He suggested that bilateral US-Vietnam cooperation on the humanitarian accounting mission should serve as an example to the world of what can be accomplished by working together on such matters.  In a post-DoD meeting wrap-up, observers reported that Minister Vinh indicated there were no barriers to his government’s willingness to assist and again suggested publicizing the success of bilateral US-Vietnam cooperation on the humanitarian accounting mission. Chairman’s Comment:  There was noticeable warmth and responsiveness during discussions with the Deputy Defense Minister, a willingness to cooperate that has been evident to the League since 2009 and, along with the improved level of cooperation, there has also been a significant increase in the professionalism and quality of working level officials, clearly having received authorization and encouragement from senior officials.  These welcome developments related to Vietnam’s level of cooperation, especially a commitment that there are “no barriers” to POW/MIA accounting cooperation by such a senior MND official as Senior LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh, bode well for achieving greater success on Vietnam War accounting, so long as the US Government sustains funding and personnel levels and meets long-established agreements.. CAMBODIA:  Consultations were held September 30th in Phnom Penh, also led by the JPAC Commander, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh participation.  It is hoped the legal obstacles raised by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further difficulties for JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though puzzled, have been most patient.  The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia was scheduled to take place from October 23 – December 6th but was again postponed, as noted above.  Operations in Cambodia by two Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) have been postponed twice this year.   LAOS: On August 16th, US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA Consultations, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with Embassy-Vientiane and DPMO representatives participating, were held in Vientiane, Laos.  The talks were the most productive such discussions in quite some time.  At long last, the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed basis. Though the details have yet to be worked out, the League welcomes Lao responsiveness to specific appeals, including on Stony Beach, contracting the use of smaller helicopters and on-site base-camping. These Lao Government decisions are in keeping with the improved political, economic and military relationship.  This latter agreement was to have been tested during the October 16 – November 29th JFA that was postponed due to lack of funding.   JPAC PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRACTICE:  Investigative journalist Bill Dedman recently published a story on what he touts as JPAC’s “fake” arrival ceremonies.  JPAC’s attempt to honor those recovered by re-creating a formal arrival ceremony should be viewed for what it was – a well-intentioned effort to honor deserving US personnel missing and unaccounted-for from our nation’s past wars and conflicts. Comment:  JPAC’s determination to keep the issue visible is based on several factors, including the need to sustain adequate funding and personnel levels, but practical considerations such as cost were also paramount.   In reality, JPAC was re-enacting what used to be real-time ceremonies, by transporting flag-draped transfer cases (caskets), returned at varying times in recent weeks/months (often in the middle of the night), inviting the media and local veterans, and holding the “arrival ceremony” with all the tradition and formality earned by those being honored.  The “sham” was that they had arrived earlier and the timing was staged.  Was it smart?  Not really!  Was it well-intended?  Yes, but it was also short-sighted and misled those attending.  In the current poisonous environment of unproven accusations, investigations, legal actions and EEO complaints, the timing further undercut JPAC, the command at the heart of the accounting process.   It is very sad, but this relative “hiccup” in the process should not be allowed to destroy confidence in the quality of in-country investigations, interviews, and surveys based on responsible analysis, nor in the end-result, the identification processes.   Over-reaction by uninformed senior US officials and concerned citizens were most unfortunate, but demonstrate why DPMO and JPAC, as well as DoD, need to develop carefully thought out programs to educate currently serving military and civilian officials.  Such programs could easily be made available through existing official channels and demonstrate, with briefings related to JPAC’s ongoing, worldwide accounting missions, that the US Government stands solidly behind those who serve, including if captured or listed as missing.

