Our Mission:

My first husband, Capt. Jerry Zimmer, was an F4B Phantom jet pilot, whose aircraft was shot down on August 29, 1969, approximately 20 miles South of Da Nang, Vietnam, after six months in country. Neither Jerry nor his navigator, 1st Lt. Al Graf, was able to eject, before the aircraft crashed into the Que Son Mountains. Initially Jerry and Al were classified as Killed in Action/No Body Recovered (KIA/NBR). Years later, both Marines were listed as MIA, along with other service members whose bodies were never recovered.

Jerry has been gone nearly a half century, and hope for recovering his remains had run out a long time ago.  However, in recent years our family became involved with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), now merged with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and learned that Jerry’s and Al’s remains might, in fact, be recoverable, so we are doing everything possible to support their efforts to make this happen and bring our guys home where they belong.

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Posts Tagged ‘Maj Ed Nevgloski’

POW/MIA ACCOUNTING COMMUNITY: THE CURE?

Saturday, August 24, 2013 @ 10:08 PM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

Database Mgt

The POW/MIA accounting community is working on a timely reorganization plan to satisfy the Congress, DoD and others who believe there is a need for one of the organizations to head the overall accounting community.  It appears that politicians on Capitol Hill think this change will rectify much of the disarray, perceived to exist in the system.

I lean in the direction of technology, not towards building a new org chart.  The accounting community, as currently organized, has a positive record of success, but the 2010 NDAA mandate was a game changer.  The two primary leaders in the community, who have a vested interest in seeing the system work, are the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO).

As a military command reporting to the US Pacific Command, JPAC is tasked with global field operations, leading to recoveries and identifications of unaccounted-for MIAs from past wars.   Bringing home our MIAs from Vietnam, Tarawa, Germany and many other locations is a military mission, because nobody does it better than our men and women in uniform.

DPMO reports to the Secretary of Defense, and its responsibilities include supporting JPACs field operations with policy oversight, research & analysis, communication and computer technology – namely, through its new WWII database.  There are others in the community who also support the MIA effort, contributing in a number of areas, ranging from investigative to scientific expertise.  Most also serve the active duty military.

The magic number of MIA identifications that Congress expects JPACs Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) to produce annually by 2015 is 200; the trick is for JPAC/DPMO to efficiently/repetitively sift through thousands of WWII cases to determine which have the greatest probability of success in the field.  WWII is believed to be the frontrunner among other wars to provide enough annual MIA identifications to meet the demands of the mandate, but it is slow going thus far.

If Congress amended the mandate, allowing DPMO time to regroup on its WWII computer system, switching to a modern electronic case management system, JPAC could continue global field operations and exhumations of unknowns.  The entire accounting community could gradually make an orderly transition from a 1990s management style to one capable of handling today’s increased demands.  Technology management solutions would make better use of analysts’ skills — both within DPMO and JPAC — allowing the latter to more efficiently handle the overwhelming increase in WWII cases and expectations with a better chance of success.

The CIL is ready, but focusing on the other side of the house through technology could mean the difference between success and failure in the future.

Concerns about Vietnam War recoveries focus primarily on beating the clock before time runs out because of environmental conditions; walking away now would be a huge mistake.  Korean War recoveries in the north are dealing with political instability but will always continue when the time is right.  Both could eventually be integrated into a total case management system, but WWII is the biggest problem.

LEGACY PROBLEM

Like many of the government’s institutions, the use of modern technology for case management is spotty and not entirely understood or welcomed.  Filled with paper trails and legacy computer systems that have yet to be integrated, the accounting community has thus far been able to operate reasonably efficient with a seat-of-the-pants approach, namely because the Vietnam War model, although rudimentary, has been fine-tuned over decades and predates the kind of technology available today.

On the other hand, the CIL’s investigative/scientific technology has continued to improve over time, thanks to additional funding and forensic advancements in the use of DNA – an increasingly valuable tool that can now lead to identifications of remains once thought impossible.  But in many WWII recoveries, the CIL often relies upon material evidence and a variety of other forensic techniques, since DNA is not always the primary source of identification for this group.

