MIA Facts Site

The Sky
is NOT
Falling

Summary.  In the normal course of events, Pentagon offices undergo reviews to see if they are operating the best way possible.  These reviews go by different names but a common one is "Mission Area Analysis," or, MAA.   The Defense POW-Missing Personnel Office is undergoing a MAA (as of March 2000).   The National Alliance of Families has sounded the alarm, claiming that this MAA means that DPMO will essentially stop looking for missing from Vietnam in 2004.   Nonsense.  Read on.

Background

As stated in the summary, Department of Defense agencies go through reviews from time to time to determine if they are doing what they are doing in the best possible way.   "The best possible way" is determined by their mission.  The best possible way to run an infantry brigade may not be the best possible way to operate a medical training unit.

In the mid-1990s, we started producing a strategic plan for DPMO.  We wanted to ensure that the accounting process for missing personnel in future conflicts took advantage of lessons learned and took into account the changed environment.  We wanted to look at lessons learned and mission and determine the best way to address all aspects of missing personnel matters.

The strategic planning process was distracted by several sideshows -- constant harangues from "activists," dealing with the likes of "Chip" Beck and Tim Castle, watching our six for stunts from TFR, the usual Bob Smith and Dino circus, to name a few.  Eventually, DoD contracted with an outside consultant who does this sort of mission area analysis to do the DPMO MAA. 

In preparing for the MAA, one of the first steps is to prepare a terms of reference document (TOR).  The TOR sets down, among other matters, the goal of the MAA.   In the DPMO MAA TOR (got that?), the goal is to modify the accounting process for the future so that problems in the past are not repeated. Nothing in the current DPMO MAA will have an impact on current accounting operations.

The Alliance's (Bogus) Alert

Not to be deterred by facts, the National Alliance of Families has seized upon the MAA TOR.  Visit the Alliance's web site.  Once you get past the corny music and the opening scripts, you find a link to their newsletter, Bits and Pieces.  Here is a quote -- complete with misspelled words and bad grammar -- from the newsletter for 26 February 2000.  Quoted material is in this typeface, colored whatever this color is.

46 Months till 2004 - That's when it all stops. The Defense Departments Strategic Plan, that first mentioned POW/MIA investigations, as we know them would cease as of 2004, was written in 1998. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter who the President is or will be. This is a decision that was made in the Pentagon, without consultation with or input from family organizations and their membership.

The recent study, commissioned by DPMO, "called the Mission Area Analysis (MAA), is to help implement the best use of money, resources and technology across the wide range of DoD's responsibilities in personnel recovery and accounting," will provide DPMO the necessary cover to end active investigations as we know them.

Here are DPMO's Words - "By the end of the year 2004, we will have moved from the way the US government conducts the business of recovery and accounting to an active program of loss prevention, immediate rescues, and rapid post-hostility accounting."

DPMO can deny what we say is true. However, they can not deny their own words. Actually, when it suits their purpose, they can deny anything they want.

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Your Mission, Should You Decide To Accept --- Stop The Abandonment of our POW/MIAs. In our January 15th 2000 edition of "Bits," we put out the call for help and promised sample letters. Attached with this fax or e-mail are the sample letters and suggestions on how we can exert pressure to change current DPMO plans. To access sample letters, click here.

We are going to be brutally honest here. Many will not like what we have to say... but it needs to be said. The decision to end investigations by 2004 has already been made. The trial balloons are up. It doesn't matter who the President is, or will be. This decision was made at a DoD policy level. Congress can call for a change in that policy, but unless they legislate it, there will be no change. Even if we can get congress to legislate continued investigations, we still have a problem. If one of the four leading candidates for President is elected, he will surely veto any pro-POW/MIA legislation. If he is not elected, he will surely block our efforts in congress.

By now, some of you may be asking... then why bother. The answer is simple YOU ARE THE ONLY VOICES LEFT FOR OUR PRISONERs AND MISSING. We need to make every congressional representative realize that the honest accounting of our Prisoners and Missing is a real issue, important to a great many people.

This may well be the final battle of the POW/MIA issue.

Our POW/MIAs are depending on you, and

The clock is ticking.

The Facts

The Alliance claims that, at the end of 2004, the US government will stop searching for missing men in SEAsia:  "That's when it all stops. The Defense Departments Strategic Plan, that first mentioned POW/MIA investigations, as we know them would cease as of 2004, was written in 1998 (sic)."  They base their claim on this passage from the MAA terms of reference:

"By the end of the year 2004, we will have moved from the way the US government conducts the business of recovery and accounting to an active program of loss prevention, immediate rescues, and rapid post-hostility accounting."

This statement in no way means that accounting for missing men will end in 2004.   This statement was written into the draft DPMO strategic plan.  I recently received e-mail correspondence from the individual who put together that draft plan and here is what he says about the 2004 date:

"Actually, these are the words I placed in the Strategic Plan which describe not the status of what we are doing today to recover remains but new ways to do our job in  the future so that we never again find ourselves in the position we have been in since 1975. "

Got that -- "not the status of what we are doing today to recover remains but new ways to do our job in the future." The words that the Alliance claims are the death knell for current accounting efforts are actually a goal for DPMO to incorporate all the lessons learned over the past decades to ensure that accounting for future missing does not become the drawn out, torturous affair that it has been since 1975.  Many areas need to be reviewed and modified as appropriate, for example:

bulletThe PFOD process
bulletDocumenting results of SAR
bulletTraining for all involved in searching for missing men -- SAR people, intelligence people, imagery analysts, etc.
bulletCasualty office operations
bulletFamily access to records
bulletAnd on and on and on

The goal is to make the accounting process better.  To do so, we must draw on experience and on current reality -- for example, current reality includes the fact that families may find out that their man is missing from CNN before the service casualty officer can contact them.  What are the implications of that fact for casualty office operations?

Conclusion

The current MAA within DPMO is intended to make the process of accounting for missing servicemembers in future situations a better process that incorporates the needs of the missing individual, the family, the operational unit, and the service. 

Why, then, does the Alliance misrepresent the purpose of the MAA?  Simple -- they need something to showcase at their summer meeting.  As the accounting process moves forward, as more and more men are identified, they find that their cry of "Bring 'em back alive!" is becoming irrelevant as it becomes obvious even to a blind man that all the live POWs came home in 1973.  The Alliance -- and the rest of the "activist" community -- need something new to rave about.  Be prepared for the Alliance to convince Senator Bob Smith to interfere with the MAA process.  DPMO speakers need to be ready to answer accusatory questions about the non-existent 2004 deadline.   Sadly, many families will be misled by the Allinace -- but that's what they hope for because misled families mean new members.