Monday, November 12, 2012

"Lost to History: Missing War Records" - ProPublica & Seattle Times

In case you missed it, Peter Sleeth from ProPublica and Hal Bernton of The Seattle Times have an important two-part piece on the U.S. military's failure to create or maintain adequate records of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the consequences, both personal and historical, of that failure. The first part (available here) is called "Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans" and the second part (here) is "A Son Lost in Iraq, but Where is the Casualty Report?"

The reporting relies, in part, on some fascinating government documents and reports including this brief on a "GWOT [Global War on Terrorism] Archive Project" and this 2009 Army "information paper" on "Army Operational Records" that begins by noting that the "long-term ability of an Army to learn from its experiences, prepare effective doctrine, adequately train and care for its Soldiers, and generate an able and ready force requires that it develop methods and procedures to capture its own operational data" and later states that between 2004 and 2007 "very few Operation ENDURING FREEDOM records were saved anywhere, either for historian's use or for the services documentary needs for unit heritage or for the increasing challenge with documenting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)."

The pieces provide a powerful example of the too-often-ignored importance of recordkeeping.