Antle untangles Arlington National Cemetery's records

Americans were stunned when the news broke a few years ago that poor recordkeeping at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) had resulted in misidentified gravesites and lost veterans' remains. The chaos at some of the nation’s most hallowed grounds was the consequence of non-automated, paper-driven processes and mismanaged offices. In 2010, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked the Northern Virginia Technology Council to help get the cemetery's bookkeeping back on track. Brad Antle, president and CEO of Salient Federal Solutions and chairman of NVTC, responded by assembling a task force of 17 industry members to assess the situation and sending the group's recommendations to Army Secretary John McHugh.

When we first came in, there was incredulity and disbelief. I think it was like how the public felt upon hearing what was going on. There was a sense of "how did this happen?" Over time, we developed an understanding of how this process evolved, and you could see there were opportunities for these errors to creep into the system. It became a little bit more obvious how these things were able to happen. What stood out most was the sheer amount of manual processes there were.

We realized there was a significant volume [of information] coming in that needed to be dealt with. And they aren’t overly staffed. It didn’t take much to make the magnitude significant.

After the initial briefing, it was about systematically going through each step of the process, understanding how things came in to the cemetery, what kind of paper trail there was and where the issues were cropping up. We examined the process from initial contact with the cemetery all the way to interment.

The solutions we came up with were largely process-oriented. Most centered on how ANC dealt with interment. Their processes were antiquated, largely paper- and fax-driven, and so we put together an approach that was much more automated and leveraged technology to support the processes so they would have fewer opportunities for errors.

We needed to eliminate things like faxes, which don’t have any traceability, and have ANC rely more on traditional forms of electronic communication that have auditability. Faxes just aren’t a positive form of communication. You don’t know if a fax was received. With e-mail, you can actually go back and find an audit trail; you can see when it was sent and received. Eliminating steps in the process that didn’t provide an audit trail — that was a priority.

Our solutions weren’t necessarily technology-dependent. They didn’t require a lot of investment in new technology, but they certainly relied on current technology to make the processes more efficient and dependable.

ANC actually started making some of the recommended changes before our report was even finalized. Once it was finalized, they reviewed it and continued to make improvements to their existing system, taking into account many of the recommendations that were made in the study.

Since then, they’ve made strides and corrected a lot of discrepancies. They’re improving processes so the opportunities for mistakes have been greatly reduced. The folks at ANC are eager to find ways to improve their business processes. They aren’t all the way there yet. This isn’t a problem that cropped up overnight, and it’s not going to go away in a day. But they’re making a tremendous amount of progress.

Read more about the 2012 Federal 100 award winners.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group