WASHINGTON (AP) - The House's main investigative panel plans to meet soon with a government whistleblower office and the Air Force as it launches an investigation into mishandling of remains at the military mortuary in Dover, Del.
Within the next few days, the Oversight and Government Reform staff will meet with the Air Force and the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency that conducted the initial investigation based on information from multiple whistleblowers.
Although the Oversight panel is partisan on many issues, the request for documents from the Defense Department was signed by two Republicans and two Democrats, including Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
The committee asked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for records going back to 2002, a list of everyone involved in allegations of mishandling remains and any discipline imposed. The panel set a Dec. 9 deadline.
The Pentagon is trying to reassure members of the military and their families that it has fixed problems in how human remains were handled. In two cases, body parts were lost.
The Office of Special Counsel has said the Air Force, which runs the mortuary, has yet to face up to all the faults in Dover's operations. The defense secretary's spokesman suggested that additional disciplinary action was possible beyond what the Air Force has taken.
After the Air Force in early November disclosed the results of its investigation into mishandling of remains, Panetta directed a special review at the mortuary, to be completed within 60 days.
"Let me make very clear to the families of our fallen heroes that every step will be taken to protect the honor and dignity that their loved ones richly deserve," Panetta said in a written statement.
Three mortuary supervisors were punished for what the Air Force called "gross mismanagement." But no one was fired in a grisly case reminiscent of the scandalous mishandling and misidentifying of remains at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.