Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Dover Disposal of Remains is a "Breach of Trust"

December 8, 2011
Press Release

Roby Calls on Air Force Secretary to Personally Conduct Review of Records

In separate letters today, Rep. Martha Roby called on Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to personally oversee a review of burial records at Dover Air Force Base and for the House Armed Services Committee to hold oversight hearings into allegations that the partial remains of U.S. servicemen killed overseas were dumped in a landfill.

Roby’s letters are in response to recent news reports that the Air Force discarded the partial remains of 274 U.S. military personnel in a Virginia landfill.

Roby wrote, “Recent reports suggest that the instances of improper disposal may be far higher than originally known. Without further analysis, it is impossible to determine how often this practice occurred.

“This uncertainty will understandably cause anxiety and lingering grief for those families that lost loved ones during the period in question. With that in mind, I urge you to personally oversee a full review of the records at Dover Air Force Base to guarantee that every instance of improper disposal has been identified so that we may fully understand the extent and scope of this practice.”

Roby, a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, called on Committee Chairman Buck McKeon to hold hearings on the matter.

The text of Roby’s letters follow:

December 8, 2011

Michael Donley
Secretary of the Air Force
1670 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20330-1670

Dear Secretary Donley:

I write regarding news reports indicating that the U.S. Air Force secretly disposed of the partial remains of more than 270 American service personnel in a Virginia landfill rather than provide the dignified and respectful disposal process that these heroes deserve. According to reports, the Air Force has been hesitant to detail with specificity the number of remains subject to this practice, citing the “massive effort and time” required for a review of existing records.

I am confident that you share my view that these actions represent a significant breach of trust between the Air Force and our military families across the nation. If true, the policies formerly implemented at Dover Air Force Base were unacceptable and deplorable; the disposal of remains in a landfill falls well short of the “appropriate disposition” that families expected. These actions should continue to be condemned in the strongest terms possible. I appreciate that the Air Force has moved swiftly to remove from authority the individuals responsible, and I am pleased that new policies have been implemented at Dover Air Force Base to ensure that human remains are given a proper disposal at sea.

Even so, the information made public today in new reports raises troubling questions. More than 6,300 of our bravest fallen men and women have passed through the Dover Air Force Base facility. Recent reports suggest that the instances of improper disposal may be far higher than originally known. Without further analysis, it is impossible to determine how often this practice occurred.

This uncertainty will understandably cause anxiety and lingering grief for those families that lost loved ones during the period in question. With that in mind, I urge you to personally oversee a full review of the records at Dover Air Force Base to guarantee that every instance of improper disposal has been identified so that we may fully understand the extent and scope of this practice. Additionally, when possible, the Air Force should make the results of your review available to family members who seek truthful and accurate information about the final disposal of their loved one’s remains.

It is essential that the military keep faith with our service personnel and their families. The most basic elements of our pledge to them are a guarantee that the military will treat those lost in action with dignity and respect, and a promise that our government will be honest and forthright about the treatment their loved ones received.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

Very truly yours,

Martha Roby
United States Congress

 

December 8, 2011

Chairman Buck McKeon
House Committee on Armed Services
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman McKeon:

As you know, troubling news reports indicate that the U.S. Air Force improperly disposed of the partial remains of more than 270 American service personnel in a Virginia landfill rather than provide the dignified treatment that Americans expect for those lost in combat. I know you share my deep concern about the message this sends to our military families.

It is my understanding that the House Committee on Armed Services is actively engaged in this issue. I write today to request that the Committee make it a priority to hold an oversight hearing on this matter at the earliest practical time. Further, I hope the Committee will consider holding a field hearing at Dover Air Force Base to provide members with an opportunity to understand the policies and practices now in place to ensure that those lost in future combat operations are treated with dignity and respect throughout the burial process.

Thank you for your continued leadership on behalf of our military. I hope you will never hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you in this or any other matter.

Very truly yours,

Martha Roby
United States Congress

###