STATEMENT OF HONORABLE LANE EVANS
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT & INVESTIGATIONS HEARING ON ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY WAIVERS

JANUARY 28, 1998

THANK YOU, CHAIRMAN EVERETT, FOR PUTTING TOGETHER THIS IMPORTANT HEARING ON THE WAIVER PROCESS FOR BURIALS AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.

AS AN ENLISTED MAN IN THE U.S. MARINE CORPS AND AS A MEMBER OF THE VETERANS COMMITTEE SINCE COMING TO CONGRESS 15 YEARS AGO, I KNOW THAT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY IS TRULY SACRED GROUND - SPECIALLY FOR OUR NATION'S VETERAN POPULATION.

PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT TESTIMONY WE WILL HEAR TODAY WILL BE FROM THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE (GAO). 

IN DECEMBER, CHAIRMAN EVERETT, RANKING DEMOCRAT JIM CLYBURN AND I ASKED GAO TO CONDUCT A THOROUGH, YET EXPEDITED, EVIEW OF THE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON, WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON THE WAIVER PROCESS SINCE 1967.

GIVEN THE INITIAL BARRAGE OF MEDIA ATTENTION FOCUSING ON THE ALLEGED PLOT TO AWARD POLITICAL DONORS WITH BURIAL AT ARLINGTON, JIM AND I ALSO ASKED GAO TO EXAMINE WHETHER THERE WAS ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THAT POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS PLAYED A ROLE IN INDIVIDUAL WAIVER DECISIONS.

I AM PLEASED TO READ ON PAGE 11 OF THE GAO TESTIMONY THAT NO EVIDENCE WAS FOUND TO SUPPORT RECENT MEDIA REPORTS THAT POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS PLAYED A ROLE IN WAIVER DECISIONS.

THE GAO TESTIMONY, HOWEVER, DOES MUCH MORE THAN JUST DISPEL THE NOTION THAT THERE WAS A SCHEME TO REWARD HIGH-DOLLAR DONORS WITH BURIAL AT ARLINGTON. GAO'S TESTIMONY SHEDS MUCH-NEEDED LIGHT ON THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY , AND PROVIDES A BASIS FOR ONGOING LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS TO TIGHTEN ELIGIBILITY STANDARDS AT THE CEMETERY.

JIM CLYBURN AND I ARE CURRENTLY WORKING WITH OUR REPUBLICAN COUNTERPARTS, BOB STUMP AND TERRY EVERETT, TO CRAFT LEGISLATION THAT WILL GREATLY IMPROVE THE WAIVER PROCESS. BY REMOVING MUCH OF THE DISCRETION FROM THE PROCESS, OUR PROPOSAL WILL REMOVE THE AMBIGUITY AND GUESSWORK FROM THE DECISION-MAKING ON ELIGIBILITY. OUR PLAN WILL ALSO MAKE IT MUCH EASIER FOR THE PUBLIC, AS WELL AS OUR PUBLIC SERVANTS, TO UNDERSTAND THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR OUR NATION'S MOST REVERED MILITARY BURIAL GROUND.

BEFORE I CONCLUDE MY REMARKS, MR. CHAIRMAN, I WANT TO TAKE A MOMENT TO THANK BOTH YOU AND BOB STUMP FOR YOUR FOCUS ON POLICY OVER POLITICS DURING OUR FRANK DISCUSSIONS OVER HOW TO IMPROVE WHAT GAO TELLS US IS AN IMPERFECT WAIVER PROCESS AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. 

THANK YOU AGAIN FOR RECOGNIZING ME, MR. CHAIRMAN, I LOOK FORWARD TO THE TESTIMONY THIS MORNING.