At 10:45 a.m. today retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague was sworn in as the second director for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) by DoD Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem, who is currently performing the duties of Under Secretary of Defense for Foreign Policy, after 16 months of inaction through two administrations.

“I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved
ones served our country,” he said.  “The fulfillment of this agency’s solemn
obligation is my honor to endeavor.”

McKeague, who was endorsed earlier this year for DPAA director by the Joint Special Operations Association/Special Forces Association POW/MIA Committee and the National League of POW/MIA Families was the commander of Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) based at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii from 2012 until DPAA was formed in 2015, and JPAC colors were cased in 2016. JPAC was one of three federal agencies merged into the DPAA. Today, there are 1,603 Americans still listed as missing in Southeast Asia (SEA) from the Vietnam War, including Laos, Cambodia and N. Vietnam.

“I know the importance of the agency’s mission and I look forward to working
with DPAA’s team of dedicated professionals,”

This is the latest chapter in the fledging DPAA since the consolidation of three federal organizations to form it: the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), based in the D.C. area; the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) based in Hawaii where one of two forensic laboratories are located and from which search teams are launched on missions to recover unaccounted-for Americans; and the Air Force’s Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory (LSEL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Army Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington was the first DPAA director appointed in June 2015. He resigned after less than one year.


That resignation occurred just five days before the National League of POW/MIA Families 47th Annual Meeting in June 2016 where Richard Childress, the Senior Policy Advisor and Director of Asian Affairs for the National Security Council during the Reagan administration from 1981-89, characterized Linnington as a “shooting star that appeared briefly” in the POW/MIA-decades-long effort to bring home missing Americans. Childress – a Vietnam veteran who has worked on this issue with the National League of POW/MIA Families and the government for more than 40 years, characterized Linnington’s sudden departure as having set back the issue of bringing home America’s missing from SEA.


A joint February Special Forces letter articulated a major, festering internal DPAA issue McKeague will face where “Congress has directed DPAA to develop the capability and capacity to accomplish 200 identifications of American remains per year. Some in DPAA purposefully or inadvertently misinterpret the intent of Congress to mean that they must identify 200 annually, starting now.” The letter described how some upper management DPAA personnel have adopted a strategy to disinter commingled remains of known dead from previous wars, many buried as unknowns in US-controlled cemeteries. Then in an effort to get higher numbers, they “use new DNA techniques to identify personnel who are not truly missing. It is much cheaper, faster and easier to rack up ID numbers this way, then to fund field operations to locate and recover the truly missing.”