'DAV, Other Groups Deplore Ploys to Stall POW-MIA Program'

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Linda Read
A delegate attending the POW/MIA seminar discusses the process of identification with Linda A. Read, Community Relations Officer of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, Pearl Harbor.

The DAV, other major veterans service organizations and POW/MIA family organizations recently objected to “nine months of broken promises” by the Department of Defense (DoD) in redirecting funding for the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIAs.

The July 13 statement also objected to the transfer of researchers and linguists from the USRJC and the recall of a budget submission for the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). Those moves would reduce staff and laboratory space needed for the global mission to recover and identify fallen service members.

The DoD review of the JPAC budget would reduce funding for the command, making it impossible to reach a congressionally mandated goal that JPAC recover and identify the remains of 200 or more MIAs annually by 2015. That is more than twice their current rate of recovery and identifications.

“It is regrettable that such diminishing actions are taking place at the DoD prior to commemorating National POW-MIA Day on Sept. 16,” Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski said. “In doing so, the DoD is acting in opposition to the interests of veterans and POW-MIA families.”

The USRJC is a presidential commission created in 1992 to help determine the fates of service members and civilians who disappeared behind the Iron Curtain during World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War. In return, the United States has provided information concerning Russian MIAs by helping resolve 455 cases for next-of-kin, releasing more than 55,000 pages of information and clarifying the fates of 450,000 missing Russian and Soviet citizens. The U.S. has also offered to help obtain information on former Soviet troops missing in Afghanistan.

“The DoD had previously agreed to reinstate, by the end of June, resources taken from the USRJC,” said Jesinoski. “By mid-July, DoD had ignored the directions of both the White House Offi ce of Management and Budget and the National Security Council. Further, this inaction grossly undermines the June appointment of Yekaterina Priyezzheva as the new USRJC co-chairman by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev.”

The DAV, other veterans service organizations and POW-MIA family groups sent a joint letter to Medvedev in June urging him to appoint a new Russian USRJC co-chairman in the wake of the DoD’s promise to restore manpower and funding to the commission.

The USRJC was idled in 2005 when Russia eliminated its co-chairman’s position, which ended U.S. access to Russia’s central military archives that contained a wealth of information regarding missing Americans.

“DoD’s actions could negate 19 years of progress that has permitted U.S. investigators to access Russia’s central military fi les and to interview eyewitnesses,” Jesinoski said.

“These actions are clearly a disconnect between the government’s and DAV’s goal of the fullest possible accounting of those missing in action or being held as prisoners of war,” Jesinoski said. “We cannot acquiesce to DoD’s unrelenting actions to ignore the wishes of Congress and the administration to find our missing service members and return them home.”

“It is our hope that the new Defense Department leadership will act with wisdom in putting a stop to the interference from some DoD officials. It’s time to re-educate those who think no one will care if they cut funds for the mission to find our missing,” Jesinoski said.

In addition to the DAV, the statement was endorsed by the American Legion, VFW, AMVETS, Jewish War Veterans, the Marine Corps League, the National League of POW/MIA Families and the Vietnam Veterans of America.