Faced with a shortage of burial spaces, the US Army announced Wednesday that it has proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for internment at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Army said in a statement that while Arlington National Cemetery “continues to look for ways to expand, that alone will not solve the existing demand for burial space.”
“If no changes are made” the storied cemetery which dates to the Civil War, which houses the likes of John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, “will be closed to new internments by the mid-2050s — even for Medal of Honor recipients,” the Army added.
“Arlington National Cemetery is a national shrine for all Americans, but especially those who have served our great nation,” acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said in the statement announcing the proposed rule change.
Under the newly proposed rules, those eligible for internment at the cemetery will now be limited to certain groups including: US service members that were killed in action, recipients of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star or Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States.
Retired veterans who served on active duty will now no longer be automatically eligible for in-ground burial but would be eligible for having their cremated remains interned above ground.
The Army said that the proposed changes were the product of a two and a half year process that involved “public outreach and surveys — including feedback from veterans and military service organizations.”
That review was prompted by a provision passed by Congress in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which the Army said “directed the Secretary of the Army to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground ‘well into the future’ — defined as 150 years.”