Forty years of failure, two years of “reorganization” and it never dawns on them to change the way they do things.
Here’s one reader’s comment on how the reorganization is going. How many of the players can you identify?
Events this week confirm that the JPAC/DPMO “reorganization” has failed as Ms. Alisa Stack, a/k/a Ms. Steak, who bit off more than she could chew, adds another failure to her resume and a new team of chair warmers move in. After spending more than $10,000,000 on a nearly two year public relations effort to convince MIA families that no man will be left behind, it apparently still has not occurred to anyone to try changing the way JPAC/DPMO/New Agency does business.
While a number of professionals have or intend to depart, so far the only person actually fired has been the disgraced Dr. Tom Holland, who was the principal architect of JPAC’s “skim-the-cream-of-the-cases-and-claim-success” approach to MIA accounting. Rumor is that Major General McKleague, commander of the failed agency who has been appointed deputy chair warmer in the new agency, actually wants to bring Holland back.
So here we are, more than two years after the Secretary of Defense claims to have seen the light and promised reform at what had become a dumping ground for the department’s duds, jerks, liars and perverts who paid out millions in settlements for sexual harassment, assaults and retaliation. Two years during which the only men identified and returned to their families were those given to them by civilian organizations or retrieved from CIL’s storage closet. Two years and the new agency doesn’t yet have a name, a permanent leader, or a new way of doing business.
Its not like it has been a total waste, the good news is we will get new logos, new agencies, and new slogans in the near future. All this at the bargin price of only twenty million taxpayer dollars.
Here’s what the media has had to say.
Todays’ Stars & Stripes story confirms what has been obvious for some time. Even after two years of fumbling around, the Department of Defense still hasn’t figured out how to reorganize, reform or fix JPAC.
The problem isn’t in finding the remains of America’s missing servicemen or employing the latest technology to identify them. The problem is the lack of will to address the bloated and self-serving beaurocracy which has grown and festered. Nothing is fixed by keeping the same failed policies and shameless people and giving the agency a new name.
Come on, DoD, give it up, admit you’ve failed, and get some new people in there.
HONOLULU — A program that provides dozens of scientists and other experts to the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is being cut.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the move comes at the same time that Congress is seeking more recoveries and identifications from JPAC, whose headquarters and main lab are at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
As part of a Pentagon reorganization effort, 50 Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellows who assist JPAC are being let go. JPAC is responsible for finding, recovering and identifying missing-in-action service members.
The Pentagon says only a half-dozen current or new Oak Ridge fellows will be retained.
Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost says a careful review on how the program is used is required for “prudent use of government resources.”
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Another family has filed suit against the Defense Department POW/MIA accounting agencies seeking the identification and return of remains.
Sally Hill Jones — niece and next of kin of a missing World War II Army Air Forces B-24 gunner — filed suit without the assistance of an attorney on Dec. 4 in a Texas district court, according to documents. Jones seeks to join John Eakin in suing the government over remains she thinks could belong to her uncle, Staff Sgt. Carl Holley.
Holley was one of 10 reportedly killed on April 18, 1944, when the B-24 bomber “Sweepy-Time” Gal was shot down by Japanese Zeroes off the coast of Hong Kong. Four bodies were recovered after the crash, and three allegedly have been identified, according to Jones, former Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command investigators and accounting documents.
The unidentified remains were buried at Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, called the Punchbowl, until 2005, when they were exhumed by JPAC.
The Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory have tried to use DNA testing to identify the remains but have been unable to do so, according to internal emails and documents.
In 2012, after years of JPAC denials, Eakin sued for the remains of his cousin, Pvt. Arthur “Bud” Kelder, who, evidence suggested, was buried as an unknown in the Philippines. As a result, the Defense Department exhumed 10 sets of remains in August and is actively working to make identifications.
Jones said she had been pursuing the case since 2001, but couldn’t get answers until she filed her lawsuit. The accounting community finally responded to her, but she was not satisfied.
The government has until Jan. 16 to respond to her suit, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Daryl Fields.
“I don’t have faith in JPAC to make the ID, given their track record,” Jones said.
She hoped that by suing, she could open the door for other families.
“I’d like to see an attorney take this on as a class action,” she said. “There are a lot of older folks whose siblings died in World War II, and they don’t know what happened to them. But they could know. It’s heartbreaking.”
Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, declined to comment in an email to Stars and Stripes, citing the ongoing litigation.
However, Jones provided documents and emails to Stars and Stripes that show the JPAC-CIL and AFDIL are using an untested, next-generation mitochondrial DNA approach with the remains. They believe they have a result, but the procedure hasn’t been validated yet.
