The outlook for improvement at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, he says, is not encouraging.
"Today it's worse than ever," he says.
People disagree on the extent of the problem. But even the current JPAC commander, Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, says he would not dispute those who say his organization is dysfunctional.
"I'd say you're right, and we're doing something about it," McKeague said in a telephone interview last week from his headquarters in Hawaii. He said changes, possibly to include consolidating the accounting bureaucracy and putting its management under the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, are under consideration.
The internal report by Paul M. Cole was never meant to be made public. It is unsparing in its criticisms:
—In recent years the process by which JPAC gathers bones and other material useful for identifications has "collapsed" and is now "acutely dysfunctional."
—JPAC is finding too few investigative leads, resulting in too few collections of human remains to come even close to achieving Congress's demand for a minimum 200 identifications per year by 2015. Of the 80 identifications that JPAC's Central Identification Laboratory made in 2012, only 35 were derived from remains recovered by JPAC. Thirty-eight of the 80 were either handed over unilaterally by other governments or were disinterred from a U.S. military cemetery. Seven were from a combination of those sources.
—Some search teams are sent into the field, particularly in Europe, on what amount to boondoggles. No one is held to account for "a pattern of foreign travel, accommodations and activities paid for by public funds that are ultimately unnecessary, excessive, inefficient or unproductive." Some refer to this as "military tourism."
—JPAC lacks a comprehensive list of the people for whom it's searching. Its main database is incomplete and "riddled with unreliable data."