Congressional Testimony About The Decay of Arlington National Cemetery

MAY 20, 1999



I appreciate the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee, on behalf of the Secretary of the Army, in support of Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is the Nation’s premier military cemetery. Well known edifices and historic sites include the Tomb of the Unknowns, the old and new
Memorial Amphitheaters, the Columbarium, the graves of Presidents Kennedy and Taft, and the Visitors Center. It is an honor for me to represent the cemetery. With me today is Mr. John C. Metzler, Jr., Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery.


Management of Arlington National Cemetery presents challenges unique among the Nation’s national and military cemeteries. Not only is Arlington  National Cemetery a heavily visited shrine honoring the past service of the men  and women of our Armed Forces, it continues to serve as an active burial place for today’s military men and women. Since the funeral of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Arlington National Cemetery has become a major Washington area tourist attraction. During Fiscal Year 1998, Arlington National Cemetery accommodated approximately 4 million visitors, making Arlington National Cemetery one of the most visited historic sites in the National Capital Region.

In Fiscal Year 1998, there were 3,604 interments and 2,034 inurnments.  In Fiscal Year 1999, we estimate there will be 3,600 interments and 2,100 inurnments, and in Fiscal Year 2000, we estimate there will be 3,700 interments and 2,150 inurnments.

During the same year, about 2,700 ceremonies were conducted at Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of visitors, both foreign and American, visit Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a variety of events, ranging from a simple wreath laying ceremony to Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies attended by the President of the United States.

To sustain our ability to carry out the cemetery’s mission into the future, several broad planning efforts are necessary. Last year, the Master Plan for the cemetery was updated, and the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2000 proposes funding to begin both a ten-year capital investment plan and an automation plan. The Master Plan will be the overall guide as we take steps to address rehabilitation and construction required at the cemetery.


 The Army has recently completed a Master Plan for Arlington National Cemetery, which identifies projects and policies to respond to the challenges confronting Arlington National Cemetery.

 The Master Plan challenges include:

 · an aging infrastructure

 · declining availability of space for initial interment, and

 · the need to preserve the dignity of the cemetery while accommodating
substantial public visitation.

This plan has identified fourteen parcels of land that potentially could be used to expand the cemetery, which would allow it to remain open for initial burials into the 22nd century. All of the parcels are either currently contiguous to the cemetery or would become contiguous after currently adjacent parcels are

Conceptual planning is required to determine when the contiguous lands might be available in the future. Toward that end, $500,000 was included in the Fiscal Year 1999 budget to prepare concept utilization plans to develop contiguous lands owned by the Federal Government as they become excess to the needs
of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The President’s Budget for Fiscal Years 2000-2003 includes funds to continue preparation of concept land utilization plans to develop those parcels continuing the President’s goal of ensuring the availability of land for initial burials.

Projects and policies must be measured against funding to be made available in the budget and appropriations processes. Detailed planning and engineering studies necessary to establish the cost, feasibility, and responsiveness of individual capital projects to the Master Plan challenges will be programmed and proposed to Congress at the appropriate times, consistent with the overall
program and budget of the President.


The Secretary of the Army is responsible for the operation of Arlington and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemeteries.  The President’s budget for Cemeterial Expenses, Army  for Fiscal Year 2000 is $12,473,000, an increase of $807,000 over the Fiscal Year 1999 appropriation.  This increase will permit
Arlington National Cemetery to improve its infrastructure and work toward implementation of the cemetery’s Master Plan.  The funds requested are sufficient to support the work force, to assure adequate maintenance of the buildings, to acquire necessary supplies and equipment, and to provide maintenance standards expected at Arlington and Soldier’s and Airmen’s Home National Cemeteries. The budget is divided into three programs:

Operation and Maintenance, Administration, and Construction.

The Fiscal Year 2000 Operation and Maintenance budget of $10,133,000 will provide for the daily operations necessary to allow an average of 20  interments/inurnments daily, for the support of a great many non-funeral
ceremonial events, and for maintenance of the nearly 628 acres of land. Recurring costs and normal repairs to facilities and grounds are funded in the Operation and Maintenance program.  The budget includes $200,000 to develop a comprehensive automation plan for the cemetery. When implemented, the automation plan will facilitate internal communications and operations. Moreover, we envision such improved services to visitors as automated gravesite locators.

The Fiscal Year 2000 Administration program budgeted at $928,000 will finance the essential management and supervision responsibilities of Arlington and Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemeteries.

Major repairs, renovations and new facility construction, as well as certain studies and other activities not previously funded, make up the Construction program, budgeted at $1,412,000 for Fiscal Year 2000. The distinction between Operation and Maintenance and construction activities is generally made on the
basis of project scope and whether or not it is of a recurring nature. The construction program fluctuates the most over time as activities are initiated and completed. This program includes $150,000 to develop a ten-year capital investment plan for financing capital investments in the most technically and financially efficient manner.

Ongoing construction projects include:

 · $60,000 to continue preparation of concept utilization plans for developing ontiguous lands,

 ·  $165,000 to perform minor road repairs throughout the cemetery,

 · $60,000 to install a heating and air-conditioning system in a bay at the new
facility maintenance complex, and

 · $335,000 to continue the graveliner program.


In formulating the annual program for the cemetery, we carefully balance the immediate maintenance needs of the cemeteries’ buildings, roads and grounds against the need to begin to take more ambitious actions aimed at meeting the cemeteries’ long-term needs. At least twice each year, the Superintendent reviews the maintenance plan for the cemeteries with his staff to determine whether maintenance priorities should be adjusted, in the light of unanticipated needs for repairs.

In addition to the maintenance of graves and niches containing the remains of more than 266,000 persons, we must maintain over 18 miles of roadways and walkways on the cemeteries’ 628 acres and a number of historic sites located throughout the cemeteries.

Contractual services are a critical part of the Operations and Maintenance program. In recent years, significant savings have been achieved through contractual services. For example, past contracts for custodial services cost about $210,000. However, competition resulted in a much lower bidder receiving this contract, leading to significant savings in Fiscal Year 1998 and 1999. This contractor has demonstrated, during the busiest season at Arlington National Cemetery, his ability to adequately perform the required custodial service. Over recent years, the cemetery has gradually transferred from full-time in-house staff to contractors many duties that are well defined and repetitive in nature. These changes have allowed the cemetery to retrain and use Federal employees to perform functions not readily amenable to being contracted out.

The Fiscal Year 2000 budget includes $300,000 to continue an expansion of contracts for enhancing the appearance of the cemetery, while reducing the overall cost and number of government employees as part of government-wide streamlining. Contracting the recurring labor intensive, cyclical, seasonal work has been successful in the local competitive bidding climate. Through streamlining  and contracting, Full Time Employee Equivalents have been reduced from 140 in Fiscal Year 1992 to 102 in Fiscal Year 1999. Additional
work has been accomplished that could not be performed previously and the level of quality has been acceptable. We continue to refine the scopes of work associated with contracts to enhance the level of quality of the work performed as intended by the Government Performance and Results Act.

For Fiscal Year 2000, the total contractual services is estimated to be $4,267,000. This includes:

 · $1.755 million for grounds maintenance,

 · $840,000 for information guide services,

 · $698,000 for tree and shrub maintenance,

 ·  $110,000 for custodial services  and,

 · $864,000 for regular recurring maintenance items, such as headstone cleaning and realignment, maintenance of the eternal flame and many other minor contracts.


Mr. Chairman, this concludes my remarks. The Superintendent and I will be pleased to respond to questions from the Subcommittee.

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