Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to express my appreciation to you and the Subcommittee's Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Clyburn, for holding this hearing today.
I also want to recognize the hard work you put in over the past couple of months when you could have been on recess.
As you stated, Mr. Chairman, it appears that most recent Administrations were less judicious regarding waivers for burial in Arlington than they should have been.
Part of a 1994 Memorandum to the Secretary of the Army regarding a request for exception to the burial policy at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) stated, and I quote:
“As you are aware, exceptions to burial policy traditionally are granted only in limited circumstances. Those circumstances must be particularly compelling when granting the exception will result in the displacement of an eligible veteran.”
The memorandum recommended disapproving the requested exception.
However, the exception was granted by the President of the United States.
I believe the phrase “particularly compelling” was an appropriately high threshold to use.
Unfortunately, it appears that in too many waiver cases granted during this Administration and previous Administrations, the circumstances were not “particularly compelling.”
Regardless of our individual views about the appropriateness of any particular waiver granted, I believe we have already reached the collective determination that legislation is needed to codify more restrictive eligibility rules for Arlington National Cemetery.
We also need to assure veterans and the American public that political influence can no longer undermine those eligibility rules.
We have been working to draft legislation addressing these concerns.
My bill would tighten up current eligibility requirements to reemphasize the special military nature of Arlington National Cemetery.
It would cancel the eligibility of so-called high Federal officials, including Members of Congress, who are currently eligible based upon basic, rather than distinguished military service.
The President would remain eligible based on his status as Commander-in-Chief.
The bill would also make clear that no waivers or exceptions to the eligibility rules would be authorized under law.
Army regulations do not provide any waiver authority now.
Rather than establish a more formal waiver process, our bill will prevent any granting of waivers or exceptions in the future.
Additionally, the bill will require that future memorials erected in Arlington National Cemetery be limited to the recognition and commemoration of military events.
Mr. Evans has agreed to be an original cosponsor of this bipartisan bill which we intend to move to the floor as soon as possible, hopefully before the Easter break.
I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses today.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard