Over 27,000 burial sites to open at Arlington next year
WASHINGTON (March 19, 2015) -- In 2016, Arlington National Cemetery, or ANC, will open "an additional 27,282 burial opportunities," Patrick K. Hallinan told lawmakers.
Hallinan, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, testified with others before the House Committee on Appropriations' subcommittee on military construction, Veterans Affairs and related agencies, March 18.
The so-called Millennium Project is expanding the cemetery to the north, on 27 acres along the border with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, or JBMHH, said Greg Hegge, Norfolk District project manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Norfolk District is doing the construction work, said Hallinan, telling lawmakers that the project is within budget and on schedule. The budget for the Millennium Project is $81.8 million.
The name Millennium Project came about because in the late 1990s when Congress directed a land transfer from JBMHH and the National Park Service paired with existing ANC property. Work did not actually start until January 2014, Hallinan said.
Besides expanding northward, ANC is looking south as well, Hallinan said.
In July 2014, Norfolk District hired an architect and engineering firm to begin formal planning and design efforts "for our intended southern expansion," he said. This expansion will occur in the area formerly occupied by the Navy Annex, which is just up the hill from the United States Air Force Memorial.
The Navy Annex is now fully demolished and the Army is negotiating the details of a transfer of land with Arlington County "that will provide us the maximum contiguous burial space in this area," he said.
"This project will appropriately honor and respect our nation's veterans and ideally extend our first interment capacity out to the 2050's," he said, referring to the southern expansion, where construction could begin in 2018.
However, funding for this southward expansion, which would be about $300 million, has not yet been identified, he said.
The expansions northward and southward are not the only projects.
Planning and design efforts "are well underway" for the establishment of an ossuary called the Tomb of Remembrance, he said. "This critical project will allow us to provide the nation with a dignified place to provide final disposition of cremated remains which may be co-mingled or unidentified."
ANC expects to award the contract in July and complete the project by early next year, he said.
ANC workers are making progress repairing or replacing much of the cemetery's outdated utility infrastructure, Hallinan said, referring to waterlines, roads and storm-water drainage.
In October 2014, ANC began renovations of its welcome center to modernize the visitor's restrooms and to expand office spaces to improve the work environment for employees, he said.
In addition, "we are focused on continuously improving the experience of each family who arrives to inter their loved one," he said. "Redesigning and improving the manner in which we gather and escort our funeral processions is a critical goal" for this year.
For example, a new funeral procession queuing area will make funeral organization and lineup "much more intuitive and easier to negotiate," for visitors, he said.
The president's fiscal year 2016 Army budget "increased Arlington's Budget Control Act funding level from $45.8 million to $70.8 million, and this level of funding is adequate to maintain and sustain Arlington's operating budget into the foreseeable future, not including anticipated capital costs," Hallinan said.
However, a future furlough or funding emergency could jeopardize ANC's "ability to remain open and operational," he said.
Hallinan said a good solution for ANC would be to return the cemetery's budget to "no-year funding" to ensure flexibility and predictability in the budget. Before FY13, ANC had no-year funding.
No-year funding refers to appropriations that are available for obligation without fiscal year limitations. In other words, the money is made available until it is spent and is not time-constrained.
American Battle Monuments Commission funding is of the no-year funding type, he said.