STATEMENT OF JOHN C. METZLER, JR.
SUPERINTENDENT, ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
BEFORE THE HOUSE VETERANSí AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE
ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS
JANUARY 28, 1998
THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN, I AM GLAD TO BE HERE TO DISCUSS THE GRANTING OF WAIVERS TO THE ELIGIBILITY REGULATIONS FOR BURIAL AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.

BEFORE DISCUSSING SPECIFICS, I WOULD LIKE TO PROVIDE SOME GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT ARLINGTON.

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY IS OUR NATION'S MOST PROMINENT NATIONAL CEMETERY AND SERVES AS A SHRINE HONORING THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES. IT IS A VISIBLE REFLECTION OF AMERICA'S APPRECIATION OF THOSE WHO HAVE MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE TO MAINTAIN OUR FREEDOM.

SINCE ITS FOUNDING IN 1864, THE CEMETERY HAS FUNCTIONED PRIMARILY AS A MILITARY BURIAL GROUND. OVER THE YEARS, THE SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY HAS CHANGED. THE CEMETERY HAS BECOME RECOGNIZED AS THE NATION'S FOREMOST NATIONAL MEMORIAL TO ITS WAR DEAD AND IS THE FINAL RESTING PLACE OF PRESIDENTS AND OTHER LEADING PUBLIC FIGURES. IT HAS ALSO BECOME THE SITE OF MAJOR MEMORIAL EVENTS AND CEREMONIES, AS WELL AS A SIGNIFICANT ATTRACTION FOR VISITORS TO THE WASHINGTON AREA. APPROXIMATELY FOUR MILLION PEOPLE VISIT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY EACH YEAR.

IN ADDITION TO THE THOUSANDS OF FUNERALS HELD THERE EACH YEAR, OVER 2,600 OTHER CEREMONIES ARE CONDUCTED TO HONOR THOSE WHO REST IN THE CEMETERY. MANY OF THESE CEREMONIES INVOLVE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, FOREIGN DIGNITARIES AND THE PUBLIC. 

THE MOST RECENT STATUTE RECOGNIZING THE ARMYíS JURISDICTION OVER ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY IS THE NATIONAL CEMETERIES ACT OF 1973 (PUBLIC LAW 93-43), WHICH CREATED THE NATIONAL CEMETERY SYSTEM. THAT ACT EXCLUDED ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY AND THE U.S. SOLDIERSí AND AIRMENíS HOME NATIONAL CEMETERY FROM THE NATIONAL CEMETERY SYSTEM, WHICH IS ADMINISTERED BY THE SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, AND PRESERVED THE FUNCTIONS, POWERS, AND DUTIES OF THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY WITH RESPECT TO ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY HAS PROMULGATED REGULATIONS, SET OUT IN PART 553 OF TITLE 32 OF THE CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS AND ARMY REGULATION 290-5, THAT GOVERN THE OPERATION OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. 

WE ARE CONDUCTING ABOUT 5,000 FUNERAL SERVICES PER YEAR AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. THIS IS AN AVERAGE OF APPROXIMATELY 20 BURIALS PER DAY. THE RATE OF BURIALS IS ANTICIPATED TO INCREASE STEADILY AS WE APPROACH THE AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCIES FOR WORLD WAR II VETERANS.

THE CEMETERY CURRENTLY CONSISTS OF ABOUT 612 ACRES. THE ARMY HAS COMPLETED A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR THE CEMETERY, WHICH IS DESIGNED TO INSURE THAT ARLINGTON WILL REMAIN ACTIVE AS A BURIAL PLACE AND MEMORIAL SITE THROUGH THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY. THAT PLAN IDENTIFIES FOURTEEN PARCELS OF LAND THAT ARE OWNED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, ARE LOCATED IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO THE CEMETERY, AND COULD BE USED FOR FUTURE BURIALS. THIS PLANNING EFFORT WILL EXAMINE WHICH LANDS MIGHT BE AVAILABLE IN THE FUTURE. ONE OF THE STRATEGIES IS TO ACQUIRE CONTIGUOUS LAND THROUGH PURCHASE, DONATION, OR TRANSFER TO KEEP THE CEMETERY OPEN. TOWARD THAT END, FUNDS ARE INCLUDED IN THE PRESIDENTíS BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 1999 TO FISCAL YEAR 2003 TO PREPARE CONCEPT PLANS TO DEVELOP CONTIGUOUS LANDS OWNED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AS THEY BECOME EXCESS TO GOVERNMENT NEEDS. WITHIN THE LANDS THAT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY CURRENTLY OWNS, WE WILL BE ABLE TO BURY INDIVIDUALS IN NEW GRAVE SPACE THROUGH 2025, AS LONG AS CURRENT ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA REMAIN THE SAME. THESE CRITERIA PERMIT BURIAL OF THE FOLLOWING INDIVIDUALS:

- THOSE WHO HAVE DIED ON ACTIVE DUTY. (EXCEPT THOSE MEMBERS SERVING ON ACTIVE DUTY FOR TRAINING.)

