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POW/MIA Update—Pentagon, Under Pressure from McCaskill and Ayotte, Announces Reforms

Hagel’s announcement follows Senators’ bipartisan measure giving deadline for fixing recovery efforts


WASHINGTON – Under sustained pressure from U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today announced reforms to streamline and boost accountability in efforts to recover American personnel who are prisoners of war or missing in action (POW/MIA).

“The Pentagon’s announcement is a great first step in our ongoing effort to honor our POW/MIA personnel by ensuring a professional and effective recovery effort from top-to-bottom,” said McCaskill and Ayotte, both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a joint statement. “We’re now taking concrete, enforceable steps to fix what has been a management mess—but as with any effort to demand accountability, the devil will be in the details and the implementation. So we’re looking forward to working with the Pentagon to ensure the families of our missing heroes receive nothing less than honesty and transparency in our efforts to recover their loved ones.”

McCaskill and Ayotte have led the fight to address systemic mismanagement of the Pentagon’s POW/MIA recovery efforts. The Senators recently wrote a joint letter to Secretary Hagel following approval in December of the annual defense bill, which included their measure giving the Pentagon a six-month deadline to address the mismanagement in its recovery efforts.

The Pentagon’s new organization will streamline the disparate elements of POW/MIA recovery into one organization with one budget. This new organization’s leader, who will be appointed by the President, will report to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. There will also be one professional charged with oversight of the labs where the missing are identified and one centralized case management system for all missing persons. The Pentagon will also work to explore new, innovative public-private partnerships for research and identification.