Jones has been told the validation and an identification could come early next year.
Mark Leney, JPAC’s former DNA manager, who is now at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, had undertaken the case before he left JPAC in 2006. He said the remains appeared to have been treated with a chemical — possibly formaldehyde — that made the identification difficult at the time. However, he believed that issue had been resolved in recent years by technological advancements.
“That was eight years ago,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like they’ve gone very far.”
Leney said mitochondrial DNA testing is “not a very strong method” in making identifications and works best in exclusions.
Jones started her quest for an ID more than a decade ago. Her mother has since died.
Louis Mroz, younger brother of 2nd Lt. John Mroz, who also died in the plane crash and is one of the seven missing, had been leading efforts to compel the government to make an identification but is now 86 and in poor health. He said he has been turned away by JPAC several times when seeking answers.
“I’d like to see some new sources of information,” he said.
Jones hopes her suit can spur identifications before the memories fade — like Mroz’s recollection of his brother building him a P-40 Warhawk model airplane just before he shipped out.
“He was quite a guy,” Mroz said of his brother. “He always had time to help me. … I’m 86 years old, but the memories are still fresh in my mind.”
Updated: December 11 and 22, 2014
A project to fund the creation of a documentary video of the PFC Lawrence Gordon story has been posted on Kickstarter. The Kickstarter page very nicely tells the story of Jed Henry’s search for PFC Gordon. It is a very powerful story with beautiful photography. Well worth a visit.
After only ten days, more than more than thirty percent of the goal has been pledged.
Below is a still taken from some of the footage taken for this project. An additional video has also been added.
The December issue of the National Alliance of Families is available at this link.
These newsletters are always full of good information for MIA families, but we call your attention especially to the following excerpt:
The Reorganization of the POW/MIA Accounting Effort – Unfortunately, we have nothing to report. The effort has come to a screeching halt. DOD officials assure us, nothing will be done without consultation with the family groups and this pause is an effort to assure that all voices are heard. That remains to be proven.
In the beginning of the reorganization process, we approached the effort with “cautious optimism.” Today, that cautious optimism is gone. We are at a loss to understand the DOD thought process. DOD managed to destroy the small bit of trust and good will built up early in the process with their incredibly wrong decision to halt communication with POW/MIA family groups.
Based on the lack of communication and the fact we were told no decision are being made, we would guess the January 15, 2015 date for the stand-up of the new organization will likely slip. We will have more on this in January. Be assured we are watching this process closely.
Consider calling your senators and representative and demanding that the Department of Defense do more than simply give a new name to the same failed people and failed policies who have made a mess of the sacred mission of recovering our missing.
They’ve had nearly seventy years and it is time to bring these men home.
This is a hot issue at DoD and your voices are being heard, but this is no time to let up.
On July 28, 1944, Army Private Donald Brown, 24, of Thompson was killed in action near Cambernon, France, when his tank was hit by enemy fire.
Though his dog tags were found beneath the tank amid rubble and body parts, the government’s reluctance to positively identify him remains a mystery today, more than 70 years later.
Jed Henry, 34, a photojournalist from Middleton, Wisconsin, came across the Brown situation when he was successful in helping another family have their World War II loved one’s remains identified and returned to the U.S.
Now, Henry wants to do the same thing for Brown — but has run into bureaucratic roadblocks that frustrate him.
Henry has no connection with Brown’s family and, in fact, did now know where Thompson, Iowa, was until he found it on a map.
He said after he helped the one family identify their loved one’s remains, he got a tip about Private Brown’s remains never being identified. And that was all he needed to try to help again.
“I never had a particular interest in doing this. I always grew up believing we don’t leave soldiers behind,” he said. “With our government, returning our dead is propaganda. It’s not the commitment it should be.”
Henry’s research produced a narrative written by an Army captain, dated July 8, 1947, in which he recounts his investigation of a tank belonging to the 745th Tank Battalion, Company A.
“Within and under the rear of this tank, I found human remains,” Capt. Marion K. Cole wrote. “These remains were scattered in the rear part of the compartment. A few inches from where I found several of the larger bones, I found an identification tag for Donald E. Brown, 37190660.
“It is the belief of this officer that the remains which were removed from Tank No. 2 are those of Pvt. Donald E. Brown and it is recommended they be declared as such.”
But on June 10, 1949, a notice was sent to the quartermaster general of the Memorial Division in Washington informing him the remains of Pvt. Brown, interred in Blosville, France, had been redesignated as “unidentifiable.”