- THOSE RETIRED FROM ACTIVE DUTY OR ACTIVE RESERVE SERVICE WHO QUALIFY FOR RETIRED PAY EITHER UPON RETIREMENT OR AT AGE 60, AND THOSE RETIRED FOR DISABILITY.

- VETERANS HONORABLY DISCHARGED FOR 30% (OR MORE) DISABILITY BEFORE 1 OCTOBER 1949.

- HOLDERS OF THE NATION'S HIGHEST MILITARY DECORATIONS: MEDAL OF HONOR; DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS (AIR FORCE CROSS OR NAVY CROSS); DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL; SILVER STAR; OR PURPLE HEART.

- PERSONS WHO HAVE HELD ANY OF THE FOLLOWING POSITIONS, PROVIDED THEIR LAST PERIOD OF ACTIVE DUTY (OTHER THAN FOR TRAINING) AS A MEMBER OF THE ARMED FORCES ENDED HONORABLY.

-- AN ELECTIVE OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.

-- OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES OR AN ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.

-- AN OFFICE LISTED IN 5 U.S.C § 5312 OR 5 U.S.C § 5313. 

-- THE CHIEF OF A MISSION WHO WAS AT ANY TIME DURING HIS OR HER TENURE CLASSIFIED IN CLASS I AS SET FORTH IN SECTION 411 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 13, 1946. 

- ANY FORMER PRISONER OF WAR WHO WAS ON ACTIVE DUTY IN THE ARMED FORCES AND WHO SERVED HONORABLY WHILE A PRISONER.

- THE SPOUSE, WIDOW OR WIDOWER, OR UNMARRIED MINOR (UNDER 21) CHILD OF ANY OF THE ABOVE, OR OF ANY PERSON ALREADY BURIED IN ARLINGTON. AN UNMARRIED DEPENDENT STUDENT QUALIFIES UP TO AGE 23. 

- AN UNMARRIED ADULT CHILD OF ANY OF THE ABOVE WITH PHYSICAL OR MENTAL DISABILITY ACQUIRED BEFORE AGE 21.

- PROVIDED CERTAIN SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS ARE MET, AN HONORABLY DISCHARGED VETERAN WHO IS THE CLOSE RELATIVE OF AN ELIGIBLE PERSON ALREADY INTERRED. INTERMENT MUST BE IN THE SAME GRAVE AS THE PRIMARY ELIGIBLE. 

ADDITIONALLY, ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY EXTENDS TO ALL THE PERSONS LISTED ABOVE, AS WELL AS TO ANY VETERAN WHOSE LAST PERIOD OF ACTIVE DUTY SERVICE (OTHER THAN FOR TRAINING) ENDED HONORABLY, ELIGIBILITY TO HAVE THEIR CREMATED REMAINS PLACED IN THE COLUMBARIUM AT ARLINGTON.

THESE RESTRICTED BURIAL CRITERIA HAVE BEEN IN PLACE AT ARLINGTON FOR THE LAST 30 YEARS. DURING THIS PERIOD, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY HAVE RECEIVED REQUESTS TO ALLOW FOR THE BURIAL IN ARLINGTON OF PERSONS NOT ELIGIBLE UNDER EXISTING CRITERIA. THESE EXCEPTION REQUESTS HAVE BEEN GRANTED ONLY IN THE MOST DESERVING CASES. MOST EXCEPTIONS FALL INTO TWO CATEGORIES:

- CLOSE RELATIVES (WHO ARE NOT VETERANS) TO BE INTERRED IN THE SAME GRAVESITE WITH AN ELIGIBLE MEMBER, AND

- VETERANS WHO WERE NOT AUTOMATICALLY ELIGIBLE, BUT WHO MERIT BURIAL IN ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY BASED ON COMPELLING CIRCUMSTANCES.

IN RARE INSTANCES, EXCEPTIONS HAVE BEEN GRANTED FOR PERSONS WHOSE SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE NATION WARRANTED BURIAL IN ARLINGTON.

RECENTLY, QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN RAISED REGARDING THE NUMBER OF EXCEPTIONS GRANTED DURING THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION. IT IS TRUE THAT THE NUMBER OF EXCEPTIONS GRANTED RECENTLY HAS INCREASED. HOWEVER, THE NUMBER OF REQUESTS FOR EXCEPTIONS HAS ALSO INCREASED DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD. THIS FACT IS CONSISTENT WITH ANOTHER TREND THAT I HAVE WITNESSED: THE TOTAL NUMBER OF BURIALS AT ARLINGTON INCREASED FROM ABOUT 4,000 IN 1990 TO OVER 5,000 IN 1996. I BELIEVE THAT THE INCREASE IN BURIALS HAS OCCURRED FOR THE SAME REASONS WE HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REQUESTS FOR EXCEPTIONS: THE AGING OF THE WORLD WAR II VETERANSí POPULATION; INCREASED EXPOSURE FROM THE MEDIA FOR EVENTS SUCH AS THE OPENING OF THE WOMEN IN MILITARY SERVICE FOR AMERICA MEMORIAL AND SPECIAL, HIGH-PROFILE FUNERALS SUCH AS THE ONE FOR SECRETARY RON BROWN; AND MORE REQUESTS FROM UNMARRIED ADULTS WISHING TO BURIED WITH THEIR PARENTS. THE NUMBER OF EXCEPTIONS GRANTED AND THE NUMBER OF EXCEPTION REQUESTS RECEIVED HAVE INCREASED AT APPROXIMATELY THE SAME RATE. 