UPDATE:  October 16, 2013

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are still 1,643 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  DPMO just posted the identification of SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964, is now accounted for.  His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013.  Earlier, DPMO has posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, USAF, CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968, is now accounted-for.  His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 940.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted-for from the Vietnam War to 1,003.  Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DPMO’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.   SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, PLEDGE SUPPORT:  On September 20th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’”   Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in part, “…..a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home.  It’s a great honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.”   VIETNAM:  US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation.  A commemorative dinner was held the night before to celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation.  Although invited to attend, League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths regretted and sent a letter to be read aloud that was well-received, according to the JPAC Commander.  It now appears that the Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Vietnam, scheduled for November, may have to be postponed, as were JFA’s in Laos, Cambodia and the PRC, due to lack of a Continuing Resolution (CR) to make funding available in the absence of an FY2014 budget.   In other important developments, Vietnamese President Sang led a large delegation to Washington in mid-July, during which Presidents Sang and Obama met at the White House.  Senior Vietnamese leaders met with counterpart officials at the Departments of Defense, State, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, and with Members of Congress. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a luncheon in honor of President Sang and his delegation at the State Department, and the League Chairman of the Board attended that function, as well as a meeting of Vietnamese and US veterans.  Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc, former Director of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), led another Vietnamese delegation for bilateral Policy Security Defense Dialogue (PSDD) talks here in Washington last week, another step in the rapidly expanding bilateral relationship.  A senior Ministry of Defense delegation will be meeting in Washington later this month for bilateral discussions with US Defense Department officials.   CAMBODIA:  Consultations were held September 30th in Phnom Penh, also led by the JPAC Commander, with DPMO, DIA”s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh participation.  It is hoped the legal obstacles raised by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further difficulties for the JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though puzzled, have been most patient.  The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia was scheduled to take place from October 23 – December 6th but has now been postponed again.  Operations by two RTs and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) in Cambodia have been postponed twice this year.   LAOS:   On August 16th, US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA Consultations, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with Embassy-Vientiane and DPMO representatives participating, were held in Vientiane, Laos.  The talks were the most productive such discussions in quite some time.  At long last, the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed basis.  Though the details have yet to be worked out, the League welcomes Lao responsiveness to specific appeals, including on Stony Beach, contracting the use of smaller helicopters and on-site base-camping.  These Lao Government decisions are in keeping with the improved political, economic and military relationship.  This latter agreement was to have been tested during the October 16 – November 29th JFA that has now been postponed due to the lack of funding.  If funds become available, and if current plans hold, use of the smaller helicopters is scheduled to occur early next year.  Newly Senate-confirmed US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune was sworn into office at an August 27th  State Department ceremony attended by the Lao Ambassador to the US and his wife, and the League Board Chairman.  Ambassador Clune replaced Ambassador Karen Stewart who was serving her third assignment in Laos.  While her knowledge of and commitment to the POW/MIA accounting was most helpful and will be sorely missed, Ambassador Clune is already fully engaged and increasingly knowledgeable.   GAO REPORTS ACCOUNTING COMMUNITY AS DYSFUNCTIONAL:  The congressionally mandated study by the General Accountability Office (GAO) completed its year-long investigation into all aspects of the accounting community.  The outcome was objective, with some recommendations that warrant attention and corrective action.   Unfortunately, there was over-reaction at the highest levels in DoD, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who cited the accusations as “discouraging” and moving rapidly toward “disgraceful.”  To complicate matters, an internal draft study by a temporary ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education) fellow, Dr. Paul Cole, hired by JPAC’s Lab leadership, was earlier leaked to House Armed Service Committee (HASC) staff, then to AP journalist Bob Burns, timed to coincide with release of the GAO report.  The resulting clamor brought about hearings on August 1 before the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel and the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Subcommittee on Financial Contracting and Oversight.   Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) heard testimony from DPMO Director/Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Montague Winfield, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, and Chief of the Artifact Section, Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) John Goines.  League Chairman Ann Mills-Griffiths provided a Statement for the Record.   The HASC Subcommittee hearing, chaired by Representative Joe Wilson, called Dr. Cole and a GAO official to testify on the results of their respective assessments, though the Cole study, entitled “Information Value Chain,” was much earlier renounced in its entirety by former JPAC Commander MG Stephen Tom, USA (Ret).   Just after the leak to AP, the League posted the following statement on our website:  “Months ago, Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths, and League Policy Advisor Richard Childress reviewed the report regarding JPAC that was authored by Paul Cole. The report and the assertions made in it reflect little more than a power-play within the organization.  Recommendations made by Cole, if followed, would set back efforts of the accounting community in a drastic way. The League continues to support the efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting and the work being done by each of the agencies in support of that mission – including JPAC.”  The League is awaiting information as to when follow-up hearings will be held, though it is unlikely until after the DoD/IG and CAPE review are completed and reported.   JPAC PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRACTICE:  Investigative journalist Bill Dedman recently published a story on what he touts as JPAC’s “fake” arrival ceremonies.  JPAC’s attempt to honor those recovered by reenacting a formal arrival ceremony should be recognized as well-intentioned, rendering honor to Americans missing from our nation’s past wars and conflicts.  Mr. Dedman’s talents could more usefully focus on reporting the ever-improving quality of field operations and expanded cooperation by foreign countries.   DPMO WEBSITE DOWN:  DPMO’s website (www.dtic.mil/dpmo) is not operational.  We were informed it was due to the fact that the host server, the Defense Technical Information Center (dtic) is unfunded; however, many other DoD-related sites, with dtic as server are up and running.  No further information is available.

