Quality Problems Plague Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National CemeteryAt least 211 people are in unmarked or unrecorded graves in Arlington National Cemetery, according to Stars and Stripes. Army officials announced the findings of an investigation into Arlington that found remains buried in graves listed as empty, unmarked graves and improperly handled cremated remains. The inspection found that 117 grave sites marked as occupied on maps did not have headstones. An additional 94 grave sites were supposedly unoccupied, but each had a headstone. And some grave sites were not on maps at all. The report also said at least four urns were discovered in a pile of dirt used to fill graves. One was re-buried as an “unknown” because it had no markings on it.

The problems uncovered by the probe could be the tip of the iceberg. “There could in fact be more [problems],” said Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, Army Inspector General.

The findings caused outrage and grief among veterans and their loved ones. House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo. said “Arlington National Cemetery is a sacred shrine and it breaks my heart to learn about mismarked grave sites, mishandling of remains, missing documentation and failures to notify next-of-kin,” Skelton said in a news release. “This conduct is disgraceful and cannot be tolerated.”

The problems are, of course, avoidable.  Army Secretary John McHugh has vowed to fix the problems. Retiring Arlington Superintendent John Metzler “acknowledged that map inaccuracies were a systemic problem, but evidence indicated he failed to adequately inquire into these discrepancies to ensure they were properly resolved,” the report said. The Associated Press reports that Mr. Metzler has decided to retire early.

Quality problems have been aggressively addressed for over a century in the manufacturing sector and numerous scientific breakthroughs have reduced manufacturing problems to the parts-per-million range. However, other sectors have lagged seriously behind in adopting modern quality and process excellence techniques. The Washington Post reports that Arlington National Cemetery, with over 300,000 graves, may have hundreds or even thousands more missing or misidentified graves. If this turns out to be true, it is certainly a horrific black mark on American Quality.

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Author: Thomas Pyzdek

Consultant, author, owner of The Pyzdek Institute