It is not known why the change was made.
Brown was the son of Andrew and Anna Brown of RFD 1, Thompson. In 1945, his sister, Lillian Thiemann of Ventura, wrote to the Army asking for her brother’s personal effects. Thiemann died two years ago.
Her daughter, Joyce Sorenson of Clear Lake, said she grew up knowing her uncle died in a tank explosion in France. About four years ago she was contacted by another party wanting to have the body identified, but nothing ever came of that.
Henry contacted her this week about his efforts. “I think it would be wonderful if he could be identified and his name be put on his grave in France,” she said.
Regarding having his remains returned, she said, “I’m still processing that and what it would all entail. I’ve been in contact with some other relatives, but it is a lot to process.”
Henry said, “The problem is, the biggest issue, the heart of the matter is how government looks at things like this. The Donald Brown case is the lowest of the lowest in the process.
“The government looks at anthropology first — solving identities through skeletons, bones, teeth — identifying about how tall the person was and other physical characteristics. There is a reluctance by the government to use DNA. Once they’ve proved the identity through other means, then they ask for DNA,” said Henry.
He has written to the Army Casualty and Mortuary Affair Operations Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to try to get access to the remains that the government says are unidentifiable but that he believes are those of Private Brown. He wants the remains disinterred so the evaluation can be done.
“People saw the success we had in the other case. I have all the experts in place who helped with that. If I can get access to Brown’s remains, I can get him identified for free,” said Henry.
In his letter to the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operation Center, Henry pointed out the Army identified the remains of Private Brown once in 1947 and then reclassified him for some reason two years later. He also pointed out Private Brown’s dog tags were found near the remains.
“Considering the advancement in DNA technology, if the government is willing to use the most advanced technology, in conjunction with the overwhelming circumstantial evidence available, I think an identification could be possible in this case,” he wrote.
Henry said there are about 10,000 “unknown soldiers” buried in U.S. cemeteries throughout the world. From 1978 through 2013, only 14 had been identified.
“The government has a system in place that says no, no, no, no, no,” said Henry. “They operate from a standpoint of all the possible soldiers it could be, and then do a process of narrowing it down.”
He received a response this week that the Army Casualty Office will process his request for disinterment and would be in touch with him when a decision is made.
Updated October 10 and December 5, 2014
We’re still getting emails asking about the JPAC/DPMO reorganization so we’re reposting this in case someone missed it. The only thing that has changed in the last two months is that this new agency looks like even more of a bad joke. Their only concern for MIA families is keeping them off their backs and away from their congressmen. Giving the failed agency a new name and keeping the people who failed in the past is an insult to all MIA families.
The one consistent thing in JPAC’s thirty year record of failures is Johnie Webb. Putting him him in charge instead of in jail confirms everyone’s worst fears – DoD does not want to confront the ghosts that come with the MIA’s.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Stack, Alisa M SES OSD OUSD POLICY (US) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 3:27 PM
Subject: New communication roles
To: “Stack, Alisa M SES OSD OUSD POLICY (US)” <email@example.com>
As part of the plan to consolidate the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), and USAF Life Science Equipment Laboratory (LSEL), the budget, communications, and operations functions from each organization will combine into single functions before January 2015. This month, the communication and budget functions are merging into single offices. While the Department of Defense does not discuss employees, because the changes to the communications offices affect you, I’m providing more detail on the individuals involved and their roles and responsibilities.
Mike Fowler is the lead for external communications, which includes media, congressional relations, family member updates, and case questions from family members. He oversees a combined staff in Virginia and Hawaii.
Johnie Webb is leading the implementation of actions related to the ways in which the new agency will communicate with families and interest groups in the future. He is addressing strategic communication, design and purpose of family advisory councils, website and social media presence, and branding issues, including the new agency logo. He will remain in Hawaii with a staff there. They and their teams will have points of intersection, but
largely Mike is dealing with the here and now, and Johnie is helping build the future. In both cases, The Clearing is providing management support and advice. Kai, working with Johnie, will continue to be involved in the future experience. These positions are designed for the transformation period, which extends into next year. As we build the agency, their roles will change.
I am very thankful to both Johnie and Mike for taking on these monumental tasks, and am glad to have them as partners.
Director, Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT)
Original Posting Below
While we all wanted to believe that Secretary Hagel’s “reorganization” of the MIA accounting agencies would fix the problems and finally return some of our missing family members, it won’t. In fact, it will very likely make things much worse.
Here’s a copy of DPMO’s “fact sheet” touting their accomplishments (or at least what they think is noteworthy.)