UPDATE: October 10, 2013

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are now 1,643 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. DPMO just posted the identification of SSG Lawrence Woods, USA/SF, of TN, listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam on October 24, 1964, is now accounted for. His remains were recovered on April 13, 2010 and identified September 4, 2013. Earlier, DPMO has posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, USAF, CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968, is now accounted-for. His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013. The number of Americans announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 940. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted-for from the Vietnam War to 1,003. Of the 1,643 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,275 (VN-469, VS-806); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DPMO’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.   SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, PLEDGE SUPPORT : On September 20th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away. But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in part, “…..a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home. It’s a great honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.” VIETNAM OPERATIONS: US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation. A commemorative dinner was held the night before to celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation. Although invited to attend, League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths sent a letter to be read aloud that was well-received, according to the JPAC Commander. The next scheduled Joint Field Activity with Vietnam is scheduled for November; however, if Fiscal Year 2014 funds are not approved, that mission will have to be cancelled, just as were scheduled missions to Laos and the PRC. In other important developments, Vietnamese President Sang led a large delegation to Washington in mid-July, during which Presidents Sang and Obama met at the White House. Senior Vietnamese leaders met with counterpart officials at the Departments of Defense, State, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, and with Members of Congress. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a luncheon in honor of President Sang and his delegation at the State Department, and the League Chairman of the Board attended that function, as well as a meeting of Vietnamese and US veterans. Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc, former Director of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), led another Vietnamese delegation for bilateral Policy Security Defense Dialogue (PSDD) talks here in Washington last week, another step in the rapidly expanding bilateral relationship. A senior Ministry of Defense delegation will be meeting in Washington later this month for bilateral discussions with US Defense Department officials. . 2 CAMBODIA CONSULTATIONS HELD: Consultations were held September 30th in Phnom Penh, also led by the JPAC Commander, with DPMO, DIA”s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh participating. It is hoped the legal obstacles raised by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further difficulties for the JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though puzzled, have been most patient. The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia is scheduled to take place from October 23 – December 6th. If funding is available, it should include the earlier planned, but postponed, two RTs and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) operations. OPERATIONS IN LAOS: On August 16th, US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA Consultations, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with Embassy-Vientiane and DPMO representatives participating, were held in Vientiane, Laos. The talks were the most productive such discussions in quite some time. At long last, the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed basis. The details have yet to be worked out, but the Stony Beach specialist will obviously be accompanied by a Lao counterpart. This Lao Government decision is in keeping with the improved political, economic and military relationship and is most welcome. Also welcome was their earlier decision to renew a business license for Helicopters New Zealand, the company JPAC previously contracted to provide smaller, certified-safe helicopter support for remote site access, and agreement-in-principle to permit base-camping at/near incident sites. This agreement was to be tested during the October 16 – November 29th JFA; however, that mission is now in jeopardy due to the lack of funding. If current plans hold and funds are available, use of the smaller helicopters is scheduled to occur early next year. The League deeply appreciates Laos’ responsiveness to specific appeals for the favorable decision on Stony Beach participation, helicopter contracting and on-site base-camping and looks forward to a renewed pace of operations. Newly Senate-confirmed US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune was sworn into office at an August 27th State Department ceremony attended by the Lao Ambassador to the US and his wife, and the League Board Chairman. Ambassador Clune replaced Ambassador Karen Stewart who was serving her third assignment in Laos. While her knowledge of and commitment to the POW/MIA accounting was most helpful and will be sorely missed, Ambassador Clune is already fully engaged and increasingly knowledgeable. GAO REPORTS ACCOUNTING COMMUNITY AS DYSFUNCTIONAL: The congressionally mandated study by the General Accountability Office (GAO) completed its year-long investigation into all aspects of the accounting community. The outcome was objective, with some recommendations that warrant attention and corrective action. Unfortunately, there was over-reaction at the highest levels in DoD, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who cited the accusations as “discouraging” and moving rapidly toward “disgraceful.” To complicate matters, an internal draft study by a temporary ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education) fellow, Dr. Paul Cole, hired by JPAC’s Lab leadership, was earlier leaked to House Armed Service Committee (HASC) staff, then to AP journalist Bob Burns, timed to coincide with release of the GAO report. The resulting clamor brought about hearings on August 1 before the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel and the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Subcommittee on Financial Contracting and Oversight. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) heard testimony from DPMO Director/Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Montague Winfield, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, and Chief of the Artifact Section, Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) John Goines. League Chairman Ann Mills-Griffiths provided a Statement for the Record. The HASC Subcommittee hearing, chaired by Representative Joe Wilson, called Dr. Cole and a GAO official to testify on the results of their respective assessments, though the Cole study, entitled “Information Value Chain,” was much earlier renounced in its entirety by former JPAC Commander MG Stephen Tom, USA (Ret). Just after the leak to AP, the League posted the following statement on our website: “Months ago, Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths, and League Policy Advisor Richard Childress reviewed the report regarding JPAC that was authored by Paul Cole. The report and the assertions made in it reflect little more than a power-play within the organization. Recommendations made by Cole, if followed, would set back efforts of the accounting community in a drastic way. The League continues to support the efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting and the work being done by each of the agencies in support of that mission – including JPAC.” JPAC PUBLIC AFFAIRS PRACTICE: Now that an NBC investigative journalist has published his story on PAC’s “fake” arrival ceremonies, the League is hopeful that JPAC’s well-intentioned, but poorly conceived effort to honor those recovered will be recognized for what it was and Mr. Dedman will focus his reporting on the ever-improving quality of field operations, as well as expanded cooperation by foreign countries.

