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I feel if there had not been an expression of interest, I might say the expression of a great deal of interest at this particular time, this subcommittee would not be in session.
There is an interest. It is a renewed interest, a growing interest. I think each year there will be more attention given to this particular problem. But I read here:
We are of the firm conviction that Congress should adopt the policy leading to the eventual closing of those remaining operating cemeteries and provide for their perpetual care by the National Parks Service.
Of course, in most cases, in most cemeteries, they are not under the National Park Service.
Your suggestion here is that we alter the policy of a military organization, in this case the Department of the Army Quartermaster Corps, in the majority of the cemeteries to be in charge.
This is always an issue, what agency these should be turned over to. I think it should remain under a military organization because it was due to military service that they are buried in this particular plot.
They rendered no service to the National Park Service or the Secretary of the Interior. If we want to be real crude about it, we could say that we ought to turn over the national cemeteries to the Department of Agriculture. But I feel that the National Park Service, other than the national historic battlefields, should limit their jurisdiction.
These should be under the military organizations as that was the purpose of their service and eligibility for burial.
Mrs. Prost. May I interrupt the chairman at this point to ask a question ?
Mr. RUTHERFORD. The gentle lady from Idaho.
Mrs. Prost. In line with what the chairman just read you, that you are asking Congress to adopt a policy leading to the eventual closing of those remaining operating national cemeteries, do you mean that you are recommending that these cemeteries be closed before they are actually filled ?
Mr. BRENNAN. No, Mrs. Pfost, no.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. In other words, you are recommending that once they have reached capacity they not be extended or expanded, or have any annexes, and that the national cemeteries, as such, will be a perpetual caretaker problem on the part of the Federal Government?
Mr. BRENNAN. Exactly. We had suggested that in this statement because the National Park Service does have under their jurisdiction and care a number of these cemeteries.
We do not want to get into that controversy, but it is because there are now so many of them under the Park Service.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. What is your reaction to the plan that I have proposed, that the Federal Government be authorized no funds for the acquisition of land, but would receive donations?
However, they would care for the cemetery if received and accepted and found suitable by the Government.
Mr. BRENNAN. Our experience has been, and the facts reveal, as has been brought out here, that the cost of the maintenance of a national cemetery is not the acquisition of land no matter how expensive or how little it may be.
The real cost comes into their development, setting up roadways, the various other things that go into building a cemetery, plus the maintenance that goes on and on.
In other words, that plan, it seems to me, would increase the problem, as the Department of the Army has suggested, rather than to improve it as the years go by.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Your primary premise is there is no demand.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Would you feel, though, that if an area got together some land that was acceptable, with the further proposition that those electing to be buried in the national cemetery would forget, relinquish or waive x amount of dollars, which would be sufficient for the perpetual care, that as far as the added expense there would be no added expense, as far as the taxpayers are concerned ?
Unless the local interest was expressed there would be no land available. That would eliminate two of your main objections. That is that there would be no demand and there would be no added cost.
Mr. BRENNAN. I do not follow that. It seems to me that the cost is there one way or another.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. In other words, you are suggesting, actually, increased cost. You are suggesting increased cost because you are suggesting rather than the Federal Government having its own cemetery, that we, in effect, increase the benefits, coming out of the same taxpayer's dollar, but all of the benefits would go to the private cemeteries.
Mr. BRENNAN. I do not mean to convey that suggestion, Mr. Rutherford. In other words, if the American Legion or anyone else recommends that, that is not our recommendation.
We are saying that there could well be, under the present benefits, as was evidenced in the bill in Congress some years ago, that a portion of this be particularly earmarked for the burial plot and for the interment service.
We are not suggesting that there be an additional amount. In other words, our comment would be, if there is any question in the minds of the committee, that enough of this is not going for the actual memorialization, that that could well be remedied by actually earmarking the amount from the $250 that shall go into the selection of a burial site.
But, as I say, the Congress 2 or 3 years ago chose to eliminate that from the American Legion suggestion and it went in without any earmarking.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I think the line of demarcation here is primarilyand I mean no unkindness—that to you cemeteries are a business. This does not mean that you do not have the same compassion as other people.
I do not mean to imply that. But to you, this is a business.
Mr. BRENNAN. Mr. Rutherford, I presume to that extent everything is a business. We are speaking here today for the thousands of municipally owned cemeteries, and religious cemeteries.
I assure you that most of those of which I may say a word are entirely nonprofit institutions. They are not making any money. I would not say that the connotation that you give the word “business” is fair.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. It is in this sense: The national cemeteries, when you say they are nonprofit, if they are nonprofit that means that the Federal Government, the taxpayers, has to pick up the check somewhere along the line. Someone is writing this off as a tax.
Mr. BRENNAN. There is no money going into the pockets of some promoters. That is your point. That is well taken.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. I mean I think someone is kidding themselves when they say this is economy by closing down national cemeteries and not expanding them, and that we are trying to relieve the taxpayers.
I do not think this is a fair conclusion. I think that the veterans and the organizations primarily look upon this not as a competitive business against a private cemetery concern, a municipal, a religious, or anything else, but this is something special, something a little bit different.
Therefore, this is, in effect, the field of honor. To be perfectly frank, I recognize the fact that many of the commercial cemeteries, private cemeteries, do have certain areas set aside in their grounds for veterans. I might say that in many cases this is appealed through their advertising as an added inducement for those who wish to be buried or use your facilities, that there is a field of honor.
I have worked with hoe and rake in private cemeteries, wearing my organizational cap, for the maintenance of these particular graves. This was a post project. We felt that is what it was.
To be perfectly frank, we always felt very warm to the owners of the cemetery, who were always very kind and gracious. But I think the point here is that there is a feeling of encroachment upon business on the creation or the expansion of the national cemeteries.
