oversight

Arlington National Cemetery: Actions Taken and Steps Remaining to Address Contracting and Management Challenges

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-01-25.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                              United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                           Testimony
                              Before the Subcommittee on Contracting
                              Oversight, Committee on Homeland
                              Security and Governmental Affairs,
                              U.S. Senate
                              ARLINGTON NATIONAL
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2:30 p.m. EST
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

                              CEMETERY
                              Actions Taken and Steps
                              Remaining to Address
                              Contracting and
                              Management Challenges
                              Statement of Brian J. Lepore
                              Director, Defense Capabilities and Management

                              and
                              Belva M. Martin
                              Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management




GAO-12-374T
                                              January 25, 2012

                                              ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
                                              Actions Taken and Steps Remaining to Address
                                              Contracting and Management Challenges
Highlights of GAO-12-374T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Contracting
Oversight, Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate



Why GAO Did This Study                        What GAO Found
Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington)       GAO identified 56 contracts and task orders that were active during fiscal year
contains the remains of more than             2010 and the first three quarters of fiscal year 2011 under which contracting
330,000 military servicemembers, their        offices obligated roughly $35.2 million on Arlington’s behalf. These contracts
family members, and others. In June           supported cemetery operations, construction and facility maintenance, and new
2010, the Army Inspector General              efforts to enhance information technology systems for the automation of burial
identified problems at the cemetery,          operations. The Army has taken a number of steps since June 2010 at different
including deficiencies in contracting         levels to provide for more effective management and oversight of contracts,
and management, burial errors, and a          establishing new support relationships, formalizing policies and procedures, and
failure to notify next of kin of errors. In
                                              increasing the use of dedicated contracting staff to manage and improve its
response, the Secretary of the Army
                                              acquisition processes. However, GAO found that ANCP does not maintain
issued guidance creating the position
of the Executive Director of the Army
                                              complete data on its contracts, responsibilities for contracting support are not yet
National Cemeteries Program (ANCP)            fully defined, and dedicated contract staffing arrangements still need to be
to manage Arlington and requiring             determined. The success of Arlington’s acquisition outcomes will depend on
changes to address the deficiencies           continued management focus from ANCP and its contracting partners to ensure
and improve cemetery operations. In           sustained attention to contract management and institutionalize progress made
response to Public Law 111-339, GAO           to date. GAO made three recommendations to continue improvements in
assessed several areas, including             contract management. The Department of Defense (DOD) partially concurred
(1) actions taken to improve contract         and noted actions in progress to address these areas.
management and oversight, (2) the
                                              The Army has taken positive steps and implemented improvements to address
Army’s efforts to address identified
management deficiencies and provide           other management deficiencies and to provide information and assistance to
information and assistance to families        families. It has implemented improvements across a broad range of areas at
regarding efforts to detect and correct       Arlington, including developing procedures for ensuring accountability over
burial errors, and (3) factors affecting      remains and improving its capability to respond to the public and to families’
the feasibility and advisability of           inquiries. Nevertheless, the Army has remaining management challenges in
transferring jurisdiction for the Army’s      several areas—managing information technology investments, updating
national cemeteries to the Department         workforce plans, developing an organizational assessment program, coordinating
of Veterans Affairs (VA). The                 with key partners, developing a strategic plan, and developing guidance for
information in this testimony                 providing assistance to families. GAO made six recommendations to help
summarizes GAO’s recent reports on            address these areas. DOD concurred or partially concurred and has begun to
Arlington contracting (GAO-12-99) and         take some corrective actions.
management (GAO-12-105). These
reports are based on, among other             A transfer of jurisdiction for the Army’s two national cemeteries to VA is feasible
things, analyzing guidance, policies,         based on historical precedent for the national cemeteries and examples of other
plans, contract files, and other              reorganization efforts in the federal government. However, several factors may
documentation from the Army,                  affect the advisability of making such a change, including the potential costs and
Arlington, and other organizations and        benefits, potential transition challenges, and the potential effect on Arlington’s
interviews with Army and VA officials.        unique characteristics. In addition, given that the Army has taken steps to
                                              address deficiencies at Arlington and has improved its management, it may be
What GAO Recommends                           premature to move forward with a change in jurisdiction, particularly if other
In the reports, GAO made several              options for improvement exist that entail less disruption. GAO identified
recommendations to help Arlington             opportunities for enhancing collaboration between the Army and VA that could
sustain progress made to date.                leverage their strengths and potentially lead to improvements at all national
                                              cemeteries. GAO recommended that the Army and VA develop a mechanism to
                                              formalize collaboration between these organizations. DOD and VA concurred
                                              with this recommendation.
View GAO-12-374T. For more information,
contact Brian Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or
leporeb@gao.gov and Belva Martin at (202)
512-4841 or martinb@gao.gov.
                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
Chairman McCaskill, Ranking Member Portman, and Members of the
Subcommittee:

