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Next-of-Kin Notification Policies to Change
WASHINGTON — New procedures for next-of-kin notifications will prevent problems like the misinformation surrounding Cpl. Pat Tillman’s death, military officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.
But several members of the House Armed Services Committee said they are still skeptical the Defense Department has done enough to ensure that families of troops killed overseas will receive quick and accurate information.
Tillman, an Army Ranger and former professional football player, was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in April 2004. Army officials initially told family and media he was killed fighting Taliban attackers, but months later revised that story.
An Army investigation completed earlier this year found no criminal wrongdoing in Tillman’s death but suggested several soldiers could be disciplined for relaying inaccurate and misleading stories about his death to cover up the incident.
All four services have policies requiring officials to notify families of an investigation into the death of their military relative. Brig. Gen. Reuben Jones, adjutant general of the Army, said families are now notified specifically about investigations into friendly fire incidents, even if the details have not been confirmed.
“Any information that is not conveyed timely or accurately to the family is a regrettable incident,” he said.
“We’ve learned these lessons. In every instance, we want to make sure we get it right, and the procedures we’ve put in place we think will keep that from happening again.”
Navy, Air Force and Marines officials follow similar guidelines related to friendly fire deaths, with minor differences in exactly when and how families are notified.
But Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., who was trained as a casualty assistance officer during his time in the Army, questioned why the Pentagon hasn’t adopted departmentwide standards for those cases.
The lawmakers also criticized the Army for delays in an anticipated report from Army Training and Doctrine Command studying whether any officers should receive administrative punishment for their role in the investigation of the Tillman incident.
That report was expected to be made public by the start of May, but Jones said no release date has been finalized.
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