THIS IS a goverment of reports and studies. No matter what happens in this nation, the first solution is to appoint a commission to study it. The Commissions take one year, two years, some even longer, and then they make their report to the president. If the president agrees with the report it's released to the nation. If he or his staff disagrees with it it is buried. But where?
Just by chance I discovered the secret burial grounds of reports and studies make by Presidential Commissions. The cemetery is located on a hill over-looking the upper Potomac. It is a quiet and deserted place, and only the chirping of birds or the call of a hoot owl can be heard.
Gottfried Snellenbach has been caretaker of the burial area for goverment reports ever since the Harding Administration, and after I had assured him I would not dig up any of the graves he let me enter the large, well-kept grounds.
"We've got some of the great reports of all times buried here," Snellenbach told me. "We've got reports that cost $20 million, and we've got reports that cost $2,000, but in the end they all wind up here, buried six feet under."
"Sir, what kind of reports are resting here?" "It might be better to ask what kind of reports aren't buried here. We have reports on violence, the Communist threat, housing, health care, law and order. You name it, and we've buried it."
"How does a report find its final resting spot in this setting?"
Well, as you know, the president is always appointing a commission to study something or other buried , because if you're president you don't want someone finding it at a later date and using it against you.
"So every week each report that has died is placed in a pine box and loaded on a goverment hearse and brought up here, where we have a simple ceremony before lowering it into the ground.
"If it's a blue-ribbon panel report that's been killed in action, we give it a 21-gun salute. Otherwise, we lay to rest with as little fuss as possible."
"This cemetery goes for miles and miles," I said.
"No one knows how may reports have been buried here by the different presidents."
"Mr. Snellenbach, this is a beautiful cemetery and very impressive. But why does the government go to so much trouble and expense to keep it up for nothing more than paper reports?"
"You must understand that most of the men asked to serve on presidential commisions are very important citizens. They spend months and years working on these reports, and they feel very close to them. When their reports are killed or buried, these men feel personal loss. Many days you will see them sitting here next to the tombstones of their studies, tears rolling down their cheeks. No matter how long you work here, it still gets to you."