THE SOLUTION

What the mandate did not take into account was the need for a case management system, allowing the integration of a variety of resources to enhance the global uptick in WWII field operations.  When DPMO rolled out its WWII database a few years ago, it was touted as the tool that would help make the mandate work.  Unfortunately, the database has not lived up to expectations in terms of design, integration and targeted information.

Over the years, families of MIAs have questioned DPMO about the lack of an interactive computer system to allow them better access.  Although this may happen eventually, DPMO will likely need to focus on a propriety approach to comply with more pressing needs.

When the Senate subcommittee met on August 1, 2013, in D.C. to discuss several areas of concern within the accounting community, as a result of negative reports that made headlines in the media, I viewed the segment on C-Span and heard a comment about DPMOs WWII database, when DASD Winfield was told to continue populating the system.  Most systems require a long-term commitment for populating, but it is important to select the right software and everything else needed to make it function properly.

State-of-the-art technology in government is often underrated – possibly because it requires a new way of thinking, commitment and money, so it comes as no surprise that few would recognize the need for modern case management solutions to achieve success and/or avoid impending disaster.  And often the wrong system can be worse than no system at all.  Through the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software, the industry standard in the federal government, case management solutions can deliver the kind of results needed in the accounting community.  COTS software is available from several companies, such as Oracle, SalesForce.com and Microsoft –some of the most well-known and respected leaders in the industry.

These companies work with an organization’s analysts to customize COTS software to create algorithms, which allow the computer to think like an analyst, searching thousands of databases in minutes to produce targeted information that can connect back to a case.  Instead of searching a database – or several linked together – that respond with a zillion choices, case management solutions produce the best probability results, allowing analysts to work faster and smarter and with less legwork.

For instance, JPAC might want to know the top 50 WWII cases in a specific geographic area, during second quarter field operations.  Within minutes, analysts would receive cases with the highest probability of success.

Although relatively new to DPMO, I hope that DASD Winfield makes technology a priority and receives the necessary resources to fix the problem.  However, without a qualified and dedicated team assigned to the project, this program will be no better than the one that already exists.   Case management solutions with COTS technology offer reliable solutions; ultimately save time and money; and would streamline efforts for JPAC to efficiently handle the enormous increase in WWII global recovery efforts.  And most of all, the accounting community could all be on the same page.

Without proper case management at the frontend, asking our military command to perform miracles in the field is setting them up for failure – a sad commentary on the mission to bring home our unaccounted-for loved ones, who paid the ultimate price while wearing the uniform.

 

JPAC ON THE HOTSEAT

Friday, July 19, 2013 @ 09:07 AM  posted by Elaine Zimmer Davis

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This photo was taken at my husband’s Phase II excavation in Vietnam

My support of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and other organizations in the accounting community is well known and has not changed.  The job of finding remains, leading to identifications of our MIAs left behind in places like Tarawa, Laos, Burma and many more like them, is unbelievably difficult but an unforgettable reward when it happens.

The fact that somebody gives a damn about our loved ones means the world to me and other MIA families.  JPAC and its predecessors have been doing the job for more than 30 years – yet, few people until recently knew of its existence and most do not realize what it takes to find just one of our heroes — never mind thousands, missing for nearly a half century or longer.  Please understand that the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

I have not read the report by Paul Cole, a temporary employee of JPAC, which is located at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, Hawaii, and reports to the US Pacific Command.  The Cole report was an internal document and never meant to be made public, because the former Commander of JPAC, who contracted for the report, felt that Cole had exceeded the scope of his assignment that reportedly became personal instead of strategic.  If you follow MIA recovery issues, then you’ve probably read the media coverage that began with an AP story that was picked up on the wire by several major news outlets.

Dreaded Mandate!

Many families with MIAs still unaccounted-for recognize that the entire accounting community – not just JPAC – has been under a great deal of stress over the past three years, trying to deal with growing pains – an understatement — imposed by a Congressional mandate directed at JPACs Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  This mandate has affected every aspect of our government’s pledge to recover the remains of servicemen classified as MIAs from WWII, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and others, as deemed necessary.

In 2009 the DoD decided to focus on WWII recoveries and to reduce efforts in Vietnam War locations.  The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), which reports indirectly to the Secretary of Defense, ordered a 2009 feasibility study, aimed at JPACs CIL, which determines MIA identifications in order to officially close cases.  From this study came the 2010 mandate, stipulating that the lab needed to double its current numbers and make 200 identifications annually by 2015.

Not only was the feasibility study the justification for this piece of legislation, but it was purely an academic exercise in number crunching.  It made assumptions that field work for WWII recoveries would be easy, compared to those in Vietnam War locations, resulting in multiple remains from aircrafts of the era, making the numbers easy to achieve.  To make matters worse, the mandate was imposed upon the accounting community at a time when the economy was tanking, money tight, no infrastructure in place to allow for an orderly implementation, Afghanistan still at fever pitch and the military headed for major   cuts in budget and manpower.

Easier said than done, accurately describes the mandate fiasco.  Field operations are time intensive and complicated, requiring a laundry list of “musts,” such as the necessity that teams include unexploded ordnance experts, medics and anthropologists at most excavations.  While the military is able to fulfill several needs, finding anthropologists, who are qualified to work under challenging – sometimes dangerous — conditions, does not come easy, cheap or from the military.  However, he/she must commit 20-30 days for each field mission, and I am not talking about European vacations.

The desire to bring home loved ones from WWII locations is absolutely honorable, and I wholly support efforts in this direction, along with efforts in North Korea, as long as we can ensure our team’s safety and also finish the job in Vietnam.  But it is time to tell the American people the truth about the numbers that we should be focusing on, if we ever want to move forward in a consistent direction.

A former member of DPMO, which is the organization that created the WWII database and spearheaded the 2010 mandate, told me that the 80,000-plus number of MIAs bandied about does not accurately reflect the number that are believed recoverable, particularly from WWII.  Within the WWII sector, DPMO thinks that 30,000 may be recoverable, since many of our losses from that war went down with their ships, while others are buried in historic locations and cannot be moved.  And saddest of all, thousands may never come home, because we lack enough information of their whereabouts.

In all fairness to DPMO, their efforts to create a solid WWII database were well-intended, especially since the 2010 mandate required an uptick in WWII recoveries.  I have spent a lot of time trying to understand why the Army Graves Registration Service, which headed the recovery effort following WWII for five consecutive years, spent more war-time dollars in the history of recoveries and brought home approximately 280,000 of our MIAs, yet still left behind thousands of our heroes in Europe and Asia Pacific.  When I learned that the newly-formed WWII database lacked sufficient information at this point to achieve the anticipated recovery success, I understood what happened in the past.   It is likely that many of our WWII losses will come home, but far less than the numbers indicate.

Vietnam Success Story

After years of working in Vietnam, JPAC has developed an incredible infrastructure through its permanent detachment, based in Hanoi.  Detachment 2’s core staff is primarily former military, now civil service employees, who speak Vietnamese and help to ensure that its military leadership – two officers from the Joint Command – have successful 2-year tours during their time in country.   Aside from its archival research, investigations, training Vietnamese recovery teams and conducting quarterly missions, the detachment interfaces with Vietnamese government officials, greatly contributing to our nation’s growing friendship with Vietnam.  The detachment is also responsible for hosting visiting Vietnam veterans, US government officials, family members, and the list goes on.

Detachment 2 is a poster child for what can be, and I suggest that those who think JPAC is “dysfunctional,” as apparently described in Cole’s report, take a look at what they have done in Vietnam.

I believe that efforts to bring home our loved ones from past wars, to the extent possible, is honorable and good for the soul of America.  Yes, the system needs an overhaul, but this military-directed effort is one in which every American should take pride.   When telling today’s military, “thank you for your service,” please know this is the message that families receive on behalf of our loved ones, through the efforts of JPAC and others in the accounting community, who are trying to bring them home.