I especially like this part:
“The Department, through the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force (PACT), is in the process of designing the new agency. The new agency will simultaneously operate more efficiently and effectively while meeting the expectations of families of missing DoD personnel from past conflicts. These families are DoD’s primary focus, and providing them better service is the goal. Throughout this transformation, all operations and activities pertaining to existing personnel accounting missions will continue.”
Not only are they trying to blow smoke up your shorts, they have placed JPAC’s Director of External Communications, Johnie Webb, in charge of improving communications and the families “experience.” Really. I couldn’t make this up. Next they will hire Kim Jong-un to tell them how to improve their image.
Webb has been continuously assigned to JPAC and its predecessors since 1975 and is, with his fellow clown Tom Holland, widely regarded as the evil mind responsible for the failures in accounting for thousands of missing American servicemembers.
The person in charge of this farce, Alisa Stack, is either stupid or thinks you are. Prior to being named to head the reorganization task force, Ms. Stack was the Principal Deputy Director of DPMO. That worked out well. Under DPMO’s guidance, JPAC averaged fewer than seventy-five identifications per year. Now, during her three year reorganization they have cut the number of identifications by two-thirds to only those remains which are handed to them or they find accidentally. For all practical purposes, accounting for missing American GI’s has come to a screeching halt. We hoped for change and Ms. Stack (or is that Ms. Stake) sure delivered.
If these people cared about the “family experience” they would have returned our missing family members a long time ago. But now, to appoint the very person who has taken every opportunity to insult, mislead and lie to family members to the position responsible for fixing the problem is just the height of arrogance.
She doesn’t care, but if you’d like to share your thoughts with Ms. Stack, her email address is – firstname.lastname@example.org
Her deputy is Ross Brown and his email address is – email@example.com He doesn’t care either.
If you want to cover all the bases, Ms. Stack’s boss, Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth, won’t read or care about your email, either, but her address is –
Only the U.S. Government could so poorly execute the honorable mission of returning the remains of missing service personnel. And only the U.S. Government could make things worse by fixing them – and then have the unmitigated gall to brag about what a great job they are doing.
Here are a few of the news articles on DNA identification we’ve received recently. Seems like everyone but JPAC is successfully using DNA to identify skeletal remains.
Foxnews.com LONDON – Scientists say there is “overwhelming evidence” that a skeleton found under a parking lot is that of England’s King Richard III, but their DNA testing also has raised questions about the nobility of some of his royal successors.
The bones of the 15th-century king were dug up in the city of Leicester in 2012, and experts have published initial data suggesting they belong to Richard, including an analysis of his curved spine and the injuries that killed him.
Richard was the last English monarch to die on a battlefield, in 1485.
(Note – this paper was co-authored by JPAC’s Tom Holland and Alexendar Christensen)
Low copy number (LCN) STR typing was successfully applied to four interesting cases during developmental validation of the approach for degraded skeletal remains. Specific questions were addressed in each case, with the acquisition of STR data largely serving as additional confirmatory or investigatory information in any specific situation, and not necessarily providing the definitive evidence to establish identity. The cases involve missing U.S. service members from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. The variety of these cases, in terms of the questions addressed, the age of the remains, and the type of reference material available for comparison, demonstrates the broad utility of LCN STR typing in the identification of degraded skeletal remains from missing persons.
Public Library of Science, March 2009
One of the greatest mysteries for most of the twentieth century was the fate of the Romanov family, the last Russian monarchy. Following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, he and his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were eventually exiled to the city of Yekaterinburg. The family, along with four loyal members of their staff, was held captive by members of the Ural Soviet. According to historical reports, in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918 the entire family along with four loyal members of their staff was executed by a firing squad. After a failed attempt to dispose of the remains in an abandoned mine shaft, the bodies were transported to an open field only a few kilometers from the mine shaft. Nine members of the group were buried in one mass grave while two of the children were buried in a separate grave. With the official discovery of the larger mass grave in 1991, and subsequent DNA testing to confirm the identities of the Tsar, the Tsarina, and three of their daughters – doubt persisted that these remains were in fact those of the Romanov family. In the summer of 2007, a group of amateur archeologists discovered a collection of remains from the second grave approximately 70 meters from the larger grave. We report forensic DNA testing on the remains discovered in 2007 using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), autosomal STR, and Y- STR testing. Combined with additional DNA testing of material from the 1991 grave, we have virtually irrefutable evidence that the two individuals recovered from the 2007 grave are the two missing children of the Romanov family: the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.
Mass graves from the first world war are giving up precious secrets – about both sides.
New Scientist, November 2014