[House Hearing, 110 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]





                   IS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS
                  AFFAIRS CEMETERY CONSTRUCTION POLICY
                 MEETING THE NEEDS OF TODAY'S VETERANS
                          AND THEIR FAMILIES?
=======================================================================

                             FIELD HEARING

                               before the

                 SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY ASSISTANCE
                          AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS

                                 of the

                     COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
                     U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                       ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS

                             SECOND SESSION

                               __________

                              MAY 2, 2008
                  HEARING HELD IN COLORADO SPRINGS, CO

                               __________

                           Serial No. 110-85

                               __________

       Printed for the use of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs







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                     COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS

                    BOB FILNER, California, Chairman

CORRINE BROWN, Florida               STEVE BUYER, Indiana, Ranking
VIC SNYDER, Arkansas                 CLIFF STEARNS, Florida
MICHAEL H. MICHAUD, Maine            JERRY MORAN, Kansas
STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN, South     HENRY E. BROWN, Jr., South 
Dakota                               Carolina
HARRY E. MITCHELL, Arizona           JEFF MILLER, Florida
JOHN J. HALL, New York               JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
PHIL HARE, Illinois                  GINNY BROWN-WAITE, Florida
MICHAEL F. DOYLE, Pennsylvania       MICHAEL R. TURNER, Ohio
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada              BRIAN P. BILBRAY, California
JOHN T. SALAZAR, Colorado            DOUG LAMBORN, Colorado
CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas             GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida
JOE DONNELLY, Indiana                VERN BUCHANAN, Florida
JERRY McNERNEY, California           VACANT
ZACHARY T. SPACE, Ohio
TIMOTHY J. WALZ, Minnesota

                   Malcom A. Shorter, Staff Director

       SUBCOMMITTEE ON DISABILITY ASSISTANCE AND MEMORIAL AFFAIRS

                    JOHN J. HALL, New York, Chairman

CIRO D. RODRIGUEZ, Texas             DOUG LAMBORN, Colorado, Ranking
PHIL HARE, Illinois                  MICHAEL R. TURNER, Ohio
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada              GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida

Pursuant to clause 2(e)(4) of Rule XI of the Rules of the House, public 
hearing records of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs are also 
published in electronic form. The printed hearing record remains the 
official version. Because electronic submissions are used to prepare 
both printed and electronic versions of the hearing record, the process 
of converting between various electronic formats may introduce 
unintentional errors or omissions. Such occurrences are inherent in the 
current publication process and should diminish as the process is 
further refined.













                            C O N T E N T S

                               __________

                              May 2, 2008

                                                                   Page
Is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Cemetery Construction 
  Policy Meeting the Needs of Today's Veterans and Their 
  Families?......................................................     1

                           OPENING STATEMENTS

Chairman John J. Hall............................................     1
    Prepared statement of Chairman Hall..........................    43
Hon. Doug Lamborn, Ranking Republican Member.....................     4
    Prepared statement of Congressman Lamborn....................    44
Hon. John T. Salazar.............................................     6

                               WITNESSES

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Hon. William F. Tuerk, Under 
  Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery 
  Administration.................................................    28
    Prepared statement of Mr. Tuerk..............................    59

                                 ______

American Legion, Tim Grabin, Department Commander, Department of 
  Colorado.......................................................    18
    Prepared statement of Mr. Grabin.............................    50
Colorado Military Survivors, Colorado Springs, CO, Milly Briseno, 
  Co-Founder.....................................................    10
    Prepared statement of Ms. Briseno............................    46
Colorado State Board of Veterans Affairs, C. Douglas Sterner, 
  Past Chairman..................................................    19
    Prepared statement of Mr. Sterner............................    51
El Paso County, CO, Veteran and Military Affairs, Bud Sailar, 
  Director.......................................................    17
    Prepared statement of Mr. Sailar.............................    49
Gold Star Wives of America, Linda Lee-Witt, Member, Peterson AFB, 
  Colorado Springs, CO...........................................     8
    Prepared statement of Ms. Lee-Witt...........................    45
Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery Committee, Colorado Springs, CO, 
  Victor M. Fernandez, Member....................................    16
    Prepared statement of Mr. Fernandez..........................    47
Pueblo County Board of Commissioners, Hon. Jeff Chostner, 
  Colonel, USAF (Ret.), Commissioner, Pueblo, CO.................    21
    Prepared statement of Commissioner Chostner..................    59

