POW/MIA Update – July 13, 2015

pow mia league


AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There still has been no published change to the number  unaccounted-for since the April 10th Update.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, and others are likely pending.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  The League seeks the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

NEW DPAA DIRECTOR NAMED & NOW MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (ret) Mike Linnington, USA, the new permanent Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), was named just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background that is explained more fully in the upcoming League Newsletter.

Important now are the several steps he has already taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically, though thoughtfully, to follow directives issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, as the League has experienced repeatedly, Mr. Linnington is moving out smartly.  His restructure plans dramatically move the mission forward and, importantly, adhere to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting community.  As a result, he is moving beyond the recommendations he received from Vice Admiral Michael Franken, USN, whose vision for DPAA related more to a concept for production of “products” than to a viable plan to pursue accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.

Already confirmed is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively, reporting to the incoming Deputy Director (an active-duty Army Brigadier General) who will likely be announced next week.   The long-serving, indispensable civilian specialists in the Detachments are expected to be extended.  The small contingent of personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will also continue to be a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to a European Regional Director.  The placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known, but has unique status within DPAA due to also supporting the work of the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, viewing the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, three party, etc.) could be formed as the way in which established processes and personnel can be freed up from WWII missions to focus on Vietnam War accounting.  This initiative offers significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort to produce results more rapidly through applying some contractors’ efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries that pertain mostly to WWII, the Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War.

A symposium will be held in Hawaii, immediately following the “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony) on July 27th.  This symposium will provide an opportunity for the DPAA leadership, including all Directors and Deputies, to utilize the newly improved restructure and sort out the sub-structure, moving tasks as needed, but getting to a nearly finalized structure.  I look forward to seeing that product.

Chairman’s Comment:  Mike Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated and talented workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.  He pledged at the League’s 46th Annual Meeting that he is in this for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m convinced that he really IS the right guy and this IS the right time.

Right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  There will be NO further such opportunities, precisely the reason I’m determined to ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from the many honest, caring and determined people working in the accounting community, and not be influenced by the self-serving, insecure people who are likely doing their best to remain in positions they should not hold.

We all should be grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting a person like Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a  know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing in spades.  Yes, he has much to learn, and many self-serving people still surround him, so dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

Finally, I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and had talked with him many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth, VADM Franken and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague relating to the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  As a result, I can attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  Mr. Linnington was sworn in on Monday, June 22nd, as the civilian Senior Executive Service Level 3 Director of DPAA.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do, but he will also need our full support and that of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the demoralized former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL personnel now in DPAA.

Therefore, we, the Vietnam War families and our many concerned Veteran organizations, individual veterans and civilian supporters, ask all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside the justifiable frustrations and obstacles you have endured for far too many years and focus on what is possible with our new DPAA Director.  I honestly believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting focus we all have sorely missed since 1992 – a cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting. This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered, but all information will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  The June 24-27th meeting was the largest, most comprehensive and compelling annual meeting in years. The Hilton sold out, responses from senior leaders were positive, and official animosity toward the League seems to have disappeared in favor of a partnership not seen since 1992.  A full report will be in the upcoming League Newsletter.

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