UPDATE:  October 3, 2013

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED-FOR: There are still 1,644 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  Recently, DPMO posted the identification of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, USAF, CT, listed as MIA in Laos on December 13, 1968, is now accounted-for.  His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28, 2013.  The number of Americans announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 939.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted-for from the Vietnam War to 1,002.  Of the 1,644 unaccounted-for personnel, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,276 (VN-469, VS-807); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on DPMO’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, PLEDGE SUPPORT:  On September 20th, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’”  Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in part, “…..a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home.  It’s a great honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.”    VIETNAM OPERATIONS:  Another month-long JPAC mission, involving six Recovery Teams (RTs) and two Investigation Teams (ITs), concluded on September 7th. US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation.  A commemorative dinner was held to celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation.  Although invited to attend, League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths sent a letter to be read aloud that was well-received, according to the JPAC Commander. In another important development, Vietnamese President Sang recently led a large delegation to Washington, during which Presidents Sang and Obama met at the White House.  Senior Vietnamese leaders met with counterpart officials at the Departments of Defense, State, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, and with Members of Congress. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a luncheon in honor of President Sang and his delegation at the State Department, and the League Chairman of the Board attended that function, as well as a meeting of Vietnamese and US veterans.  Vice Foreign Minister Ngoc, former Director of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP, led the Vietnamese delegation for bilateral Policy Security Defense Dialogue (PSDD) talks here in Washington this week, another step in the rapidly expanding bilateral relationship. CAMBODIA CONSULTATIONS HELD:  Consultations were held September 30th in Phnom Penh, also led by the JPAC Commander, with DPMO, DIA”s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh participating.  It is hoped the legal obstacles raised by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further difficulties for the JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though puzzled, have been most patient.  The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia included the earlier planned two RTs and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) operations. OPERATIONS IN LAOS:   US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA Consultations, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with Embassy-Vientiane and DPMO representatives participating, were held in Vientiane, Laos, on August 16th, the most productive such discussions in quite some time.  At long last, the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Stony Beach POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed basis, obviously accompanied by a Lao counterpart.  This important step, in keeping with the improved political, economic and military relationship, was long overdue and is most welcome.  Also welcome was their earlier decision to renew a business license for Helicopters New Zealand, the company JPAC previously contracted to provide smaller, certified-safe helicopter support for remote site access, and agreement-in-principle to permit base-camping at/near incident sites.  This agreement will be tested during the October 16 – November 29th JFA.  If current plans hold and funds are available, use of the smaller helicopters is scheduled to occur after the first of the year.   The League deeply appreciates Laos’ responsiveness to specific appeals for the favorable decision on Stony Beach participation, helicopter contracting and on-site base-camping and looks forward to a renewed pace of operations. Ambassador-Designate to Laos Dan Clune (cited as “designate” until he presents his credentials in Vientiane) was recently confirmed by the US Senate.  The League Chairman of the Board met with Ambassador-Designate Clune and attended his formal swearing-in ceremony at the State Department on August 27th.   He is replacing Ambassador Karen Stewart, who is now serving in a new position.  On her third assignment in Laos, Ambassador Stewart’s knowledge of and commitment to the POW/MIA accounting was most helpful and will be sorely missed. GAO REPORTS ACCOUNTING COMMUNITY AS DYSFUNCTIONAL:  The congressionally mandated study by the General Accountability Office (GAO) completed its year-long investigation into all aspects of the accounting community.  The outcome was objective, with some recommendations that warrant attention and corrective action.   Unfortunately, there was over-reaction at the highest levels in DoD, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who cited the accusations as “discouraging” and moving rapidly toward “disgraceful.”  To complicate matters, an internal draft study by a temporary ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education) fellow, Dr. Paul Cole, hired by JPAC’s Lab leadership, was earlier leaked to House Armed Service Committee (HASC) staff, then to AP journalist Bob Burns, timed to coincide with release of the GAO report.  The resulting clamor brought about hearings in the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel and the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Subcommittee on Financial Contracting and Oversight. On August 1st, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) heard testimony from DPMO Director/Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Montague Winfield, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, and Chief of the Artifact Section, Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) John Goines.  It was clear that both Senators are focused sharply on recommendations in the GAO report, chief among them reorganizing to ensure a streamlined chain of command, with one commander at the top.  The Senators made clear that if the accounting community could not agree on how to proceed, the Senate would provide its own solution.  There was clearly no patience for the infighting and dysfunction that has plagued the POW/MIA issue for 20+ years, preventing unified efforts.  The dissension stems in large part from DPMO’s inability or unwillingness since formed in 1992 to fulfill its assigned role – policy control and oversight of the POW/MIA accounting mission, opting instead to become operational.  As requested by Chairman McCaskill, League Chairman Ann Mills-Griffiths provided a Statement for the Record. The HASC Subcommittee hearing called Dr. Cole and a GAO official to testify on the results of their respective assessments, though the Cole study, entitled “Information Value Chain,” was much earlier renounced in its entirety by former JPAC Commander MG Stephen Tom, USA (Ret).   Just after the leak to AP, the League posted the following statement on our website:  “Months ago, Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths, and League Policy Advisor Richard Childress reviewed the report regarding JPAC that was authored by Paul Cole. The report and the assertions made in it reflect little more than a power-play within the organization.  Recommendations  made by Cole, if followed, would set back efforts of the accounting community in a drastic way. The League continues to support the efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting and the work being done by each of the agencies in support of that mission – including JPAC.”  

