Panetta Creates Independent Panel to Review Dover Mortuary Operations

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has appointed an independent commission to examine the procedures at the Air Force-run military mortuary at Dover AFB, Del., to ensure that the mortuary is meeting the highest standards for dealing with the remains of fallen US service personnel. “None of us will be satisfied until we have proven to the families of our fallen heroes that we have taken every step possible to protect the honor and dignity that their loved ones richly deserve,” Panetta told reporters Nov. 10. He said the Air Force leadership requested this action after an Air Force inspector general investigation found “gross mismanagement” on the part of mortuary officials in several cases. “I consider [Dover] a sacred place with a sacred responsibility,” said Panetta. He’s also asked Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to ensure that the service has taken “all appropriate disciplinary action.” Panetta’s announcement came on the same day that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called on the USAF leadership to review the Air Force IG’s investigation to guarantee that the report’s findings were unbiased. (Panetta-Dempsey transcript)