We are pleased to be here today to discuss the Army’s progress in
addressing contracting and management challenges identified at
Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington), opportunities for collaboration
between the Army and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well
as steps remaining to ensure sound management of the cemetery going
forward. Beginning in 2009, the Army’s management of Arlington came
under intense scrutiny following the discovery of burial errors and the
identification of serious contracting and other management deficiencies
affecting cemetery operations. In June 2010, the Army Inspector General
(Army IG) reported on numerous deficiencies and made more than 100
recommendations for corrective action, which covered a span of issues,
including cemetery policies and procedures, management and training,
command structures, information assurance compliance, and
contracting. 1 After the Army IG’s inspection findings were released, the
Secretary of the Army assigned new leadership to Arlington, including the
new position of Executive Director of the Army National Cemeteries
Program (ANCP), 2 and issued Army Directive 2010-04 requiring a
number of changes to address the identified deficiencies and improve
cemetery operations. 3 In the time since these actions, the Army has taken
positive steps to address critical areas and implement improvements, and
we continue to be encouraged by these efforts. However, our work points
to the need for further action to ensure that the positive changes made
thus far are institutionalized and will prove lasting over the long term.

Our statement today is based on two reports issued on December 15,
2011, as required by Public Law 111-339. 4 The first discusses (1) the
number, duration of, and dollar amount spent on current contracts used to
support operations at Arlington and (2) the extent to which the Army has
put processes and procedures in place to provide for the effective


1
 U.S. Army, Inspector General Agency, Special Inspection of Arlington National Cemetery
Final Report (Washington, D.C.: June 2010).
2
  The Executive Director oversees Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and the
Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
3
 Army Directive 2010-04, Enhancing the Operations and Oversight of the Army National
Cemeteries Program (June 10, 2010).
4
    Pub. L. No. 111-339 (2010).




Page 1                                                                      GAO-12-374T
management and oversight of contracts supporting Arlington. 5 The
second discusses (1) the Army’s efforts to address identified
management deficiencies; (2) the Army’s process for providing
information and assistance to families regarding efforts to detect and
correct burial errors; and (3) factors that may affect the feasibility or
advisability of transferring jurisdiction for the Army's two national
cemeteries to VA, as well as issues related to collaboration between
these agencies. 6

For these two reports we conducted work at Arlington and other offices
and agencies within the Department of the Army, including the Military
District of Washington, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, the Army
Contracting Command, the Mission and Installation Contracting
Command (MICC), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE),
among others. We also conducted work at VA and contacted veteran
service organizations and private industry associations. We reviewed
documents pertaining to previously identified deficiencies, including the
Army IG’s 2010 inspection and investigation of Arlington, the results of
two follow-up inspections conducted by the Army IG in 2011, and Army
Directive 2010-04. We obtained information from knowledgeable officials
about the steps taken to respond to the Army IG's findings and to
implement the Army's directive. In addition, we analyzed data from
contracting offices and other sources on contracts active during fiscal
years 2010 and 2011 and above $100,000 and reviewed contract files;
analyzed guidance, policies, plans, and other documentation from
Arlington and other organizations; and interviewed agency officials to
assess efforts to improve contract management. To identify factors that
may affect the feasibility or advisability of transferring jurisdiction for the
Army’s national cemeteries to VA, we reviewed our prior work on federal
government reorganization, reviewed the legislative history of the
National Cemeteries Act of 1973, 7 and obtained pertinent documents and
interviewed officials from the Army and VA, including the Secretary of the
Army and VA’s Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs. We conducted this



5
  GAO, Arlington National Cemetery: Additional Actions Needed to Continue
Improvements in Contract Management, GAO-12-99 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 15, 2011).
6
 GAO, Arlington National Cemetery: Management Improvements Made, but a Strategy is
Needed to Address Remaining Challenges, GAO-12-105 (Washington D.C.: Dec. 15,
2011).
7
    Pub. L. No. 93-43 (1973).




Page 2                                                                 GAO-12-374T
                       work from March 2011 through December 2011 in accordance with
                       generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards
                       require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate
                       evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions
                       based on our audit work. We believe that the evidence obtained provides
                       a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
                       objectives.

                       The Army has taken a number of steps since June 2010 at different levels
Management of          to provide for more effective management and oversight of contracts
Arlington Contracts    supporting Arlington, including improving visibility of contracts,
                       establishing new support relationships, formalizing policies and
Improved, but          procedures, and increasing the use of dedicated contracting staff to
Additional Steps Are   manage and improve acquisition processes. While significant progress
Needed to Ensure       has been made, we have recommended that the Army take further action
                       in these areas to ensure continued improvement and institutionalize
Continued Progress     progress made to date. These recommendations and the agency's
                       response are discussed later in this statement.

                       Arlington does not have its own contracting authority and, as such, relies
                       on other contracting offices to award and manage contracts on its behalf.
                       ANCP receives contracting support in one of two main ways, either by (1)
                       working directly with contracting offices to define requirements, ensure
                       the appropriate contract vehicle, and provide contract oversight, or (2)
                       partnering with another program office to leverage expertise and get help
                       with defining requirements and providing contract oversight. Those
                       program offices, in turn, use other contracting arrangements to obtain
                       services and perform work for Arlington. Using data from multiple
                       sources, we identified 56 contracts and task orders that were active
                       during fiscal year 2010 and the first three quarters of fiscal year 2011
                       under which these contracting offices obligated roughly $35.2 million on
                       Arlington’s behalf. These contracts and task orders supported cemetery
                       operations, such as landscaping, custodial, and guard services;
                       construction and facility maintenance; and new efforts to enhance
                       information technology systems for the automation of burial operations.
                       Figure 1 identifies the contracting relationships, along with the number of
                       contracts and dollars obligated by contracting office, for the contracts and
                       task orders we reviewed.




                       Page 3                                                           GAO-12-374T
Figure 1: Distribution of Arlington Contracts by Office




                                          a
                                           Figure represents contracts or task orders active during fiscal year 2010 and the first three quarters
                                          of fiscal year 2011 and above $100,000.
                                          b
                                           The Mission and Installation Contracting Command as well as the National Capital Region
                                          contracting office are part of the Army Contracting Command.


                                          At the time of our review, we found that ANCP did not maintain complete
                                          data on contracts supporting its operations. We have previously reported
                                          that the effective acquisition of services requires reliable data to enable




                                          Page 4                                                                                    GAO-12-374T
informed management decisions. 8 Without complete data, ANCP
leadership may be without sufficient information to identify, track, and
ensure the effective management and oversight of its contracts. While we
obtained information on Arlington contracts from various sources,
limitations associated with each of these sources make identifying and
tracking Arlington’s contracts as a whole difficult. For example:

•   Internal ANCP data. A contract specialist detailed to ANCP in
    September 2010 developed and maintained a spreadsheet to identify
    and track data for specific contracts covering daily cemetery
    operations and maintenance services. Likewise, ANCP resource
    management staff maintain a separate spreadsheet that tracks
    purchase requests and some associated contracts, as well as the
    amount of funding provided to other organizations through the use of
    military interdepartmental purchase requests. Neither of these
    spreadsheets identifies the specific contracts and obligations
    associated with Arlington’s current information technology and
    construction requirements.
•   Existing contract and financial systems. The Federal Procurement
    Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) is the primary system used
    to track governmentwide contract data, including those for the
    Department of Defense (DOD) and the Army. The Arlington funding
    office identification number, a unique code that is intended to identify
    transactions specific to Arlington, is not consistently used in this
    system and, in fact, was used for only 34 of the 56 contracts in our
    review. In October 2010 and consistent with a broader Army initiative,
    ANCP implemented the General Fund Enterprise Business System
    (GFEBS) 9 to enhance financial management and oversight and to
    improve its capability to track expenditures. We found that data in this
    system did not identify the specific information technology contracts
    supported by the Army Communications-Electronics Command, Army
    Geospatial Center, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon
    Systems Support office, and others. Officials at ANCP and at the
    MICC-Fort Belvoir stated that they were exploring the use of
    additional data resources to assist in tracking Arlington contracts,
    including the Virtual Contracting Enterprise, an electronic tool


8
 GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Tailored Approach Needed to Improve Service Acquisition
Outcomes, GAO-07-20 (Washington D.C.: Nov., 9, 2006).
9
 GFEBS is intended to improve financial, asset, and real property management and
standardize processes across the Army.




Page 5                                                                    GAO-12-374T
      intended to help enable visibility and analysis of elements of the
      contracting process.
•     Contracting support organizations. We also found that Army
      contracting offices had difficulty in readily providing complete and
      accurate data to us on Arlington contracts. For example, the National
      Capital Region Contracting Center could not provide a complete list of
      active contracts supporting Arlington during fiscal years 2010 and
      2011 and in some cases did not provide accurate dollar amounts
      associated with the contracts it identified. USACE also had difficulty
      providing a complete list of active Arlington contracts for this time
      frame. The MICC-Fort Belvoir contracting office was able to provide a
      complete list of the recently awarded contracts supporting Arlington
      with accurate dollar amounts for this time frame, and those data were
      supported by similar information from Arlington.

The Army has also taken a number of steps to better align ANCP contract
support with the expertise of its partners. However, some of the
agreements governing these relationships do not yet fully define roles and
responsibilities for contracting support. We have previously reported that
a key factor in improving DOD’s service acquisition outcomes—that is,
obtaining the right service, at the right price, in the right manner—is
having defined responsibilities and associated support structures. 10 Going
forward, sustained attention on the part of ANCP and its partners will be
important to ensure that contracts of all types and risk levels are
managed effectively. The following summarizes ongoing efforts in this
area:

•     ANCP established a new contracting support agreement with the
      Army Contracting Command in August 2010. The agreement states
      that the command will assign appropriate contracting offices to
      provide support, in coordination with ANCP, and will conduct joint
      periodic reviews of new and ongoing contract requirements. In April
      2011, ANCP also signed a separate agreement with the MICC, part of
      the Army Contracting Command, which outlines additional
      responsibilities for providing contracting support to ANCP. While this
      agreement states that the MICC, through the Fort Belvoir contracting
      office, will provide the full range of contracting support, it does not




