WASHINGTON Aug 1 The Pentagon will examine
possible waste of taxpayer dollars in the government's search
for U.S. troops who went missing in action, an official said on
Thursday as lawmakers criticized the management of recovery
The Pentagon's inspector general's office said it had
received requests from the Department of Defense and members of
Congress to examine concerns "to include potential fraud, waste
and abuse" of resources at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
The command, known as JPAC for short, was criticized in an
internal review as well as in a subsequent study by the
Government Accountability Office released last month.
The U.S. government watchdog said the MIA recovery mission
was being undermined by leadership weaknesses and a fragmented
organizational structure across the Department of Defense.
"Families have been waiting for decades to discover the fate
of their loved ones," said the GAO's Brenda Farrell in written
testimony to a House of Representatives panel on Thursday.
"The weaknesses that we identified in (the Defense
Department's) capability and capacity to account for missing
persons jeopardize the department's ability to provide some
measure of closure to those families."
More than 83,000 U.S. service members are missing from
conflicts including the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World
War Two, according to Pentagon estimates.
Paul Cole, the JPAC fellow who wrote the highly critical
internal review, first reported by The Associated Press,
suggested ineffective strategies were hampering recovering
The Defense Department averaged 72 identifications annually
in the decade ending in 2012, according to the GAO.
"The fundamental, chronic problem that continues to plague
JPAC concerns the low quantity and marginal quality of remains,"
he said in written testimony to a House subcommittee.
At a separate Senate oversight hearing, the heads of JPAC
and the Pentagon office for missing personnel noted recent
improvements, including cooperating with one another, despite
allegations of turf battles.
"(We) have made significant strides in improving our unity
of effort. But this is an issue that clearly needs further work
," said W. Montague Winfield, the deputy assistant secretary of
defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs, in written testimony.
But lawmakers, including Senator Kelly Ayotte of New
Hampshire, were critical.
"I am incredibly disturbed," Ayotte said, citing the recent
reports. "What bothered me most was reading about the petty
squabbling ... That is not the way we do things."