House panel to probe Dover AFB mortuary

Nov. 29, 2011 at 7:12 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A U.S. congressional panel said it will investigate the Dover Air Force Base mortuary where whistle-blowers reported missing body parts and mismanagement.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform informed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta by letter Monday it would examine allegations of "mismanagement, dishonesty and misconduct" at Dover dating back to Jan. 1, 2002, soon after the United States invaded Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported.

The Air Force inspector general reported earlier in November an investigation of incidents from 2009 and early 2010 found evidence of "gross mismanagement" and three supervisors were disciplined.

Responding to criticism from lawmakers and veterans groups, Panetta later asked Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to determine whether the punishment was too lenient. A finding is pending, the Post said.

Panetta also appointed a panel of public health experts to examine current operations at the Delaware air base.

Some lawmakers questioned whether the Air Force's investigation was adequate, citing a Post report saying the Dover mortuary disposed of cremated portions of troops' remains in a landfill in Virginia, a practice the Air Force said it ended in 2008.

The Pentagon "takes very seriously the need to look into the lapses that occurred at Dover Port Mortuary," Defense press secretary George Little said Monday. "That's why the secretary has appointed an outside board of experts to look into procedures at Dover, and we will continue to work with Congress as it looks into this matter. Dover is sacred military ground, and our fallen heroes deserve the highest respect."

The Post reported the mortuary has handled the remains of more than 6,300 service members killed overseas since Jan. 1, 2002.

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