10
    GAO-07-20.




Page 6                                                            GAO-12-374T
    specify the types of requirements that will be supported, nor does it
    specify that other offices within the command may also do so.
•   ANCP signed an updated support agreement with USACE in
    December 2010, which states that these organizations will coordinate
    to assign appropriate offices to provide contracting support and that
    USACE will provide periodic joint reviews of ongoing and upcoming
    requirements. At the time of our review, USACE officials noted that
    they were in the process of finalizing an overarching program
    management plan with ANCP, which, if implemented, provides
    additional detail about the structure of and roles and responsibilities
    for support. USACE and ANCP have also established a Senior
    Executive Review Group, which updates the senior leadership at both
    organizations on the status of ongoing efforts.
•   ANCP has also put agreements in place with the Army Information
    Technology Agency (ITA) and the Army Analytics Group, which
    provide program support for managing information technology
    infrastructure and enhance operational capabilities. Officials at ANCP
    decided to leverage this existing Army expertise, rather than
    attempting to develop such capabilities independently as was the
    case under the previous Arlington management. For example, the
    agreement in place with ITA identifies the services that will be
    provided to Arlington, performance metrics against which ITA will be
    measured, as well as Arlington’s responsibilities. These organizations
    are also responsible for managing the use of contracts in support of
    their efforts; however, the agreement with ANCP does not specifically
    address roles and responsibilities associated with the use and
    management of these contracts supporting Arlington requirements.
    Although officials from these organizations told us that they currently
    understand their responsibilities, without being clearly defined in the
    existing agreements, roles and responsibilities may be less clear in
    the future when personnel change.

ANCP has developed new internal policies and procedures and improved
training for staff serving as contracting officer’s representatives, and has
dedicated additional staff resources to improve contract management.
Many of these efforts were in process at the time of our review, including
decisions on contracting staff needs, and their success will depend on
continued management attention. The following summarizes our findings
in this area:

•   Arlington has taken several steps to more formally define its own
    internal policies and procedures for contract management. In July
    2010, the Executive Director of ANCP issued guidance stating that the



Page 7                                                           GAO-12-374T
     Army Contracting Command and USACE are the only authorized
     contracting centers for Arlington. Further, ANCP is continuing efforts
     to (1) develop standard operating procedures associated with
     purchase requests; (2) develop memorandums for all ANCP
     employees that outline principles of the procurement process, as well
     as training requirements for contracting officer’s representatives; and
     (3) create a common location for reference materials and information
     associated with Arlington contracts. In May 2011, the Executive
     Director issued guidance requiring contracting officer’s representative
     training for all personnel assigned to perform that role, and at the time
     of our review, all of the individuals serving as contracting officer’s
     representatives had received training for that position.
•    ANCP, in coordination with the MICC-Fort Belvoir contracting office is
     evaluating staffing requirements to determine the appropriate number,
     skill level, and location of contracting personnel. In July 2010, the
     Army completed a study that assessed Arlington’s manpower
     requirements and identified the need for three full-time contract
     specialist positions. While these positions have not been filled to date,
     ANCP’s needs have instead been met through the use of staff
     provided by the MICC. At the time of our review, the MICC-Fort
     Belvoir was providing a total of 10 contracting staff positions in
     support of Arlington, 5 of which are funded by ANCP, with the other 5
     funded by the MICC-Fort Belvoir to help ensure adequate support for
     Arlington requirements. ANCP officials have identified the need for a
     more senior contracting specialist and stated that they intend to
     request an update to their staffing allowance for fiscal year 2013 to fill
     this new position.

Prior reviews of Arlington have identified numerous issues with contracts
in place prior to the new leadership at ANCP. 11 While our review of similar
contracts found common concerns, we also found that contracts and task
orders awarded since June 2010 reflect improvements in acquisition
practices. Our previous contracting-related work has identified the need to
have well-defined requirements, sound business arrangements (i.e.,
contracts in place), and the right oversight mechanisms to ensure positive
outcomes. We found examples of improved documentation, better



11
 For example, see U.S. Army, Inspector General Agency, Special Inspection of Arlington
National Cemetery Final Report (Washington, D.C.: June 2010) and Army Audit Agency,
Contracting Operations in Support of Arlington National Cemetery: Army Contracting
Command National Capital Region, A-2012-0021-ALC (Alexandria, Va.: 2011).




Page 8                                                                    GAO-12-374T
                    definition and consolidation of existing requirements for services
                    supporting daily cemetery operations, and more specific requirements for
                    contractor performance. At the time of our review, many of these efforts
                    were still under way, so while initial steps taken reflect improvement, their
                    ultimate success is not yet certain.