                       SUBMISSION FOR THE RECORD

Udall, Hon. Mark, a Representative in Congress from the State of 
  Colorado, statement............................................    61

                   MATERIAL SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD

``A National Veterans Cemetery for the Pikes Peak Region,'' a 
  Report of the Pikes Peak Region Veterans' Cemetery Project, 
  prepared for the Pikes Peak Veterans' Cemetery Committee, 
  October 2007...................................................    63
Hon. William F. Tuerk, Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs, 
  National Cemetery Administration, to Hon. John T. Salazar, U.S. 
  House of Representatives, letter dated July 11, 2008, providing 
  follow-up information regarding VA authority to accept, as a 
  gift, funds for the construction for a national cemetery.......    98

 
                   IS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS
                  AFFAIRS CEMETERY CONSTRUCTION POLICY
                 MEETING THE NEEDS OF TODAY'S VETERANS
                          AND THEIR FAMILIES?

                              ----------                              


                          FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2008

             U.S. House of Representatives,
                    Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs,
                                                    Washington, DC.

    The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 12:00 p.m., in 
the Board Room, Academy School District 20 Headquarters, 1110 
Chapel Hills Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Hon. John J. 
Hall [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
    Present: Representatives Hall, Lamborn, and Salazar.

               OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN HALL

    Mr. Hall. Good afternoon. Thank you for your patience. The 
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, 
Committee on Veterans' Affairs, hearing on ``Is the U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Cemetery Construction 
Policy Meeting the Needs of Today's Veterans and Their 
Families,'' will now come to order.
    I would ask everyone to please rise for the Pledge of 
Allegiance.
    [Pledge of Allegiance.]
    Thank you all for coming today. I'm sorry my plane was a 
little bit delayed, but it's wonderful to be here in 
Representative Doug Lamborn's district. And we're fortunate to 
also have Representative Salazar joining us. Without objection, 
he's been asked to join us on the dais.
    The title you've just heard, a long but necessary one, ``Is 
the VA Cemetery Construction Policy Meeting the Needs of 
Today's Veterans and Their Families,'' a topic of particular 
importance to this region and throughout the country.
    First a couple of preliminaries. I mentioned Congressman 
John Salazar, from the 3rd District of Colorado and also a 
Member of the Committee, who is, by unanimous consent, joining 
us on the dais. Without objection, so ordered.
    And I would also like to recognize Scott Prestige from the 
office of Congressman Mark Udall from the 2nd District of 
Colorado, who is in the audience and has a statement, which I 
will ask, without objection, if we can enter that into the 
record also.
    [The statement of Congressman Udall appears on p. 61.]
    So it's a pleasure to be here with all of you and to bring 
the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee out 
into the country and actually see people and have them see and 
speak to us and see how we operate.
    Congressman Lamborn was kind enough to come to the 19th 
District of New York, where I live, the home of the military 
academy of West Point and which I am proud to represent. I'm 
proud and honored also to be in Air Force country, especially 
since it's not football season. We'll be working on that.
    I'm also pleased to know that H.R. 1660, a bill that passed 
in the House sponsored by Congressman Salazar--that you are 
also a lead cosponsor.
    Mr. Lamborn. Yes, I am.
    Mr. Hall. Both of you sponsored or supported legislation to 
build a national cemetery in the southern Colorado region, 
which passed the full House unanimously and now awaits action 
from the Senate. Mr. Salazar, I know that you, and Ranking 
Member Lamborn, as well as the rest of the Colorado delegation, 
have worked on the VA's national cemetery policy concerns in 
your region on a bipartisan basis. I'm glad we're able to bring 
this hearing to your State where these issues are front and 
center.
    I also would, parenthetically, tell you that I'm proud that 
this Subcommittee, and the full VA Committee are, if not the 
most, certainly among the most bipartisan in the House of 
Representatives and in the Congress. We occasionally differ on 
how to pay for things, but we almost always agree on what needs 
to be done, and that is to take care of America's veterans.
    Last preliminaries: In accordance with Committee rules, I 
ask all cell phones and pagers to be turned off, including 
