As current wars overseas carry on and wars from previous eras drift further into the past, The American Legion has increased its commitment to obtaining a full accounting of all U.S. military personnel gone missing anywhere in the world. This sentiment is embodied in Resolution 78, passed in August during the national convention to further pressure Congress and other policy makers to account for all U.S. prisoners of war and servicemembers missing in action.
Resolution 78 calls on Congress to provide the Department of Defense with full funding, personnel and any resources needed for its POW/MIA accounting efforts, and to require that these allocations be used only toward the POW/MIA cause. Included in that call to action is a request that the Secretary of Defense provide the funding needed to complete construction of a new facility for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). Because of a funding shortfall of $22.79 million, JPAC has been delayed in occupying the new facility and can’t continue the “expanded mission” tasked to it by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Passed in 2010, the NDAA expressly requires the Defense secretary to allocate the funding Congress has earmarked for POW/MIA to DoD, all branches of the armed forces and commanders of combatant commands who are part of the POW/MIA accounting community. The NDAA’s “expanded mission” or goal is to ensure that at least 200 missing persons (including designated civilian personnel) be accounted for each year, starting in fiscal year 2015.
The Legion’s resolution also recognizes the advancements in technology, forensics and radiography that could significantly help efforts to locate and identify the remains of missing servicemembers. Taking advantage of these advances is essential to achieving a full accounting:
“The American Legion urges the President and Congress to support legislation and policies that will use all reasonable resources to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all missing American servicemembers regardless of location or era of loss... .”
“Fullest possible accounting” is defined as emancipating any live prisoners who may still be on foreign soil, repatriating the remains of all who were killed in action or died in captivity, or providing a valid and conclusive report when neither is possible.
Finally, Resolution 78 calls on the president and Congress to be advocates of the POW/MIA cause, asking them to “speak out on every occasion” about the need for a speedy return of all U.S. servicemembers who remain missing in action or unaccounted for. Included in their advocacy role is a call to use diplomacy with countries that are former enemies of the U.S., including Russia, China, Korea and Vietnam, to enlist their help in accounting for missing personnel.
Such efforts are essential to achieving Resolution 78’s stated purpose:
“The American Legion remains steadfast in our commitment to the goal of achieving the fullest possible accounting for all U.S. military personnel and designated civilian personnel missing and unaccounted for from our nation’s wars... .”