Two Green Beret associations are frustrated that only one veteran listed as missing from the Vietnam War has been publicly announced as accounted for since June 9. They expressed bitter disappointment that a new director hasn’t been appointed to the DoD’s Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA) since the sudden departure of Director Michael Linnington eight months ago.

In October, knowledgeable sources told SOFREP that a replacement for Linnington was selected, but before any formal announcement of that candidate’s name—another Army general—was publicly made, that man withdrew from consideration. This further clouded the DPAA top leadership selection process for an agency formed over two years ago to bring together three separate federal organizations to improve U.S. efforts to account as fully as possible for U.S. servicemen and designated civilians still missing from the Vietnam War.

The wheels of change that led to the formation of DPAA began rolling in early 2014, when then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the undersecretary of defense for policy to reorganize the DoD’s efforts to account for personnel missing from 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 the DoD could more effectively and transparently account for our missing personnel while ensuring their families receive timely and accurate information.”

In 2015, the DPAA was formed through the consolidation of three federal organizations: the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), based in the D.C. area; the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) based in Hawaii, where two of three 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. LTG Mike Linnington was the first DPAA director, appointed in June 2015 for what he announced would be a 10-year tour of duty with the fledging federal, merged agency. However, Linnington resigned last June after one year on the job, thus necessitating a search for a new director that continues today.

That resignation occurred just five days before the National League of POW/MIA Families 47th Annual Meeting, where Richard Childress, the league’s senior policy advisor, characterized Linnington as a “shooting star that appeared briefly” in the decades-long effort to bring home missing Americans. Childress, who has worked on this issue with the league and the government for more than 40 years—including eight as director for Asian affairs in Reagan’s National Security Council—added that Linnington’s “sudden departure has set the issue back once again, especially given his previous stance that this was an abiding priority for him.”

Since Linnington’s departure, the acting DPAA director is Mrs. Fern Sumpter Winbush. A recently retired Army colonel, she was hired by her former boss, Mike Linnington, on Oct. 27, 2015, to formulate policy, oversee business development, and increase outreach initiatives to achieve the agency’s goal of providing families and the nation with the “fullest possible accounting of missing personnel from past conflicts,” according to a DoD release. Today, there are more than 82,000 Americans technically considered missing and otherwise unaccounted for from Vietnam, Korea, the Cold War, and World War II, though most acknowledge that nearly half of the 73,000 unaccounted-for from WWII are unrecoverable, deep-sea losses.

Earlier this year, the only Southeast Asia recovery by DPAA was the return of Marine Corps Reserve Officer 1st Lt. William C. Ryan, the first person since June 9, 2016 announced as accounted for from the Vietnam War. He was listed as KIA/BNR (Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered) on May 11, 1969, after his Phantom F-4B jet was hit by enemy fire while on a bombing pass over Savannakhet Province, Laos. Today, there are still 1,617 U.S. personnel missing and otherwise unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, including 50 Green Berets listed as missing or killed in action while fighting in the secret war in Laos. They are among the 300 still unaccounted for in Laos, including aviators who supported the secret war.

“Although we appreciate DPAA’s efforts in the accounting mission, we are astounded at DoD’s lack of progress in appointing a new director,” said Mike Taylor, chairman of the Special Operations Association/Special Forces Association’s joint POW/MIA Committee. Taylor, who fought over five years in the secret war, added, “No doubt the selection process has been complicated by the change in administrations, but this process has taken far too long. We were told that the first person selected withdrew his application and that the DoD then did an internal search for a director within the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, but found no one. Then, we were told that the position would be posted anew in USAJOBS, but there is no evidence that this has occurred to date.