UPDATE:  September 27,  2013

AMERICANS  ACCOUNTED-FOR: There  are Still 1,644 personnel listed by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) as  missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  Recently, DPMO posted the identification  of Colonel Francis J. McGouldrick, USAF, CT, listed as MIA in Laos on  December 13, 1968, is now accounted-for.   His remains were repatriated May 22, 2012 and identified August 28,  2013.  The number of Americans  announced by DPMO as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in  1975 is now 939.   Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the  end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted-for from the  Vietnam War to 1,002.  Of the 1,644 unaccounted-for personnel,  90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of  Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,276 (VN-469,  VS-807); Laos-308; Cambodia-53; PRC territorial waters-7; over-water losses on  DPMO’s list of No Further Pursuit cases number well over 600.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE & CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF, PLEDGE SUPPORT:  On September 20th, Secretary  of Defense Chuck Hagel, in remarks at the Pentagon’s ceremony commemorating  National POW/MIA Recognition day, stated in part, “Words and promises cannot make the  lingering uncertainty, the headache, and the heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know  that as long as members of our Armed Forces remain unaccounted for, the  Department of Defense will do everything – whatever we can to find them and  bring them home….we will not rest until we fulfill this pledge – no matter how  long it takes…..Today, as the POW/MIA flag is raised in communities across  America, we pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are not Forgotten.’” 

  Joint Chiefs of Staff  Chairman General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, speaking at the Pentagon, stated in  part, “…..a special welcome to the  families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to  bringing them home.  It’s a great  honor to share this day with you… I am also inspired by the efforts of the  countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American  prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action….Their  efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far  from home….. Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our  country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community, it’s a  charge – to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in  action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time  and undeterred by challenges… wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner  waits, we will remain committed to freeing them….to not rest.… to not call our  mission complete … not until our family is whole again.”   

OPERATIONS  IN LAOS:   US-Lao Bilateral POW/MIA  Consultations, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, with  Embassy-Vientiane and DPMO representatives participating, were held in  Vientiane, Laos, on August 16th, the most productive such discussions  in quite some time.  At long last,  the Lao Government agreed to allow the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Stony Beach  POW/MIA specialist to pursue field investigations year-round, on an as-needed  basis, obviously accompanied by a Lao counterpart.  This important step, in keeping with the  improved political, economic and military relationship, was long overdue and is  most welcome.  Also welcome was  their earlier decision to renew a business license for Helicopters New Zealand,  the company JPAC previously contracted to provide smaller, certified-safe  helicopter support for remote site access, and agreement-in-principle to permit  base-camping at/near incident sites.   This agreement will be tested during the October 16 – November  29th JFA.  If current  plans hold and funds are available, use of the smaller helicopters is scheduled  to occur after the first of the year.   The League deeply appreciates  Laos’ responsiveness to specific appeals for the favorable decision on Stony  Beach participation, helicopter contracting and on-site base-camping and looks  forward to a renewed pace of operations.

