U.S. Representative Glenn "GT' Thompson (R-PA) has joined U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) to introduce H.R. 1520, the POW/MIA Accounting and Recovery Support Act of 2013, a bill to ensure that the Department of Defense's (DoD) recently announced personnel furloughs do not impact ongoing efforts conducted by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) to locate and recover the remains of unaccounted-for American service members.
"This bill allows JPAC to continue on their important missions of making sure our country "leaves no man behind,'" stated Rep. Thompson. "It's an important promise we made to all our veterans and service members, and this bill will protect JPAC's civilian employees while they are on deployment."
The DoD has announced plans to furlough as many as 800,000 federal civilian workers in order to achieve $85.4 billion in spending reductions established in the Budget Control Act of 2011. Currently, DoD civilian workers will be required to take 14 furlough unpaid days off, between now and October. As a result, these federal employees will have to take at least 2 furlough days per pay period with no exceptions. This will significantly impact JPAC's POW/MIA accounting and recovery mission, since teams are deployed on operations that routinely last between 35 and 45 days.
H.R. 1520 would require the Secretary of Defense to allow DoD civilian employees deployed in support of JPAC accounting and recovery operations to take their furlough after returning from their mission.
"We have made a commitment to these American heroes, and I plan to make good on this commitment for not only our fallen soldiers, but also their families and loved ones seeking closure," added Rep. Thompson. "The POW/MIA Accounting and Recovery Support Act allows JPAC civilian employees to continue these critical missions without unnecessary disruption or delay."
JPAC rescue and recovery missions recently helped locate and identify Air Force Major Thomas E. Clark, of Emporium, Pennsylvania, forty-two years after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War on February 8, 1969. Following an investigation in 2009, the Clark family received notification in October of 2011 that Maj. Clark's remains had been positively identified by JPAC scientists.
Presently, the DoD estimates that there are more than 83,000 Americans still unaccounted-for from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other prior conflicts.