Final Report On Arlington National Cemetery

February 24, 2017

An uncomfortable truth about Arlington National Cemetery is that space is going to run out, whether protocol changes or not. Congress has new impetus to take action on this longtime debate after the release of a recent report.

The Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery (ACANC) produced its final report, including options available to extend the life of the cemetery “well into the future.” This long-anticipated report, requested by Congress a year ago, marks the completion of the committee's analysis of the capacity situation, and sets the stage for policymakers to act.

The report includes analysis of the impact of almost 20 variations of land expansions, eligibility changes, burial procedures and more. These options were provided in prior interim reports but now come with substantive analysis of the likelihood of implementation, necessity of legislative action, and general timelines.

Options include, but are not limited to:

  • adopting the VA requirement for 24 month active duty service minimum;
  • restricting eligibility to retirement from the armed services at certain lengths of service;
  • changing eligibility only to those killed in action, active duty deaths, and recipients of qualifying awards;
  • expanding the grounds beyond current physical boundaries; and
  • establishing a new DoD national cemetery.

MOAA believes it is crucially important for decision makers to consider the interests and desires of the potential affected populations if and when policies change. Veterans who may be eligible for burial at ANC should have a voice in the process, and Congress has indicated a strong desire to prioritize their inputs.

We surveyed our members, and found participants overwhelmingly rejected the idea of restricting retirees, with the majority preferring expansion options as the initial course of action. In fact, most participants favored closing ANC to future burials before excluding retirees.

ANC results

The ACANC document specifically abstained from making any recommendation. The tough decision going forward is in the hands of lawmakers and DoD officials. Nonetheless, the report clearly indicates changes to eligibility requirements and/or expansion of the cemetery's geographic footprint are required in order to extend ANC's capacity well into the future.

We appreciate the commitment to exploring all potential courses of action on this issue. Geographical expansion is a preferred solution, as confirmed in our member survey. One such project is currently underway, and 40 more acres of land should be available by 2022.

While restricting eligibility delays the debate far into the future, it is not a permanent solution. One way or another, space will run out, and our nation's heroes will be excluded in the end. Space limitation makes this a zero-sum game, and the clock is ticking.

“MOAA would like to see ANC remain open and active well into the future. We don't have a problem reserving a set number of plots for future Medal of Honor recipients and combat deaths. But we don't think an 80-year old retiree who's made plans for Arlington burial should lose eligibility to reserve space for an active duty member who dies in a car accident 150 or 200 years from now,” said MOAA Government Relations Vice President Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret).

“A lot can change over 50 or 75 years. The Pentagon hadn't been built 75 years ago, and lots of military installations have been “BRAC'ed” over the last 35. MOAA and other military and veterans' associations have told the committee we think all options for further expansion should be pursued before we start turning away vets who planned for ANC interment. We know procuring land can take a long time, so that process should start sooner rather than later.”

Next steps in the process are now out of the committee's hands. MOAA appreciates being allowed to join discussions related to ANC's capacity issues up to this point. We anticipate continuing thorough discussions on the path forward with legislative officials and DoD leadership and look forward to finding amicable solutions that preserve the dignity of the cemetery without disenfranchising servicemembers who want a place at Arlington.

MOAA recognizes how important this issue is to our members and will keep you informed as discussions continue.


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