Here We Go.
Every few years, up pops a new Secretary of Defense, some new members of Congress, and a couple of new members of the Defense Department. The executive director of the National League of Families hounds them non-stop until they finally accede to her nonsense. And what do they do?? THEY GET RELIGION AND DISCOVER THE "POW-MIA ISSUE." Here's the latest example:
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DIRECTS ACTION: Entitled “DoD Structure for Past Conflict Personnel Accounting,” the signed February 20th (2014) 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.”
Here we go again. I've been through at least three of these:
1. In 1986-87 I was Chief, China Ground Forces Branch, East Asia Division, Defense Intelligence Agency. I was re-assigned by the Director, DIA, as a member of an "investigative team" to review the analytic work done by the DIA POW-MIA Office. This was in response to constant pounding on DIA by a loony member of Congress, Bill Hendon (R, NC). The POW-MIA Office was doing a fine job. Hendon was a thug and the Defense Department didn't have the guts to stand up to him. So, off we went. As a result, the POW-MIA Office was re-organized; I became chief of the office.
2. In 1991-93. In response to several phony stories claiming that American prisoners were still being held in SEAsia, the Senate formed a select committee to look into the "MIA issue." John Kerry was chairman, John McCain was co-chair. The Committee was a goat rope that did nothing but re-plow old ground. The Committee concluded that the MIA issue was a political matter, not an intelligence matter. As a result, the DIA POW-MIA Office closed and the personnel and files were moved to "DPMO" -- the Defense POW-Missing Personnel Office," headed by a political appointee Deputy Assistant SECDEF.
3. While I was stationed in Japan -- 1990- 1993 -- Dept of Defense decided to look into missing personnel from WW II and the Cold War. A group of sick, lame, and lazy were seconded from various DoD intell agencies to DPMO. These clowns, all of whom were Soviet analysts, decided that vast numbers of US personnel, missing for WW II, Korea, and the Cold War, were being held in the USSR. Their "analysis" was a joke, their conclusions were ridiculous. I threw up my hands and retired.
And now, HERE WE GO AGAIN.
Let's check out the facts
No Americans from WW II, Korea, the Cold War, the wars in Southeast Asia, or any wars since the end of WW II , remain alive in enemy hands (except for one soldier still in Afghanistan as of early 2014).
The Department of Defense has been conducting an honest, world-wide, serious effort to recover missing men from our previous wars.
There's no conspiracy to deny information to families.
There's no malfeasance, misfeasance, or bureaucratic bungling.
There are a lot of dedicated, honest people who are conducting an honest, world-wide, serious effort to recover missing men from our previous wars. Some of these folks have been doing this for years.
There are a lot of people for whom the "POW-MIA issue" is their only reason for living.
This latest SECDEF blast won't change a thing.
But, what the hell . . .
This latest re-organization will look good on someone's résumé'.
Meanwhile, here is my suggestion . . . made years ago . . . as to how to cut through the incessant bullshit.
UPDATE: 17 May 2014: Here are more of my comments on the proposed "overhaul" of the way we recover and identify war dead.