This article was written by and first published by POW warrior. It is reprinted here by permission
As we addressed in Part II of this series, after then Secretary of Defense Hagel asked for a pause in the reorganization, all family groups gave them the space they asked for, with the exception of one. Ann Mills Griffiths took this as an opportunity to become a wedge and along with the VSOs who work exclusively with the National League of Families, they collectively sent a letter to Secretary Hagel outlining Ann’s perspective on the reorganization to date. While others respected the break that was asked for, we know and have confirmation from a DoD official that Ann met with Christine Wormouth in early November. When others asked if they would be provided the opportunity to meet with Wormouth, they were told that requests would be forwarded to Wormouth’s military assistant, “for consideration.” Additionally, it was explained that Wormouth was not intending to open up dialogue with all family groups.
So much for this promise:
“I want to ensure every stakeholder is aware of our intent, and an active participant in this change-process and feels empowered to provide feedback.” – Michael Lumpkin
All through December and through the holidays there was silence. Then in early January a DoD conference call took place where family groups and VSOs were ceremoniously introduced to what would equate to the DoD’s third attempt at a reorganization team since the reorganization was announced in March of 2014. First, there was Mr. Lumpkin, then Alisa Stack along with the PACT and The Clearing and now Rear Admiral Franken, LTG Michael Linnington, General Kelly McKeague along with DASD for Public Affairs and Community Outreach René Bardorf.
There was no explanation, no mention of the PACT or the Clearing, no mention of why this sudden change was taking place. Yet, one thing was painstakingly clear, the “robust two-way communication” was gone. Bardorf controlled the flow, content and topics and whenever a question veered in a direction that was not to her liking, she cut individuals off. The voice of the missing personnel families was no longer wanted or needed. Everyone but the League representatives and the VSOs were taken completely off guard. When someone attempted to be “empowered” to provide the once-mentioned “feedback.” Franken became agitated and lashed out at family members on the call. The format of these calls had done a 180 and no one even had the decency to let the rest in on the change.
The whispering campaign turned into a witch hunt and anyone who wasn’t willing to go along with the charade was removed from the calls. Family groups were investigated and First Amendment rights were trampled on. For more on this, a National Alliance’s newsletter from February, 2015 does a great job of outlining the murky waters that this third reorganization team has taken us into. They only wanted people who would blindly follow their lead, not question their decisions and not remind them of previous promises. René Bardorf was quoted as saying, “Any and all promises made prior to October 31st are no longer on the table.” We found this quote almost incredulous coming from someone with no real standing in the reorganization.
Family groups were so taken aback by all of this that four of the five major family groups issued a press release in February outlining their concerns. The reorganization had clearly fallen off the tracks and this new leadership team went so far as admitting they knew next to nothing about the accounting community. Once again, family members were removed from the process and given no voice in a process that they were going to have to live with long after Franken, McKeague and Bardorf were gone and moved on to new responsibilities.
DASD Bardorf showed her complete lack of understanding of POW/MIA accounting by adding active-duty military support groups to the calls. Groups, while very important for today’s military, had no history, role of interest in the POW/MIA issue. Groups like, Wounded Warrior, The Military Child, Operation Homefront, Blue Star Families, Student Veterans and even the USO. Again, while these groups do great work, their inclusion in the POW/MIA issue, to (tongue-in-cheek) quote John McCain, “boggles the mind.” And if that weren’t enough, she issued her own Rules of Engagement for the conference calls. We didn’t even know that a civilian, let alone a DASD for Public Affairs could issues RoE’s.
The conference calls continued with more of the tawdry illusion of progress while the reorganization which was supposed to bring families into the fold, correct wrong-doing and change the culture of the workforce, has been so watered down it is almost unrecognizable. Instead of a top down restructuring it has become piecemeal. The lab staff in Hawaii have their collective heads on swivel with word of their job status changing almost weekly and staff in Washington still unsure of what they are supposed to be doing or where they will be posted. Yet, this brand new agency is supposed to be at full operation in a little over four months.
In June at the Vietnam meetings when the newly appointed Director of DPAA Michael Linnington was asked about the report/recommendations that The Clearing had submitted prior to the October 31, 2014 shutdown, Linnington mentioned something to the effect of the DoD not needing input from outside sources to do their jobs. In fact, when family group leaders asked about the excessive amount of money that was spent on The Clearing and what their role would be, they were told that The Clearing was going to step away from working with the families and would be given internal roles within the reorganization. A heck of a way to spend a reported $7-9 million dollars.
The only aspect of the reorganization that appears to be getting any attention at all is the private public partnerships (P3’s). Yet, they are off to an apparent rough start with a somewhat lackadaisical leader in the recently demoted Dr. Tom Holland. Holland, as you may recall, was the head of the Central Identification Lab at the former JPAC. He was replaced by Medical Examiner, Dr. Edward Reedy in January. There has been some discussion about having a ME vs. a forensic anthropologist overseeing the lab. By definition, a ME works almost exclusively with tissue and organs and a forensic anthropologist almost exclusively with bones. There has been some question as to Reedy’s role in the lab, which we will address in a future posting.
These mystical P3’s have taken on a life of their own and become the heart of the faux reorganization. Some were taken by surprise with Holland’s first presentation as the leader of the private/public partnerships. At the Vietnam meetings in June, Holland began his poorly organized talk with a photo of a Wall Street fat-cat with a huge dollar-sign chain around his neck. Holland then went on to say that inexperienced individuals were coming out of the woodwork to do excavations thinking that they were going to make millions. Holland was quick to confirm, that kind of money is just not there. We suspect that Holland and some of the P3 leadership are going to be butting heads because of the unorganized nature of this new branch of the accounting community due in no small part to the lack of enthusiasm on the part of Dr. Holland.
In the final installment, of this series we’ll look at the role that the P3’s are playing in this misnomer of a reorganization.