S 885: A Bad Idea

S 885

We have been having some lively discussion here at the POW Warrior about the recent announcement of Senate Bill 885 introduced in March of this year by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).   The bill itself is very brief, summarized here:

National POW/MIA Remembrance Act of 2015

Directs the Architect of the Capitol to: (1) enter into an agreement to obtain a chair featuring the logo of the National League of POW/MIA Families, and (2) place it in the U.S. Capitol in a suitable permanent location within two years after enactment of this Act.”

While to many this may seem like a wonderful idea, we feel that this is nothing more than tokenism and subterfuge. Many factions of the POW/MIA community are pushing hard for this Act to be made into law and we have to ask the question, why?  Has Senator Warren been a stallworth supporter of our cause for decades?  Does she sit on any Senate committees that would be beneficial to us?  Does she plan on becoming our voice in the Senate?

The answer to all of these questions is “no.”  So, the next logical question is why would she sponsor such a bill if she has no history with our cause?  The answer is simple, she was preparing to run for the highest office in the land, she wanted to be our first female president.  This bill was a way for her to reach out to the masses and say, “I fought for a bill that would …”

We, collectively and individually, have been used, time and time again by those in Washington to fuel their reelection campaigns and insert themselves into an issue they know very little about simply because it looks good to their voters.  We are always a safe bet, who would dare (besides DPAA of course) mistreat, or disrespect a POW/MIA family member?  How many of us have gone to our representatives in Congress to get help with dealing with the DoD only to get either the run around or a half-baked effort to help us?  Publicly we are the golden calf, privately we are something they truly want to distance themselves from politically.

Look at Senators McCaskill and Ayotte.  Two years ago, they raked the then heads of DPMO and JPAC over the coals.  McCaskill was quoted as saying, “Get it freaking done!” and Ayotte, with her finger pointed across her name plate, told them, “Fix it, or we’ll fix it for you!”  Many of us cheered from our couches when these words were uttered.  Yet where were they as the reorganization turned into a mockery?  A source told us that while McCaskill’s office was well aware of the mess that was taking place, an aide alluded to the fact that they knew it was going to hell but that they didn’t have the power to tell the DoD how to do their job. In other words, they didn’t want to get involved.  Quite a 180-degree turn from the threats and finger-pointing when the cameras were rolling and the press were paying attention.

All of this, the sponsorship, the chair everything is nothing more than tokenism on the part of the very system that is supposed to be serving us.  We at the POW Warrior are sick and tired of groups who are more than willing to erect a memorial, organize a ceremony or hand out proclamations. We want politicians and veterans’ groups to get their hands dirty, to really learn the issue from the inside out, know why it is insane, for example, to have General (Ret.) Michael Linnington as the new head of DPAA.  His loyalties are not to the families or to the missing, they are specifically to himself and a one-way street to the DoD.  He was strategically placed on the third reorganization team so that he could take this post.  In fact, if you read the newsletter of one specific family group, you will see that he was recommended as part of the reorganization team by the only family group that the DoD has ever listened to.

We had to laugh at DASD Bardorf’s email today, announcing General Linnington at the new director of DPAA.

“As you know, he was also an advisor involved in all aspects of standing up the new agency.”

He has only been on board since January.  While a significant amount of work was done by Michael Lumpkin and the PACT, work which was heading in the right direction, much of that was thrown to the wayside because, as usual, someone wasn’t getting her way.

We at the POW Warrior want to see substantive insertion into the issue on the part of Congress.  We don’t need more memorials, wreaths or plaques, we need people who are going to act, people who are going to get involved long-term and help families get their loved ones home and correctly identified.  We are so over veterans’ groups who only get involved to a certain point and are afraid to step over a line. They would never put their membership in a bad light with the DoD or Congress.  If a veterans’ group had to choose between POW/MIAs and an issue that would help improve the lives of their card-carrying paid members, you know darn well that we will be left in the dust.

We need to get past the tokenism and the subterfuge and start to get real.

Man (or Woman) in the Mirror

man-in-mirror
The DOD’s Man in the Mirror

Yes, we know, it has been a while.  Our inbox has been hit hard with links to news stories and information that had been flooding in regarding the reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting agencies.  Things seemed to be moving in the right direction when Michael Lumpkin was the face of the reorganization, officially announced in March ’14.  All POW/MIA family organizations from all of the conflicts seemed to be poised and optimistic.

Even after the sudden change of direction in August/September when Lumpkin was replaced by Policy ASD Christine Wormouth.  The Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce – PACT – seemed to pick up the ball and still headed in the right direction.  Then mistakes started to  happen.  Followed by all of the backdoor negotiating and backstabbing that some people are famous for, actually infamous.  On October 31st, according to news articles from both Stars and Stripes and more recently, the Honolulu Register, Secretary Hagel held a conference call asking for a break for his staff to make sure everything was headed in the right direction.  The two-week break became a two month break and then. out of left field, we got a whole new group of people to temporarily head the reorganization.

From reports and emails, this new group has decided to make the families the enemy.  They are reading group websites, checking non-profit statuses and playing Big Brother.  Then, if they find anything to their disliking, they are trampling on the 1st Amendment and tell families that they can’t be part of the process until they behave?

Well, here is a thought … We may have only skimmed the GAO report and read the beginning of the DOD’s Inspector General’s report but, we’re pretty sure that the phrase “highly dysfunctional” was used to describe the DOD, NOT the families or any family group.   We’re pretty sure that the questionable leadership outlined in these reports were within DPMO and JPAC, not the families.  In fact, the reports tasked you with improving relationships with the families and re-establishing trust.  You have done the complete opposite.

Why not start with the man or woman in the mirror, DOD?  Why not worry about your own house before you go looking for problems in someone else’s?  From what we have seen in the past, oh, 40 years – you have plenty there to keep you busy.   Is this how you fix what is broken in your own house?  Silencing your critics?  Ignoring the past?  Making families out to be the bad guys after decades of your own abuse?  And to what end?  To punish families further for wanting the truth about their missing loved one?  For expecting the DOD to keep its word and then holding your feet to the fire when you don’t?

You aren’t the victims here.

Maybe that is really the problem here – you don’t know how to fix your own problems …. so it is just easier to point out flaws in your victims.  Then blame your failure on us?