Tester: Arlington Cemetery failures ‘a black eye’, must be made right

Senator slams ousted cemetery officials for improper burials

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today slammed officials from Arlington National Cemetery for recently revealed improper burials of the nation’s war heroes.

Tester grilled cemetery officials at a hearing on Capitol Hill to determine what went wrong and how to address the failures.

“This is not only totally unacceptable,” Tester told John C. Metzler, the former superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery.  “It’s a black eye that needs to be made right.”

Army investigators at Arlington National Cemetery recently found more than 200 unmarked graves, grave sites with headstones not recorded on cemetery maps, and burial urns that had been accidentally unearthed then carelessly dumped in excess grave dirt.

Tester questioned Metzler and former Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham—both of whom lost their jobs as a result of the scandal—on budget and personnel management at the cemetery.

Under questioning from the Committee, Metzler blamed a shrinking personnel budget as one cause of the improper burials.

“You talk about declining budgets, but… your budget went from $10 million to $39 million in ten years—that’s not a declining budget,” Tester said.  “This isn't like putting a man on the moon.  There’s nothing really mystifying about burying our loved ones and keeping track of them.”

Tester also questioned Metzler on the use of contractors at the cemetery.

“You were the Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery and you didn’t feel like you had adequate supervision over your contractors,” Tester said.  “That needs to be fixed.”

Video of Tester’s exchange with the former officials is available HERE.