                    The Army has also taken positive steps and implemented improvements
Army Has Made       to address other management deficiencies and to provide information and
Progress in         assistance to families. It has implemented improvements across a broad
                    range of areas at Arlington, including developing procedures for ensuring
Addressing Other    accountability over remains, taking actions to better provide information-
Management          assurance, and improving its capability to respond to the public and to
Deficiencies at     families’ inquiries. For example, Arlington officials have updated and
                    documented the cemetery’s chain-of-custody procedures for remains, to
Arlington, but      include multiple verification steps by staff members and the tracking of
Challenges Remain   decedent information through a daily schedule, electronic databases, and
                    tags affixed to urns and caskets entering Arlington. Nevertheless, we
                    identified several areas where challenges remain:

                    •    Managing information-technology investments. Since June 2010,
                         ANCP has invested in information-technology improvements to
                         correct existing problems at Arlington and has begun projects to
                         further enhance the cemetery’s information-technology capabilities.
                         However, these investments and planned improvements are not yet
                         guided by an enterprise architecture 12—or modernization blueprint.
                         Our experience has shown that developing this type of architecture
                         can help minimize risk of developing systems that are duplicative,
                         poorly integrated, and unnecessarily costly to maintain. 13 ANCP is
                         working to develop an enterprise architecture, and officials told us in
                         January that they expect the architecture will be finalized in
                         September 2012. Until the architecture is in place and ANCP’s
                         ongoing and planned information technology investments are
                         assessed against that architecture, ANCP lacks assurance that these
                         investments will be aligned with its future operational environment,


                    12
                      An enterprise architecture comprises a set of descriptive models (e.g., diagrams and
                    tables) that define, in business terms and in technology terms, how an organization
                    operates today, how it intends to operate in the future, and how it intends to invest in
                    technology to transition from today’s operational environment to that of the future.
                    13
                     GAO, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save
                    Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-11-318SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 1, 2011).




                    Page 9                                                                         GAO-12-374T
    increasing the risk that modernization efforts will not adequately meet
    the organization’s needs.
•   Updating workforce plans. The Army took a number of positive steps
    to address deficiencies in its workforce plans, including completing an
    initial assessment of its organizational structure in July 2010 after the
    Army IG found that Arlington was significantly understaffed. However,
    ANCP’s staffing requirements and business processes have
    continued to evolve, and these changes have made that initial
    workforce assessment outdated. Since the July 2010 assessment,
    officials have identified the need for a number of new positions,
    including positions in ANCP’s public-affairs office and a new security
    and emergency-response group. Additionally, Arlington has revised a
    number of its business processes, which could result in a change in
    staffing needs. Although ANCP has adjusted its staffing levels to
    address emerging requirements, its staffing needs have not been
    formally reassessed. Our prior work has demonstrated that this kind of
    assessment can improve workforce planning, which can enable an
    organization to remain aware of and be prepared for its current and
    future needs as an organization. ANCP officials have periodically
    updated Arlington’s organizational structure as they identify new
    requirements, and officials told us in January that they plan to
    completely reassess staffing within ANCP in the summer of 2012 to
    ensure that it has the staff needed to achieve its goals and objectives.
    Until this reassessment is completed and documented, ANCP lacks
    assurance that it has the correct number and types of staff needed to
    achieve its goals and objectives.
•   Developing an organizational assessment program. Since 2009
    ANCP has been the subject of a number of audits and assessments
    by external organizations that have reviewed many aspects of its
    management and operations, but it has not yet developed its own
    assessment program for evaluating and improving cemetery
    performance on a continuous basis. Both the Army IG and VA have
    noted the importance of assessment programs in identifying and
    enabling improvements of cemetery operations to ensure that
    cemetery standards are met. Further, the Army has emphasized the
    importance of maintaining an inspection program that includes a
    management tool to identify, prevent, or eliminate problem areas. At
    the time of our review, ANCP officials told us they were in the process
    of developing an assessment program and were adapting VA’s
    program to meet the needs of the Army’s national cemeteries. ANCP
    officials estimated in January that they will be ready to perform their
    first self-assessment in late 2012. Until ANCP institutes an
    assessment program that includes an ability to complete a self-
    assessment of operations and an external assessment by cemetery


Page 10                                                           GAO-12-374T
     subject-matter experts, it is limited in its ability to evaluate and
     improve aspects of cemetery performance.
•    Coordinating with key partners. While ANCP has improved its
     coordination with other Army organizations, we found that it has
     encountered challenges in coordinating with key operational partners,
     such as the Military District of Washington, the military service honor
     guards, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. 14 Officials from these
     organizations told us that communication and collaboration with
     Arlington have improved, but they have encountered challenges and
     there are opportunities for continued improvement. For example,
     officials from the Military District of Washington and the military
     service honor guards indicated that at times they have experienced
     difficulties working with Arlington’s Interment Scheduling Branch and
     provided records showing that from June 24, 2010, through December
     15, 2010, there were at least 27 instances where scheduling conflicts
     took place. 15 These challenges are due in part to a lack of written
     agreements that fully define how these operational partners will
     support and interact with Arlington. Our prior work has found that
     agencies can derive benefits from enhancing and sustaining their
     collaborative efforts by institutionalizing these efforts with agreements
     that define common outcomes, establish agreed-upon roles and
     responsibilities, identify mechanisms used to monitor and evaluate
     collaborative efforts, and enable the organizations to leverage their
     resources. 16 ANCP has a written agreement in place with Joint Base
     Myer-Henderson Hall, but this agreement does not address the full
     scope of how these organizations work together. Additionally, ANCP
     has drafted, but has not yet signed, a memorandum of agreement
     with the Military District of Washington. ANCP has not drafted
     memorandums of agreement with the military service honor guards



14
  The Military District of Washington coordinates all official ceremonies at Arlington,
including wreath-laying ceremonies and state funerals. The military services provide burial
honors for private funeral and memorial services, and the Army provides ceremonial
support including the Sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Joint Base Myer-Henderson
Hall, located adjacent to Arlington, provides numerous installation-support services to
Arlington, including emergency services and ceremonial support such as facilities, bus
transportation, and traffic control.
15
  Scheduling conflicts included scheduling the wrong honor guard for a funeral and
scheduling funerals during times that the honor guards had blocked off to enable them to
meet their other responsibilities outside of Arlington.
16
 GAO, Results-Oriented Government: Practices That Can Help Enhance and Sustain
Collaboration among Federal Agencies, GAO-06-15 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2005).




