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Military plan would limit who could be buried at Arlington Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, Va., on May 23, 2014. (SSG Sean K. Harp/Department of Defense)

The Army is proposing new rules on who can be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The changes, announced by Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, are designed to extend the life of the cemetery. Under current rules, the cemetery would run out of burial space by the mid 2050s. The new procedures would extend that lifespan by another 150 years.

“The hard reality is we are running out of space. To keep Arlington National Cemetery open and active well into the future means we have to make some tough decisions that restrict the eligibility,” said Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery Karen Durham-Aguilera.

Currently, nearly all of the 22 million living armed forced members and veterans are eligible for burial at Arlington, though there are less than 95,000 remaining spaces.

The new plans would set aside 1,000 gravesites for current and future Medal of Honor recipients. It would limit below-ground burials for those who are killed in action, including the repatriated remains of service members; recipients of the Silver Star and above who served in combat; Purple Heart recipients; combat-related service deaths during “uniquely military activities;” former Prisoners of War; and presidents and vice presidents of the U.S.

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In-ground burials would also be allowed for veterans with combat service who also served out of uniform as a government official and “made significant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service.”

Criteria for above-ground inurnment of cremated remains would be expanded to include World War II-era veterans; armed forces retirees who are eligible for retirement pay but not eligible for interment; and veterans who have served a minimum of two years on active duty and have served in combat.

The rules, which must still be published in the Federal Register, would be implemented in about nine months.

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