FBI called in over Arlington cemetery's missing $12m

Washington

Nearly two years after the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, admitted it had mislaid human remains and discovered urns containing ashes in landfills, it appears to have lost track of millions of dollars too.

Senate committee members overseeing changes at the 150-year-old cemetery near Washington – the final resting place of John F Kennedy and US war heroes – heard that supervisors have been unable to account for $12m (£7m) of federal funds.

The funds, about a quarter of the cemetery's operating budget, were allocated between 2004 and 2010.

After the mislaid remains scandal broke in 2010, Arlington's executives were dismissed.

Supervisors have also found that for years no one seemed able to accurately count the number of graves within the cemetery's bounds.

The tourist brochure says it contains the remains of 320,000 service men and women. But the best guess now is that as many as 400,000 personnel in fact have been honoured with a final resting place there.

But the accounting lacunae would seem to bring things to a whole new level. Both the FBI and the Army's Criminal Investigation Command have been drafted in to hunt down the cash. It appears that the money has simply gone.

"It's not clear if it was returned, if it was spent or where it is," Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, who has been chairing the hearings into the Arlington scandal, admitted. "I don't think there is any indication of people walking out with it. I think this is incompetence ... gross incompetence."

Her assessment of cluelessness would seem be borne out by the revelation about the discrepancies over how many people are even buried on Arlington's hallowed grounds.

Kathryn Condon, cemetery executive director, testified that it was too early to put an exact figure on the numbers buried there, "because we have a team of about 40 individuals working on this". She added: "We should probably come to closure by this summer."

Ms Condon insisted that with the audit of both money and remains under way, progress is being made to bring Arlington's affairs into order.

The cemetery also plans to have an interactive map that will allow people to go to the cemetery's website and search for the names of loved ones, or click on an individual gravesite and see who is buried there.

It comes after a US Army report to Congress found last year that about one in four grave sites at the cemetery may contain discrepancies.

Officials found internal records did not match with 64,230 headstones. There were misspelled names, and incorrect ranks and dates of birth and death.

No new evidence of people buried in the wrong plots was found.

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