Arlington National Cemetery Will Expand

June 23, 2017

Negotiations broke down between the Army and Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virginia on a land deal to expand the southern boundary of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). Amid the fallout, the Army announced it unilaterally would acquire the land to provide between 40,000 and 60,000 new burial opportunities for veterans, their spouses, and some national dignitaries. 

Disagreements centered on the future use of land near the cemetery grounds. 

“The Army made every reasonable effort to negotiate [the] land exchange,” said Katharine Kelly, ANC's superintendent, in a response to CQ Roll Call. “[We were] never able to reach an agreement where the Army was comfortable with the county's several proposed projects for land adjacent to future burial space.” 

Any negotiations going forward will be to settle on an appropriate price to compensate the county and state. 

The project, costing an estimated $274 million, isn't cheap. The land acquisition will require the rerouting of local roads within the 38 new acres of usable land. 

Getting the funding from Congress is the next step in the process. 

There is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a very positive alternative to restricting eligibility for burial at ANC, a move that would threaten many veterans' end of life plans. 

The new expansion will allow the cemetery to continue burials and inurnments into the early 2050s, rather than reach full capacity sometime in the mid-2040s. 

Expansion, contiguous or otherwise, has long been a primary preference of many veteran and military service organizations, prompting this more in-depth discussion of the bordering lands. In a recent roundtable discussion, an advisory committee to ANC took time to show veteran and military service organizations the different plots of land surrounding the current cemetery boundaries. 

While there are many substantial plots of land just outside the cemetery gates, the cost of acquisition and reconstruction takes many options off the table. 

For example, demolition of neighboring Fort Meyer's Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility is both undesirable and difficult because of the useful facilities that currently exist and the extensive amount of land redistribution required. On the other hand, land around the Marine Corps Memorial would require minimal changes and wouldn't drastically change the landscape. 

Capacity at ANC has received significant attention this year. MOAA supports the move to acquire new land as the first way to keep the cemetery open for new burials. We've supported this specific plan since its inception almost a decade ago, and we are pleased to see it come to fruition. 

The Army is doing what it can to extend the life of the cemetery without disenfranchising veterans. To that end, MOAA is pleased. This expansion makes sense, and it is an appropriate way to extend the life of the cemetery. Ensuring this new land maintains the essence felt throughout the rest of the property will be part of the ongoing discussion. 

If you want to make a comment on this land acquisition or other capacity issues, the advisory committee continues to welcome your input

 

 

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