A retired four-star general from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead a review of operations at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary after federal investigations found evidence of “gross mismanagement” at the repository for America’s war dead.
John P. Abizaid, who retired from the military in 2007 after serving four years as the head of the U.S. Central Command and 34 years in the Army, was selected to oversee the review by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, the Pentagon announced late Monday.
Abizaid will replace Richard H. Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general who resigned unexpectedly from the Dover mortuary review panel on Nov. 11, just three days after Panetta appointed him to the post. Carmona stepped down a day after he announced he was running for Congress, dealing a setback to the Dover review before it could even get started.
Carmona’s decision to seek a Senate seat from Arizona apparently caught the Pentagon by surprise, even though his political ambitions had been widely reported for months and he had been urged to enter the race by President Obama and other leading Democrats.
Abizaid will lead a panel of public-health and funeral-service experts that will scrutinize changes made by the Air Force in response to federal investigations that documented missing body parts and other problems at the Dover mortuary.
Defense officials said Panetta wants the panel to examine current operations at the mortuary; it’s unclear if it will investigate past practices, such as the mortuary’s policy of dumping cremated portions of troops’ remains at a Virginia landfill.