Early last year, I directed the undersecretary of defense for policy to provide me with recommendations for reorganizing the department’s efforts to account for missing personnel in our nation’s past conflicts. Finding, recovering, and identifying the remains of these individuals is one of our highest responsibilities, and I believed that DoD could more effectively and transparently account for our missing personnel while ensuring their families receive timely and accurate information.
Based on the recommendations I received, I directed the department to undertake significant steps to reorganize these efforts into a single, accountable, responsive, and transparent organization with comprehensive oversight of personnel accounting resources, research, and operations. I also directed that this new agency centralize all communications with family members of the missing; streamline the identification process; centralize budgetary resources; improve the search, recovery, and identification process; and develop proposals to expand public/private partnerships.
Thanks to the progress we have made over the last year, and the critical input of family organizations and veterans service organizations across conflicts, the department is moving ahead to the next phase of this effort. Effective Monday, leadership will be in place for a new consolidated personnel accounting agency.
The agency will be directed on an interim basis by Rear Adm. Mike Franken, a highly qualified leader who has a strong operational and policy background. The search for a permanent director begins immediately. Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, will serve as the interim deputy director. This interim leadership will establish the infrastructure and processes for the new agency while ensuring the continuity of ongoing operations. Rear Adm. Franken and Maj. Gen. McKeague will also work closely with family and veterans organizations as they address some of the agency’s most critical challenges.
As previously announced, this agency will be overseen by the undersecretary of defense for policy. It will also be advised by Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington, the military deputy to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Lt. Gen. Linnington is well-known to veteran organizations and has significant experience with similar institutional reform efforts.
Through 2015, the headquarters for the new agency will be in Washington, DC, but it will also operate from its Hawaii location with satellite laboratories in Nebraska and Ohio. A decision on the agency’s permanent location will be made by early next year. And we will dissolve the Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task Force. Having initiated the transformation into a new agency, the task force’s current director, Alisa Stack, will become the new principal director for detainee policy.
I especially want to thank Undersecretary Christine Wormuth, Assistant Secretary Michael Lumpkin, Deputy Assistant Secretary Rene Bardorf, and Ms. Stack for their important contributions to this reform effort.
America will remain committed to always bringing home our missing and fallen. The decisions we are announcing today will ensure we honor that solemn obligation.
Release No: NR-011-15
January 09, 2015