TO PUT THE INCREASE OF EXCEPTIONS IN PERSPECTIVE, I WOULD LIKE TO COMPARE THE NUMBER OF EXCEPTIONS GRANTED TO THE TOTAL NUMBER OF BURIALS. SINCE I HAVE BEEN THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE CEMETERY, WE HAVE INTERRED 22, 413 PEOPLE. DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD (1991-1998), 81 INDIVIDUALS HAVE BEEN BURIED PURSUANT TO AN EXCEPTION TO BURIAL POLICY, 62 OF WHICH WERE BURIED IN THE GRAVE OF A FAMILY MEMBER. THUS, IN THE PAST 7 YEARS, EXCEPTIONS HAVE CONSTITUTED 0.36 PERCENT OF ALL BURIALS AND ONLY 21 INDIVIDUALS WHO WERE GRANTED EXCEPTIONS HAVE REQUIRED THE USE OF A NEW GRAVE SPACE.

LET ME TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLAIN HOW THE EXCEPTION PROCESS WORKS. EXCEPTIONS ARE GENERALLY REQUESTED BY THE NEXT OF KIN THROUGH MY OFFICE. HOWEVER, A NUMBER OF THESE EXCEPTION REQUESTS HAVE GONE DIRECTLY TO OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. UNDER CURRENT PRACTICE, REQUESTS ARE GENERALLY CHANNELED BACK TO MY OFFICE FOR REVIEW AND A RECOMMENDATION. THE ARMY'S INTERNAL STEPS TO PROCESS REQUESTS FOR EXCEPTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

- MY STAFF AND I GATHER THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTS AND OTHER PERTINENT INFORMATION, REVIEW THE FACTS, CONSIDER THE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA AND PRIOR EXCEPTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, AND FORWARD A RECOMMENDATION TO THE OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF ARMY (MANPOWER AND RESERVE AFFAIRS) (ASA(M&RA)). AS INDICATED, MOST OF THE REQUESTS FALL WITHIN PREVIOUSLY RECOGNIZED CATEGORIES OF EXCEPTIONS AND CAN BE EVALUATED BASED ON PAST PRACTICE. IN A FEW CASES, I AM REQUIRED TO LOOK AT A NOVEL SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND EXERCISE INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT IN FORMULATING MY RECOMMENDATION AS TO WHETHER AN EXCEPTION SHOULD BE GRANTED. IN THESE DIFFICULT CASES, I EXERCISE MY BEST JUDGMENT TO DETERMINE WHAT I BELIEVE MAY BE APPROPRIATE BASED ON THE CONTRIBUTION THE DECEASED HAS MADE TO THE NATION. THE FACTS OF THESE SPECIAL CASES ARE UNIQUE, AND NOT SUSCEPTIBLE TO PRE-DETERMINED FORMULATIONS. IN SUCH CASES, THE DECISION AS TO WHETHER THE EXCEPTION SHOULD BE GRANTED OR DENIED IS ULTIMATELY A MATTER FOR THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY TO DECIDE.

- ASA(M&RA) REVIEWS MY RECOMMENDATION PACKET AND PROCESSES IT THROUGH THE OFFICE OF THE ARMY GENERAL COUNSEL, THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY, AND THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF LEGISLATIVE LIAISON (IF THERE IS CONGRESSIONAL INTEREST). THE ASA(M&RA) CONSIDERS THE INPUT FROM THE ABOVE OFFICES AND FORWARDS A RECOMMENDATION WITH THE SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY FOR DECISION.

THIS PROCESS ENSURES THAT EACH REQUEST RECEIVES A THOROUGH REVIEW BEFORE ANY DECISION IS MADE. BECAUSE THIS IS A TIME OF GRIEF FOR THE FAMILIES INVOLVED, OUR GOAL IS TO ANSWER EACH REQUEST FOR EXCEPTION WITHIN 24 HOURS. I WOULD LIKE TO ADD THAT WE TAKE VERY SERIOUSLY OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO UPHOLD THE SANCTITY OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. EACH FUNERAL WE CONDUCT AT ARLINGTON IS A SIGNIFICANT AND SPECIAL EVENT FOR THE FAMILIES AS WE PAY A FINAL TRIBUTE TO MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED OUR COUNTRY WITH DISTINCTION.

I APPRECIATE VERY MUCH THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HERE, MR. CHAIRMAN, AND WOULD BE PLEASED TO ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE.