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DOD's POW/MIA Mission: Capability and Capacity to Account for Missing Persons Undermined by Leadership Weaknesses and Fragmented Organizational Structure

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Congressional testimony

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Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to discuss GAOs findings and recommendations about the Department of Defenses DoD missing persons accounting mission from our recently issued report, DODs POWMIA Mission Top-Level Leadership Attention Needed to Resolve Longstanding Challenges in Accounting for Missing Persons from Past Conflicts. DoD reports that more than 83,000 persons are missing from past conflicts in Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf, and World War II. Since the early 1970s, DoD has identified the remains of and accounted for approximately 1,910 persons. Several DoD components and organizations, collectively known as the missing persons accounting community, have a role in accounting for missing persons. Between 2002 and 2012, DoD accounted for an average of 72 persons each year. In 2009, Congress established an accounting-for goal in Section 541 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. This act required the Secretary of Defense to provide such funds, personnel, and resources as the Secretary considers appropriate to increase significantly the capability and capacity of DoD, the Armed Forces, and commanders of the combatant commands to account for missing persons, so that the accounting community has sufficient resources to ensure that at least 200 missing persons are accounted for annually, beginning in fiscal year 2015. The law also added all World War II losses to the list of conflicts for which DoD is responsible, thus increasing from about 10,000 to 83,000 the number of missing persons for whom DoD must account. In my statement today, I will focus on three key issues we identified in our report, specifically 1 the accounting communitys organizational structure, 2 the lack of clarity regarding community members roles and responsibilities, and 3 DoDs planning to meet the statutory accounting-for goal.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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