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Army cites improper contracting in Arlington Cemetery scandal

• Amber Corrin

The Arlington National Cemetery scandal over more than 200 cases of improperly buried veterans and wrongly marked gravesites is largely the result of antiquated, paper-based recordkeeping stemming from mishandled information technology contracts, an Army investigation has found.

The cemetery, one of two run by the Army, had “no acquisition strategy, no integrated IT system and series of IT regulatory violations,” and the use of outside contractors has not been audited by outside officials for more than a decade, according to the Army investigation report.

The report centers on the cemetery’s deputy superintendent, Thurman Higginbotham – who is identified only by title in the report – and alleges that Higginbotham may have authorized as much as $5.5 million in contracts to digitize the cemetery’s records, without results.

Higginbotham is identified in the report “as the government point of contact for monitoring all IT contract performance,” despite having no training as a contract officer.

“Evidence established that at least three contractors over a seven-year time period were awarded multiple contracts to upgrade the original Intermittent Scheduling System and to digitize ANC’s burial records. None of these efforts, however, resulted in the implementation of any automated systems currently in place at ANC,” where records are still manually kept, the report said.

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