Surrounded by more than a dozen military veterans, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on Friday called for greater accountability and focus in the effort to recover remains of Americans killed in action overseas.
“I’m willing to spend whatever it takes to recover the remains of those who have fought for our country,” she said. “But my sense is, it is taking more than it should, longer than it should, and we’re not being as honest as we need to be about the likelihood of the remains being recovered.”
McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, made the statement at a news conference at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial.
The Pentagon says more than 83,000 Americans remain missing in action from the Cold War, World War II, and wars in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf region.
But by at least one account, the search for the remains of missing servicemen and women has been disorganized and dysfunctional. In July, The Associated Press reported on an internal, suppressed military study that sharply criticized recovery efforts.
Then last month, reports surfaced of staged arrival ceremonies for military remains. Veterans’ families were escorted to aircraft with flag-draped coffins, the reports said, and led to believe their loved ones were finally back on American soil.
In fact, the remains often had been under review on U.S. soil for months — and those planes with the flag-draped coffins couldn’t even fly.
On Friday, McCaskill called the practices unacceptable. She blamed the problem on a split command and an unclear line of responsibility.
“It’s been set up in a way that’s almost doomed to failure,” she said.
She has proposed legislative amendments requiring greater public accountability in the search for remains.