Page 11                                                                       GAO-12-374T
     despite each military service honor guard having its own scheduling
     procedure that it implements directly with Arlington and each service
     working with Arlington to address operational challenges. ANCP, by
     developing memorandums of agreement with its key operational
     partners, will be better positioned to ensure effective collaboration
     with these organizations and help to minimize future communication
     and coordination challenges.
•    Developing a strategic plan. Although ANCP officials have been
     taking steps to address challenges at Arlington, at the time of our
     review they had not adopted a strategic plan aimed at achieving the
     cemetery’s longer-term goals. An effective strategic plan can help
     managers to prioritize goals; identify actions, milestones, and
     resource requirements for achieving those goals; and establish
     measures for assessing progress and outcomes. Our prior work has
     shown that leading organizations prepare strategic plans that define a
     clear mission statement, a set of outcome-related goals, and a
     description of how the organization intends to achieve those goals. 17
     Without a strategic plan, ANCP is not well positioned to ensure that
     cemetery improvements are in line with the organizational mission
     and achieve desired outcomes. ANCP officials told us during our
     review that they were at a point where the immediate crisis at the
     cemetery had subsided and they could focus their efforts on
     implementing their longer-term goals and priorities. In January, ANCP
     officials showed us a newly developed campaign plan. While we have
     not evaluated this plan, our preliminary review found that it contains
     elements of an effective strategic plan, including expected outcomes
     and objectives for the cemetery and related performance metrics and
     milestones.
•    Developing written guidance for providing assistance to families. After
     the Army IG issued its findings in June 2010, numerous families called
     Arlington to verify the burial locations of their loved ones. ANCP
     developed a protocol for investigating these cases and responding to
     the families. Our review found that ANCP implemented this protocol,
     and we reviewed file documentation for a sample of these cases. In
     reviewing the assistance provided by ANCP when a burial error
     occurred, we found that ANCP’s Executive Director or Chief of Staff
     contacted the affected families. ANCP’s Executive Director—in
     consultation with cemetery officials and affected families— made



17
 GAO, Executive Guide: Effectively Implementing the Government Performance and
Results Act, GAO/GGD-96-118 (Washington, D.C.: June 1996).




Page 12                                                                GAO-12-374T
                           decisions on a case-by-case basis about the assistance that was
                           provided to each family. For instance, some families who lived outside
                           of the Washington, D.C., area were reimbursed for hotel and travel
                           costs. However, the factors that were considered when making these
                           decisions were not documented in a written policy. In its June 2010
                           report, the Army IG noted in general that the absence of written
                           policies left Arlington at risk of developing knowledge gaps as
                           employees leave the cemetery. By developing written guidance that
                           addresses the cemetery’s interactions with families affected by burial
                           errors, ANCP could identify pertinent DOD and Army regulations and
                           other guidance that should be considered when making such
                           decisions. Also, with written guidance the program staff could identify
                           the types of assistance that can be provided to families. In January,
                           ANCP provided us with a revised protocol for both agency-identified
                           and family member-initiated gravesite inquiries. The revised protocol
                           provides guidance on the cemetery's interactions with the next of kin
                           and emphasizes the importance of maintaining transparency and
                           open communication with affected families.

                       A transfer of jurisdiction for the Army’s two national cemeteries to VA is
Formal Collaboration   feasible based on historical precedent for the national cemeteries and
between the Army       examples of other reorganization efforts in the federal government.
                       However, we identified several factors that may affect the advisability of
and VA Could Lead to   making such a change, including the potential costs and benefits,
Improvements across    potential transition challenges, and the potential effect on Arlington’s
All National           unique characteristics. In addition, given that the Army has taken steps to
                       address deficiencies at Arlington and has improved its management, it
Cemeteries             may be premature to move forward with a change in jurisdiction,
                       particularly if other options for improvement exist that entail less
                       disruption. During our review, we identified opportunities for enhancing
                       collaboration between the Army and VA that could leverage their
                       strengths and potentially lead to improvements at all national cemeteries.

