The Defense Department is close to naming the first director of the newly formed Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA), SOFREP has learned. In recent weeks, reliable sources have indicated that the field of candidates has been narrowed down to three people.

The wheels of change that lead to the formation of DPAA began in early 2014, when Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the undersecretary of defense for policy to provide recommendations for reorganizing the DoD’s efforts to account for missing personnel in our nation’s past conflicts.

Hagel said, “Finding, recovering, and identifying the remains of these individuals is one of our highest responsibilities, and I believed that DoD could more effectively and transparently account for our missing personnel while ensuring their families receive timely and accurate information.”

Under the new plan, DPAA will consolidate three previous federal operations: the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), which was based in the D.C. area; the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) that is based in Hawaii where the forensic laboratories are located and where the search teams are launched for missions to recover unaccounted-for American remains; and the Air Force’s Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

On January 30, the JPAC colors were cased during a formal ceremony in Hawaii, after which the DPAA was formally activated.

Rear Adm. Mike Franken, a former Navy legislative director, was appointed the interim commander until the new DPAA director is named. Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the former JPAC commander, was named the interim deputy director.

Through 2015, the headquarters for the new agency will be in Washington, D.C., but it will also operate from its Hawaii location with satellite laboratories in Nebraska and Ohio. A decision on the agency’s permanent location will be made by early next year, DoD officials said.

Stars and Stripes reported earlier this year that the DoD had received criticism for only accounting for about 72 remains annually, while upsetting surviving families through a lack of communications with them. In addition, there have been allegations of widespread mismanagement and botched recovery efforts.