This, I do not think, is right. This is one field where I do not think someone ought to raise the word that this is a socialistic cemetery.
This is something special, this is something different.
We have some unusual conflicts here. We had a municipal cemetery registrar this morning who appeared in behalf of expansion. In fact, they want a national cemetery in the New England area.
Also this morning, in a Štate where we already have 17 national cemeteries, more national cemeteries than any other State, I presume, the State of Virginia, their association from Hampton, Va., requested this morning the immediate consideration of the possible opening of a national cemetery in their area.
So I would say that even in your organization you never expect a unanimous decision, but there are some conflicts in your own group.
Would the gentlelady from Idaho like to ask any questions?
Mr. SAYLOR. Mr. Brennan, I have had a chance to read your statement again, and having been a member of the committee a few years ago and listened to the testimony, I find a few things in here that need explanation.
If you will, turn to page 4 of your statement. You call attention to the testimony of the past national commander of the American Legion, Warren Atherton. I do not deny that at that hearing in 1957 Warren Atherton appeared and testified, and I do not deny that he was the past commander of the American Legion.
But at that time he did not appear and testify as the past commander of the American Legion. He appeared and testified for one of the organizations that you represent. He came here as a representative of the Western Cemetery Alliance.
I think it is rather shameful when your organization comes along and tries to pervert testimony, and this is just what you have done.
In your summary of your statement, on page 1, it states that the national cemetery is unwarranted.
Out of 437 Members of Congress, 52 of them have introduced bills calling for the expansion of a unit or parts of the units of the national cemetery system. Certainly this is an indication, since these 52 bills covered 21 States.
You can't say that this is unwarranted. This is your conclusion. Your organization does not want it, but I am afraid you have put a dollar value on this, rather than to approach this thing from the standpoint of the veteran and the country, and what is good for it.
You are looking at it from your own dollar viewpoint. As the chairman stated, I think you have lost a great deal of the effectiveness of
Mr. BRENNAN. I meant to say in that statement not that it was unwarranted insofar as we were concerned, but unwarranted by the great majority of veterans, where it has been our experience to deal with them over the years. That has been our experience.
They want to be with their family and in their own home community cemetery. That is by far the great majority. And even in these areas where they do have a national cemetery, the great majority of them still prefer to be in a cemetery of their own choosing, in their own community, where lie the members of their family.
Mr. SAYLOR. This may be, but this is not what you said. Your summary states that a national cemetery is unwanted, unwarranted, and economically unsound.
Mr. BRENNAN. I am taking the suggestion of Mr. Rutherford that I further explain, which I have now done.
Mr. SAYLOR. Frankly, representing, as you do, five or six private organizations, it certainly seems to me that this statement, and I do not know who prepared it, is certainly very ill advised.
You say next that you concur with the Army, that you would like to have them phased out and closed out. Then you come along, a little later on, and say that you want to make an exception in the case of Arlington National Cemetery.
But if the same number of people will be buried in Arlington Cemetery that are now being buried in our national cemeteries, we are going to need 8,000 acres of land out in Virginia.
Would you propose that we go out and buy 8,000 acres additional land out in Virginia, probably the most expensive land that the country can find ?
Mr. BRENNAN. No, I do not propose that, Mr. Saylor. I think as this goes along, and these cemeteries are phased out, if that is what does happen, that you will find that these veterans will be going to their own community cemeteries.
Mr. SAYLOR. Even assuming the military's position, that 88 percent of them still want it, are we to say that 12 percent of the people who served their country honorably are not entitled to be buried here if they want to?
Suppose they do not like your cemetery? You say it is a matter of choice. I have heard that we are fighting so much for minorities, I am going to take up for this 12 percent that nobody wants.
The only reason you want them is you have a dollar value on them. You say you would like to have them rather than the national cemetery. I just can't go along with you.
I think if you have a veteran who qualifies, who chooses to be buried in a national cemetery, it is his prerogative. I think we should provide space, as we have done for the last 100 years.
You haven't come along and offered any recommendation as to changing the requirements. What would you think of a suggestion following what Mr. Rutherford said, that the value of a grave be deducted from the burial allowance ?
Mr. BRENNAN. I would not want to comment on that subject, Mr. Saylor.
Mr. SAYLOR. Would you go along with a situation that the amount necessary to take care of perpetual care be deducted from the burial allowance ?
Mr. BRENNAN. Nor would I care to comment on that.
Mr. RUTHERFORD. Mr. Brennan, it is not my nature to be diplomatic, but it is very obvious that you do not care to comment on anything except the negative position of a problem that we are sincerely trying to resolve.
It is very apparent that some administrative assistants or public relations people have prepared some pretty astounding statements.
The gentlemen from Pennsylvania has revealed that you have perverted the testimony of one individual in here, which greatly reflects upon the veracity and the objectivity of the rest of the statement that you have submitted.
If you just want to submit your written statement, it is perfectly all right.
We have a problem that we are trying to solve. It is a problem, whether you recognize it or not. We are charged with the responsibility of not only our respective districts but for the country as a whole. We feel that there is a need. As the gentleman from Pennsylvania stated, if these are matters of choice, you propose to eliminate one choice, and that is if a veteran wants to be buried in a national cemetery. You want that eliminated.
So this will help the survivors to eliminate that choice. Then they have a choice between a religious, municipal, or a private cemetery. This cuts it down considerably. I do not feel that you have been exactly helpful to this committee on the problem, or the associations that you represent.
You state, in the municipal cemetery statement, that it is the historical function of local government to bury the veterans. Would you go along with the proposition that those veterans who are buried in a local municipal cemetery waive all Federal benefits, because we do not want to interfere.