                       Transferring cemetery jurisdiction could have both benefits and costs. Our
                       prior work suggests that government reorganization can provide an
                       opportunity for greater effectiveness in program management and result
                       in improved efficiency over the long-term, and can also result in short-




                       Page 13                                                          GAO-12-374T
term operational costs. 18 At the time of our review, Army and VA officials
told us they were not aware of relevant studies that may provide insight
into the potential benefits and costs of making a change in cemetery
jurisdiction. However, our review identified areas where VA’s and the
Army’s national cemeteries have similar, but not identical, needs and
have developed independent capabilities to meet those needs. For
example, each agency has its own staff, processes, and systems for
determining burial eligibility and scheduling and managing burials. While
consolidating these capabilities may result in long-term efficiencies, there
could also be challenges and short-term costs.

Potential transition challenges may arise in transferring cemetery
jurisdiction. Army and VA cemeteries have similar operational
requirements to provide burial services for service members, veterans,
and veterans’ family members; however, officials identified areas where
the organizations differ and stated that there could be transition
challenges if VA were to manage Arlington, including challenges
pertaining to the regulatory framework, appropriations structure, and
contracts. For example, Arlington has more restrictive eligibility criteria for
in-ground burials, which has the result of limiting the number of
individuals eligible for burial at the cemetery. If Arlington cemetery were to
be subject to the same eligibility criteria as VA’s cemeteries, the eligibility
for in-ground burials at Arlington would be greatly expanded. 19
Additionally, the Army’s national cemeteries are funded through a
different appropriations structure than VA’s national cemeteries. If the
Army’s national cemeteries were transferred to VA, Congress would have
to choose whether to alter the funding structure currently in place for
Arlington.

Other factors that may affect the advisability of transferring jurisdiction
pertain to the potential effect on Arlington’s unique characteristics. These
characteristics include the following:




18
  GAO, Federal Land Management: Observations on a Possible Move of the Forest
Service into the Department of the Interior, GAO-09-223 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11,
2009).
19
  Burial eligibility at VA’s national cemeteries is governed by 38 U.S.C. § 2402 and 38
C.F.R. § 38.620. Burial eligibility at Arlington is governed by 38 U.S.C. § 2410 and 32
C.F.R. § 553.15.




Page 14                                                                       GAO-12-374T
•    Mission and vision statements. The Army and VA have developed
     their own mission and vision statements for their national cemeteries
     that differ in several ways. Specifically, VA seeks to be a model of
     excellence for burials and memorials, while Arlington seeks to be the
     nation’s premier military cemetery.
•    Military honors provided to veterans. The Army and VA have varying
     approaches to providing military funeral honors. VA is not responsible
     for providing honors to veterans, and VA cemeteries generally are not
     involved in helping families obtain military honors from DOD. In
     contrast, Arlington provides a range of burial honors depending on
     whether an individual is a service member killed in action, a veteran,
     or an officer.
•    Ceremonies and special events. Arlington hosts a large number of
     ceremonies and special events in a given year, some of which may
     involve the President of the United States as well as visiting heads of
     state. From June 10, 2010, through October 1, 2011, Arlington hosted
     more than 3,200 wreath-laying ceremonies, over 70 memorial
     ceremonies, and 19 state visits, in addition to Veterans Day and
     Memorial Day ceremonies, and also special honors for Corporal Frank
     Buckles, the last American servicemember from World War I. VA
     officials told us that their cemeteries do not support a similar volume
     of ceremonies, and as a result they have less experience in this area
     than the Army.
During our review, we found that there are opportunities to expand
collaboration between the Army and VA that could improve the efficiency
and effectiveness of these organizations’ cemetery operations. Our prior
work has shown that achieving results for the nation increasingly requires
that federal agencies work together, and when considering the nation’s
long-range fiscal challenges, the federal government must identify ways
to deliver results more efficiently and in a way that is consistent with its
limited resources. 20 Since the Army IG issued its findings in June 2010,
the Army and VA have taken steps to partner more effectively. The
Army’s hiring of several senior VA employees to help manage Arlington
has helped to foster collaboration, and the two agencies signed a
memorandum of understanding that allows ANCP employees to attend
classes at VA’s National Training Center.




20
 GAO, Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save
Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue, GAO-11-318SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar, 1, 2011).




Page 15                                                                GAO-12-374T
                      However, the Army and VA may have opportunities to collaborate and
                      avoid duplication in other areas that could benefit the operations of either
                      or both cemetery organizations. For example, the Army and VA are
                      upgrading or redesigning some of their core information technology
                      systems supporting cemetery operations. By continuing to collaborate in
                      this area, the agencies can better ensure that their information-technology
                      systems are able to communicate, thereby helping to prevent operational
                      challenges stemming from a lack of compatibility between these systems
                      in the future. In addition, each agency may have specialized capabilities
                      that it could share with the other. VA, for example, has staff dedicated to
                      determining burial eligibility, and the Army has an agency that provides
                      geographic-information-system and global-positioning-system
                      capabilities—technologies that VA officials said that they are examining
                      for use at VA’s national cemeteries.

                      While the Army and VA have taken steps to improve collaboration, at the
                      time of our review the agencies had not established a formal mechanism
                      to identify and analyze issues of shared interest, such as process
                      improvements, lessons learned, areas for reducing duplication, and
                      solutions to common problems. VA officials indicated that they planned to
                      meet with ANCP officials in the second quarter of fiscal year 2012, with
                      the aim of enhancing collaboration between the two agencies. Unless the
                      Army and VA collaborate to identify areas where the agencies can assist
                      each other, they could miss opportunities to take advantage of each
                      other’s strengths—thereby missing chances to improve the efficiency and
                      effectiveness of cemetery operations—and are at risk of investing in
                      duplicative capabilities.


