Arlington national cemetery

Database, app to streamline operations in national military cemeteries

After struggling with poor gravesite tracking at military cemeteries, the Defense Department is turning to an Enterprise Interment Services System.

EISS includes a mobile app to help cemetery operations teams photograph, catalog and assign global positioning system locations to gravesites, streamlining maintenance and operational processes. Working with mobility company DMI, DOD will create an enterprise National Military Cemetery app for internal cemetery operations and a common virtual database and network environment for military cemeteries nationwide.

The app, accessible on Microsoft Windows-enabled tablets, will reduce the manual data entry for cemetery staff on gravesite markers that need repair or replacing, and the information collected via the app will be automatically updated in the centralized database, according to Mike McHugh, president of Government Solutions for DMI.

“The development of a new enterprisewide interment operations system will result in reduced complexity and improved performance, aiding cemetery operators, administrators and research teams in the capture, analysis and security of cemetery data and operational assets,” McHugh said. “EISS provides a single, virtualized solution that all military cemeteries can access and operate from anywhere. The mobile app allows the field ops crew to capture images with geotagged information that includes the location of the markers in need of repair or replacement.”

DMI will migrate and integrate data from existing systems into a common application and VMware environment, according to the company. Development of EISS will continue into 2017.

“Our military cemeteries are part of our treasured national heritage, but over the years, their systems have grown unnecessarily complex, making it more difficult to serve America’s citizens,” DMI founder and CEO Jay Sunny Bajaj said. “This much-needed consolidation and migration to a virtualized infrastructure will aid research teams in their analysis of the data integrity and restore the confidence of the data.”

EISS aims to correct a years-old problem that has plagued military cemeteries. In 2012, the Veterans Affairs Department said it made mistakes at VA cemeteries that led families in seven cities to mourn at the wrong graves. At the Houston National Cemetery, for example, VA staff put 14 grave markers in the wrong plots in 2002.

In June 2010, The Washington Post reported that Army investigators had found more than 100 unmarked graves plus graves not marked on official maps. A DOD inspector general report that month made matters worse, stating that it found 211 instances of unmarked graves, misplaced headstones and improper dumping of human ashes.

Last year, VA’s National Cemetery Administration, which oversees 3 million gravesites at 131 national cemeteries and burial grounds, issued a request for information for a wide-area-network-based cemetery tracking solution to help with digital mapping, internment notices and remains tracking. A large part of the problems at the cemeteries stemmed from antiquated, paper-based processes.

Cemetery visitors have had an app since October 2012. The ANC Explorer app lets visitors not only find a loved one’s gravesite, but it provides directions to it, too. The app also helps users view photos of the front and back of headstones and find events and points of interest. 

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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