Air Force Adopting Abizaid Panel Recommendations for Dover

Secretary Michael Donley said Tuesday that Air Force would institute changes to Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover AFB, Del., based on the recommendations of the Defense Health Board independent panel chaired by retired Army Gen. John Abizaid. Among the changes, Donley said the AFMAO commander would receive Uniform Code of Military Justice authority, “an essential tool in maintaining command discipline.” The Air Force will also create “a better general officer command structure” to oversee AFMAO operations, he said. Service leaders also “strongly endorse the need for a tailored inspection program” at AFMAO, he said. Further, the Air Force supports the idea of “a standing board of visitors, including outside professionals, who can oversee and advise AFMAO on the latest and best practices,” said Donley. He reiterated that “the Air Force remains committed” to the mortuary operations mission “as a solemn obligation and to its flawless execution.” Abizaid briefed Pentagon reporters on the panel’s findings earlier on Tuesday, one day after presenting them to the Pentagon leadership. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appointed the panel after reports surfaced last year that mortuary officials had mishandled the remains of some fallen service members prior to 2008. (Abizaid transcript) (Donley-Schwartz transcript) (See also AFPS report by Jim Garamone and AFPS report by Karen Parrish.)