 Ambassador-Designate  to Laos Dan Clune (cited as “designate” until he presents his credentials in  Vientiane) was recently confirmed by the US Senate.  The League Chairman of the Board met  with Ambassador-Designate Clune and attended his formal swearing-in ceremony at  the State Department on August 27th.   He is replacing Ambassador Karen  Stewart, who is now serving in a new position.  On her third assignment in Laos,  Ambassador Stewart’s knowledge of and commitment to the POW/MIA accounting was  most helpful and will be sorely missed. VIETNAM  OPERATIONS:  Another  month-long JPAC mission, involving six Recovery Teams (RTs) and two  Investigation Teams (ITs), concluded on September 7th.  US-Vietnam POW/MIA Consultations were  held September 26th, led by JPAC Commander Maj Gen Kelly McKeague,  USAF, with DPMO, DIA’s Stony Beach and Embassy-Hanoi participation.  A commemorative dinner was held to  celebrate recent years of steadily improving POW/MIA cooperation.  Although invited to attend, League  Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths sent a letter to be read aloud that  was well-received, according to the JPAC Commander. In  another important development, Vietnamese President Sang recently led a large  delegation to Washington, during which Presidents Sang and Obama met at the  White House.  Senior Vietnamese  leaders met with counterpart officials at the Departments of Defense, State,  Commerce and Veterans Affairs, and with Members of Congress. Secretary of State  John Kerry hosted a luncheon in honor of President Sang and his delegation at  the State Department, and the League Chairman of the Board attended that  function, as well as a meeting of Vietnamese and US veterans.  Vice Foreign Minister Ngoc, former  Director of the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), will lead  an interagency delegation to Washington next week, another step in the rapidly  increasing bilateral dialogue. CAMBODIA  CONSULTATIONS HELD:   Consultations were held September 27th in Phnom Penh, also led by the  JPAC Commander, with DPMO, DIA”s Stony Beach and Embassy-Phnom Penh  participating.  It is hoped the  legal obstacles raised by the US bureaucracy will not recur to pose further  difficulties for the JPAC teams and counterpart Cambodian officials who, though  puzzled, have been most patient.   The long-delayed JFA in Cambodia just concluded. Hopefully, the earlier  planned two RTs and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT) operations were  completed. New legal requirements, never before obstacles to cooperation, were  finally resolved so that the JFA could proceed. GAO  REPORTS ACCOUNTING COMMUNITY AS DYSFUNCTIONAL:  The congressionally mandated study by  the General Accountability Office (GAO) completed its year-long investigation  into all aspects of the accounting community.  The outcome was objective, with some  recommendations that warrant attention and corrective action.   Unfortunately, there was  over-reaction at the highest levels in DoD, including the Chairman of the Joint  Chiefs of Staff, who cited the accusations as “discouraging” and moving rapidly  toward “disgraceful.”  