A lab designed to help the Pentagon identify the remains of soldiers, sailors and air men is up and running at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.
Major General Kelly McKeague is the commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, known as J-PAC, a satellite of the main identification lab in Hawaii.
“It provides us the additional capacity and capability that was identified within the Congressional mandate. It costs us a little over $5.2 million. We ended up revitalizing and re-using an existing facility on the base,” McKeague told a Senate subcommittee during a hearing in Washington.
The Pentagon used the money to renovate the former Martin Bomber Plant at Offutt into a 27,000 square foot state-of-the-art forensic laboratory. It will increase the number of cases in which remains undergo painstaking scrutiny by special technicians, attempting to identify Prisoners of War and those formerly Missing in Action.
The first case confronting the lab is a case from Vietnam; ten disinterments from a cemetery in Missouri.
McKeague tells the subcommittee the lab has begun its work, but budget cuts have kept it from operating a full capacity.
“Because of the hiring freeze, we only have 14 of the 49 laboratory personnel in the building,” McKeague says, adding that he hopes to work with the Pentagon to hire more personnel.