POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 1:50 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2013
The Pentagon said Tuesday it will take a "second look" at how a Hawaii-based command goes about accounting for missing Americans on foreign battlefields, after the disclosure of an internal assessment that the work is "acutely dysfunctional" and at risk of failure.
"We have a sacred obligation to perform this mission well," Pentagon press secretary George Little said, referring to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, which is headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Estimates indicate there are more than 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. JPAC has about 500 people and sends about 70 teams a year on identification and recovery missions to a dozen countries. Over the past three years, JPAC has reported an average of 69 identifications of remains per year, down from 85 per year over the previous three years.
A 2012 internal assessment of JPAC's field operations — including the search for, recovery and identification of remains — found it suffers from ineptitude, waste and mismanagement. JPAC leaders suppressed the study, but The Associated Press obtained a copy.
"We're going to review the concerns raised in the report to see how JPAC is or isn't functioning well," Little said. "And if steps need to be taken to remedy what's happening inside JPAC, then we'll take action. This is an important mission."
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said, "These soldiers fought on behalf of American families nationwide, and it is our duty to ensure that they return home. That is why I have requested a comprehensive briefing from (U.S. Pacific Command) and JPAC to determine the appropriate steps moving forward."
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the revelations raise important issues.
"However, we need to remember that this is a year-old draft internal report and consider it in its proper context," she said. "JPAC's leadership has changed since the time of the report, so I think to the extent that the report spoke to questions of management, JPAC's current command should be given an opportunity to address their challenges."
Star-Advertiser reporter William Cole contributed to this report.