Efforts to bring home missing are important
A recent study on Americans missing in action from foreign wars gives a sad glimpse into American bureaucracy at its worst.
The report, which was initially suppressed by military officials, found the Pentagon's attempts to locate those who are missing in action to be inept and wasteful, according to The Associated Press.
The number of service members missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam is staggering – an estimated 83,348 are still listed as missing, the AP reports.
The report said the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is tasked with tracking and recovering those missing American service members, is riddled with issues, from not digging up enough clues on old battlefields to relying on bad databases.
Congress has demanded a minimum of 200 identifications per year by 2015. However, due to a lack of investigative leads, AP reports, JPAC isn't collecting enough human remains to meet that goal. In 2012, JPAC made only 35 identifications from remains they recovered.
At that rate, it would take over 2,000 years to recover and identify the 83,000 who are missing in action.
The report also says JPAC doesn't have a comprehensive list of the missing, with a database that is “riddled with unreliable data,” and found the operations to collect remains to be flawed.
The report is controversial. The military reviewed it, and found it to have inaccuracies and manipulated data, according to a statement on the website for the National League of POW/MIA Families, which notes it supports efforts to bring home those who are still missing.
However, when the AP reached out to current JPAC Commander Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, he noted there were issues within JPAC, and the organization was taking steps to fix them.
Without a doubt, the organization works on a tough mission. The United States doesn't have strong relationships with either North Korea or Vietnam, which complicates efforts to make any recoveries. Efforts in Vietnam are further complicated by the dense jungle terrain.
Efforts to recover remains from World War II are complicated by the vast number of battlefields, ranging from European shores to the Pacific theater.
And for all three wars, the simple passage of time is a major deterrent to finding those hidden answers.
However, if a person has gone missing while serving our country somewhere on foreign soil, the U.S. government has a duty to try to bring them home – or at least provide answers to their families.
It's the least we can do to honor their memory and their service. JPAC needs to keep sight of that, and help these families find some form of closure.