STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES E. CLYBURN, RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT & INVESTIGATIONS 
HEARING ON ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY WAIVERS
JANUARY 28, 1998
I WOULD LIKE TO THANK CHAIRMAN EVERETT FOR CALLING THIS IMPORTANT HEARING TO DISCUSS THE WAIVER PROCESS FOR BURIALS AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. 

UNTIL RECENTLY, THE ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY BURIAL ISSUE HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MAJOR POLITICAL STORIES OVER THE CONGRESSIONAL RECESS. I AM HOPEFUL THAT THE TESTIMONY WE HEAR TODAY WILL HELP TO BURY ONCE AND FOR ALL THE BASELESS ALLEGATIONS WHICH INITIALLY BROUGHT THE UNPRECEDENTED MEDIA ATTENTION TO OUR COMMITTEE. THIS COMMITTEE HAS HISTORICALLY BEEN A COMMITTEE THAT HAS GONE ABOUT ITS SERIOUS BUSINESS AWAY FROM THE GLARE OF THE MEDIA SPOTLIGHTS, AND INSULATED FROM THE PARTISAN RANCOR THAT HAS UNFORTUNATELY TAINTED THE PUBLIC'S VIEW OF THE CONGRESS IN RECENT YEARS.

LAST DECEMBER, CHAIRMAN EVERETT AND LANE EVANS THE RANKING DEMOCRATIC MEMBER OF THE FULL COMMITTEE JOINED ME IN ASKING THAT THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE (GAO) CONDUCT A REVIEW OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY RECORDS AND THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY FILES TO GIVE US A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW THE CEMETERY'S WAIVER PROCESS WORKS. 

LANE AND I WENT A STEP FURTHER AND ASKED THAT AS PART OF THIS REVIEW, GAO TELL US WHAT ROLE, IF ANY, POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS PLAYED IN DECISIONS TO GRANT OR DENY WAIVERS FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON CEMETERY.

I AM PLEASED TO SAY THAT THE GAO HAS FOUND "NO EVIDENCE" TO SUPPORT THE RECENT MEDIA REPORTS THAT POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS PLAYED A ROLE IN WAIVER DECISIONS.

OBVIOUSLY, THIS SHOULD BE WELCOME NEWS TO ALL MEMBERS OF THIS SUBCOMMITTEE, WHETHER DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN. THIS= SHOULD NOT, HOWEVER, BE THE END OF OUR CONSIDERATION OF THE CURRENT STANDARDS FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON. 

CLEARLY, AS THE GAO TESTIMONY ALSO POINTS OUT, THERE HAVE BEEN AMBIGUITIES AND INTERNAL INCONSISTENCIES WITH REGARD TO HOW WAIVERS HAVE BEEN DECIDED SINCE 1967 --THE POINT WHEN STRICTER ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS WERE ESTABLISHED FOR ARLINGTON.

THROUGHOUT BOTH REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC ADMINISTRATIONS, WE CAN NOW ALL AGREE THAT PRESIDENTS HAVE EXERCISED THE DISCRETION (DISCRETION THAT, ACCORDING TO GAO'S LAWYERS, WAS LEGALLY WITHIN THEIR AUTHORITY) TO GRANT INDIVIDUAL WAIVERS FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON. WE HAVE NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT ANY SUCH DECISIONS WERE MADE FOR ANYTHING BUT HUMANITARIAN REASONS.

SIMILARLY, SINCE AT LEAST 1980, THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HAS ROUTINELY GRANTED WAIVERS FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON.

ONE OF THE PROBLEMS APPEARS TO BE THAT THE WAIVER PROCESS ITSELF HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN ADEQUATELY EXPLAINED TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. IN ADDITION, THE WAIVER CRITERIA HAS EVOLVED OVER TIME AND HAS BEEN PERHAPS OVERLY DEPENDENT UPON THE PARTICULAR MANAGEMENT STYLES OF THE VARIOUS SUPERINTENDENTS WHO HAVE KEPT WATCH OVER THE CEMETERY THROUGH THE YEARS.

BECAUSE THERE ARE NO FIRM, STATUTORY GUIDELINES ON THIS ISSUE, THE STANDARDS HAVE BEEN OPEN TO INTERPRETATION OVER THE YEARS. I BELIEVE WE SHOULD ENACT LEGISLATION TO CODIFY THE ARLINGTON ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS SO THAT WE CAN AVOID THE UNCERTAINTIES WHICH CLEARLY EXIST TODAY, AND WHICH MAY HAVE LED TO THE CRITICISM THAT HAS ENVELOPED THE CEMETERY IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS.

BEFORE CLOSING, I WANTED TO TAKE A MOMENT TO THANK ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY SUPERINTENDENT, MR. JACK METZLER, FOR HIS WILLINGNESS TO WORK WITH THE STAFF OF THIS SUBCOMMITTEE THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THIS CONTROVERSY. I THINK EVERYONE WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY WOULD AGREE THAT JACK IS A PUBLIC SERVANT IN THE TRUEST AND BEST SENSE OF THE WORD. THANK YOU,JACK, FOR YOUR SERVICE TO OUR NATION.

THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN, THAT COMPLETES MY OPENING REMARKS.