To complicate  matters, an internal draft study by a temporary ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for  Science & Education) fellow, Dr. Paul Cole, hired by JPAC’s Lab leadership,  was earlier leaked to House Armed Service Committee (HASC) staff, then to AP  journalist Bob Burns, timed to coincide with release of the GAO report.  The resulting clamor brought about  hearings in the HASC Subcommittee on Military Personnel and the Senate Homeland  Security & Government Affairs Subcommittee on Financial Contracting and  Oversight.

 On  August 1st, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)  heard testimony from DPMO Director/Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD)  Montague Winfield, JPAC Commander Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF, and Chief  of the Artifact Section, Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) John  Goines.  It was clear that both  Senators are focused sharply on recommendations in the GAO report, chief among  them reorganizing to ensure a streamlined chain of command, with one commander  at the top.  The Senators made clear  that if the accounting community could not agree on how to proceed, the Senate  would provide its own solution.   There was clearly no patience for the infighting and dysfunction that has  plagued the POW/MIA issue for 20+ years, preventing unified efforts.  The dissension stems in large part from  DPMO’s inability or unwillingness since formed in 1992 to fulfill its assigned  role – policy control and oversight of the POW/MIA accounting mission, opting  instead to become operational.  As  requested by Chairman McCaskill, League Chairman Ann Mills-Griffiths provided a  Statement for the Record.

 The  HASC Subcommittee hearing called Dr. Cole and a GAO official to testify on the  results of their respective assessments, though the Cole study, entitled  “Information Value Chain,” was much earlier renounced in its entirety by former  JPAC Commander MG Stephen Tom, USA (Ret).   Just after the leak to AP, the  League posted the following statement on our website:  “Months ago, Chairman of the Board Ann  Mills-Griffiths, and League Policy Advisor Richard Childress reviewed the report  regarding JPAC that was authored by Paul Cole. The report and the assertions  made in it reflect little more than a power-play within the  organization. Recommendations made by  Cole, if followed, would have set back efforts of the accounting community in a  drastic way. The League continues to support the efforts to achieve the fullest  possible accounting and the work being done by each of the agencies in support  of that mission – including JPAC.”

Interested in other Updates?

Update 6-22-13 Update 8-8-13 Update 8-26-13 Update 9-1-13 Update 9-13-13 Update 9-28-13

Update_6-4-13 Update_5-28-13 Update_4-25-13 Update_4-19-13 Update_4-12-13 Update_3-27-13 Update_3-8-13 Update_3-1-13 Update_2-24-13 Update_2-4-13 Update_1-25-13 Update_1-16-13 Update_1-4-13 Update_11-21-12 Update_11-6-12 Update_10-5-12 Update_9-20-12 Update_9-5-12 Update_8-30-12 Update_8-16-12 Update_8-12-12 Update_7-21-12 Update_7-12-12 Update_6-28-12

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