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Podcast: The Military’s Slow and Backward Approach to Identifying MIAs

The Pentagon spends roughly $100 million a year to identify service members “missing in action” from World War II, Korea and Vietnam – a noble effort to try and bring closure to families and loved ones. But the process has proven incredibly slow and inefficient, ProPublica’s Megan McCloskey reports, with only 60 identifications made in all of 2013.

In her latest investigation with NPR, McCloskey uncovered how the Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, has been reluctant to use forensic science to its fullest potential, often relying on DNA as a confirmation tool rather than using it to spearhead the process.

She joins our editor-in-chief, Steve Engelberg, on the podcast this week to discuss how at the center of J-PAC’s cumbersome process is its scientific director, Tom Holland, who alone assesses whether there’s enough evidence to send a body home; how more than 30 countries have adopted the DNA-led approach to drive their identification efforts, finding mass success; and how, at J-PAC’s current rate, it will take more than 600 years to identify the estimated 45,000 recoverable MIAs.

You can listen to this podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. For more on this investigation, read McCloskey’s full report: Failing the Fallen: The Military is Leaving the Missing Behind.

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