                      The success of the Army’s efforts to improve contracting and
Summary of            management at Arlington will depend on continued focus in various
Recommendations for   areas. Accordingly, we made a number of recommendations in our
                      December 2011 reports. In the area of contracting, we recommended that
Further               the Army implement a method to track complete and accurate contract
Improvements at       data, ensure that support agreements clearly identify roles and
Arlington National    responsibilities for contracting, and determine the number and skills
                      necessary for contracting staff. In its written comments, DOD partially
Cemetery              concurred with these recommendations, agreeing that there is a need to
                      take actions to address the issues we raised, but indicating that our
                      recommendations did not adequately capture Army efforts currently
                      underway. We believe our report reflects the significant progress made by
                      Arlington and that implementation of our recommendations will help to
                      institutionalize the positive steps taken to date.


                      Page 16                                                          GAO-12-374T
•   With regard to our recommendation to identify and implement a
    method to track complete and accurate contact data, DOD noted that
    Arlington intends to implement, by April 2012, a methodology based
    on an electronic tool which is expected to collect and reconcile
    information from a number of existing data systems. Should this
    methodology consider the shortcomings within these data systems as
    identified in our report, we believe this would satisfy our
    recommendations.
•   DOD noted planned actions, expected for completion by March 2012
    that, if implemented, would satisfy the intent of our other two
    recommendations.
With regard to other management challenges at Arlington, we
recommended that the Army implement its enterprise architecture and
reassess ongoing and planned information-technology investments;
update its assessment of ANCP’s workforce needs; develop and
implement a program for assessing and improving cemetery operations;
develop memorandums of understanding with Arlington’s key operational
partners; develop a strategic plan; and develop written guidance to help
determine the types of assistance that will be provided to families affected
by burial errors. DOD fully agreed with our recommendations that the
Army update its assessment of ANCP's workforce needs and implement a
program for assessing and improving cemetery operations. DOD partially
agreed with our other recommendations. In January, ANCP officials
provided us with updates on its plans to take corrective actions, as
discussed in this statement.

•   With regard to implementing an enterprise architecture, DOD stated
    that investments made to date in information technology have been
    modest and necessary to address critical deficiencies. We recognize
    that some vulnerabilities must be expeditiously addressed.
    Nevertheless, our prior work shows that organizations increase the
    risk that their information technology investments will not align with
    their future operational environment if these investments are not
    guided by an approved enterprise architecture.
•   Regarding its work with key operational partners, DOD stated that it
    recognizes the value of establishing memorandums of agreement and
    noted the progress that the Army has made in developing
    memorandums of agreement with some of its operational partners.
    We believe that the Army should continue to pursue and finalize
    agreements with key operational partners that cover the full range of
    areas where these organizations must work effectively together.
•   With regard to a strategic plan, DOD stated that is was in the process
    of developing such a plan. As discussed previously, ANCP officials in



Page 17                                                          GAO-12-374T
                         January showed us a newly developed campaign plan that, based on
                         our preliminary review, contains elements of an effective strategic
                         plan.
                     •   Regarding written guidance on the factors that the Executive Director
                         will consider when determining the types of assistance provided to
                         families affected by burial errors, DOD stated that such guidance
                         would limit the Executive Director's ability to exercise leadership and
                         judgment to make an appropriate determination. We disagree with this
                         view. Our recommendation does not limit the Executive Director's
                         discretion, which we consider to be an essential part of ensuring that
                         families receive the assistance they require in these difficult situations.
                         Our recommendation, if implemented, would improve visibility into the
                         factors that guide decision-making in these cases.
                     Finally, we recommended that the Army and VA implement a joint
                     working group or other such mechanism to enable ANCP and VA’s
                     National Cemetery Administration to collaborate more closely in the
                     future. Both DOD and VA concurred with this recommendation. As noted,
                     VA stated that a planning meeting to enhance collaboration is planned for
                     the second quarter of 2012.


                     Chairman McCaskill, Ranking Member Portman, and Members of the
                     Subcommittee, this completes our prepared statement. We would be
                     pleased to respond to any questions that you may have at this time.


                     For questions about this statement, please contact Brian Lepore, Director,
Contacts and Staff   Defense Capabilities and Management, on (202) 512-4523 or
Acknowledgments      leporeb@gao.gov or Belva Martin, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing
                     Management, on (202) 512-4841 or martinb@gao.gov. Contact points for
                     our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found
                     on the last page of this testimony. Individuals who made key contributions
                     to this testimony include Tom Gosling, Assistant Director; Brian Mullins,
                     Assistant Director; Kyler Arnold; Russell Bryan; George M. Duncan,
                     Kathryn Edelman; Julie Hadley; Kristine Hassinger; Lina Khan; and Alex
                     Winograd.




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                     Page 18                                                            GAO-12-374T
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