mine, as we have a lot of business to conduct in a short period 
of time and we want to have as few interruptions as possible.
    Also, out of respect for our witnesses, I ask for the 
audience to please refrain from speaking out of order. This is 
not--I had to tell the folks in my district, too--this is not 
actually a public hearing. This is a Congressional hearing. We 
have panels of witnesses scheduled that will take up the time 
allotted. But I'm sure you can get a few words in with us 
individually on our way out after the hearing is over if you 
need to do that.
    My thanks to the witnesses for coming today to appear 
before the Subcommittee. The issues, I know, though pertinent 
to the cemetery policy at the VA, are of the utmost importance 
to you, and I look forward to receiving your testimonies.
    On a personal note, it is a special privilege for me as 
Chair of the Subcommittee to conduct it in my Ranking Member's 
district. Mr. Doug Lamborn, it's been an honor serving with 
him. Moreover, it's an honor for me to be able to address the 
issues facing veterans in or nearby their homes.
    Although my district, the 19th of New York, is thousands of 
miles away in the Hudson Valley, beautiful in a different way 
than the beauty that you see every day here, we share a lot of 
similarities. We both have one of our Nation's fine military 
academies, West Point and the Air Force Academy. Also, our 
district houses many prominent military installations. Both 
places are ones where a high percentage of our Nation's 
veterans call home and return after their service to live most 
of or sometimes all of their lives.
    My mother-in-law still goes to the commissary, as her 
husband is buried at West Point. So I understand the magnetism 
that these areas hold for those who graduate from these 
institutions or serve in these communities. I understand also 
that southern Colorado is home to one of the largest 
concentrations of World War II and Vietnam veterans in our 
country.
    Since their genesis on July 17, 1862, national cemeteries 
have served as the hallowed resting place for our Nation's 
veterans and their loved ones. Currently, VA operates 125 
national cemeteries in 39 States and Puerto Rico and maintains 
over 2.8 million grave sites. The annual number of burials is 
on the uprise, with just 36,000 in 1973, up to over 100,200 in 
2006. Veterans who have served in this country's armed services 
are buried in cemeteries operated by the States, the VA, the 
Department of Interior, Arlington National Cemetery and 
American Battle Monuments Commission. VA also provides grants 
to over 69 State veteran cemeteries under its National Cemetery 
Administration's State Cemetery Grants Program that operates in 
35 States, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana 
Islands.
    We are here today to examine the adequacy of VA's current 
policy, which entails locating national cemeteries in areas 
with a large concentration of unserved veterans, and providing 
reasonable access to a burial option in the national or State 
veterans cemetery within 75 miles of their residence. As such, 
VA concludes that new national cemeteries will be established 
in areas with an unserved veteran population threshold of 
170,000 within a 75-mile radius. Under this policy, 83 percent 
of all veterans are served, the converse of which means that 
there are at least 17 percent or nearly 2 million veterans and 
their families who are underserved by this policy.
    The Subcommittee also addressed the VA's national cemetery 
policy issues during a hearing held on May 8, 2007, wherein I 
expressed concerns of whether this policy was adequate enough 
to address both rural and urban locations. Those concerns still 
stand. I also think it's critical that VA makes sure that 
there's plenty of opportunity for public input during any new 
cemetery policy or location selection process.
    I know that VA is currently conducting its own study of 
these criteria and has plans to move the percentage of veterans 
served to 90 percent by fiscal year 2010. I look forward to 
hearing more about these plans during your testimony.
    In the way of follow-up to last year's hearing, I would 
like to be updated on the current status of the VA's national 
shrine commitment. Lastly, the Subcommittee has been apprised 
of a situation at Greenwood Island, the old Camp Jefferson 
Davis site and the soldiers' asylum home in Pascagoula, 
Mississippi, where veterans of the Mexican-American War are 
buried but whose resting places are being eroded by nature and 
construction. It is reported that some of the coffins and/or 
bodies have become disinterred and have been found by local 
fishermen. Whereas I appreciate the National Cemetery 
Administration's (NCA's) response provided to staff, I would 
like to know the NCA implications of this situation, if any, 
and how we can remedy this grievous oversight.
    I now recognize Ranking Member Lamborn for his opening 
statement.
    [The prepared statement of Chairman Hall appears on p. 43.]

             OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. DOUG LAMBORN

    Mr. Lamborn. Good afternoon. And I would like to personally 
thank you, Chairman Hall, and your staff for agreeing to hold 
this hearing. There is a lot of work involved with bringing 
Congress to southern Colorado, and I appreciate it.
    It is an honor to participate in this important occasion. I 
remember fondly the field hearing this Subcommittee had on 
veterans disabilities in your Congressional district last year. 
It was a productive meeting, as this promises to be. I sure 
enjoyed and learned from the tour of West Point, which also is 
in your district.
    I know you have a very tight schedule, but I hope your 
plans open up so that you can have that tour of the Air Force 
Academy I told you about, and I'd love to take you on before 
you have to go, but if your schedule permits.
    I would also like to thank all of the witnesses for being 
here today. Their statements will be helpful, interesting, 
informative and deeply moving.
    I want to thank my friend, Representative John Salazar for 
being here. I also want to thank everyone in the audience. You 
are interested in this issue, and you have come today. We also 
have students from Aspen Valley High School with us today.
    I want to especially thank my friend, Under Secretary for 
Memorial Affairs, Bill Tuerk, for joining us here today to 
discuss the Department of Veterans Affairs policy for the 
location and construction of new national cemeteries.
    This is truly a momentous occasion. There has never before 
been a field hearing in this Congressional district on this 
vital subject of a national veterans cemetery. Fortunately, in 
Under Secretary Tuerk, we have the highest-ranking official 
within the VA who works on this issue.
    Mr. Chairman, property honoring a deceased veteran is one 
of our most sacred and solemn responsibilities. These patriots 
have earned a place of honor in our national shrines. Veterans 
and their families are due the tribute and thanks of a grateful 
Nation. We should ensure that the final resting place for those 
who have given so much is accessible to family members and 
loved ones. This way they can come and pay tribute to the 
service of those brave men and women who have borne the 
sacrifice in defense of liberty.
    We are seeing increased demand on all of our national 
cemeteries, especially as members of the greatest generation 
pass from our presence. VA estimates that interments in 
national cemeteries will rise from the current level of 2.8 
million to 3.2 million by 2012.
    VA also estimates that as early as 2016 or as late as 2020, 
Fort Logan National Cemetery will be at full capacity and they 
will be looking to construct a replacement cemetery.
    Today, Mr. Chairman, we will hear very moving and eloquent 
testimony from Coloradans who are personally affected by the 
distance of the Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver from the 
Pikes Peak area.
    I believe there is a better way to determine needs than 
simply drawing circles and a 75-mile radius around a national 
cemetery to determine where the most underserved veterans are 
located. There are many other factors that should be taken into 
account, including travel time to and from national cemeteries, 
access to public transportation in the area, weather 
conditions, climate restrictions, and other factors that may 
affect one part of the country, such as the front range of 
Colorado more than another.
    In addition, VA needs to focus greater attention than ever 
on demographic trends to determine with increased accuracy 
where veterans are most likely to live in the future. It is my 
understanding that the 75-mile rule was created many years ago. 
We are in the 21st century now, and with the advent of 
technologies like GPS, it is very easy to determine driving 
distances and times.
    For instance, by doing a simple Google search, I discovered 
that a veteran from Lake George, Colorado, which is about 60 
miles as the crow flies from Fort Logan, must travel 105 miles 
by road, with a driving time of over 2 hours, not including 
poor weather or traffic. According to the 75-mile rule, this 
veteran from Lake George is considered served by Fort Logan. I 
would venture to say that he is underserved.
    This example only points out a flaw within the 75-mile rule 
and does not take into account the tens of thousands of 
veterans who live beyond 75-mile radius here in southern 
Colorado. As this rule, in my opinion anyway, is arbitrary and 
outdated, I propose that the Department of Veterans Affairs 
determine a 21st century process for selecting national 
cemetery sites that takes into account factors in addition to 
veteran population and straight-line distance.
    I would offer my services and those of my staff and even 
the many willing veterans in this district who have been 
working on this issue for over a decade now. I believe that 
with a little hard work we could fine-tune a process that would 
serve more veterans and hopefully the same or perhaps even a 
lower cost in VA's current system.
    Since bureaucratic hurdles have made it hard for such a 
processed change to take place, my friend Representative 
Salazar and I have had to help alert VA to the glaring 
inequities associated with the current process.
    Mr. Chairman, it is for that reason that I was pleased to 
work with you and Representative Salazar to pass H.R. 1660 with 
my amendment out of the VA Committee and out of the House last 
year. This bill would authorize the establishment of a national 
cemetery in southern Colorado, in El Paso County in particular, 
and would greatly benefit the veterans and their families in 
all of southern Colorado. H.R. 1660 represents a major step 
forward to the campaign to establish a national cemetery, and I 
urge our colleagues in the Senate to take this bill up as soon 
as possible.
    And Representative Salazar, I'm going to ask you to talk 
once again with your brother, who as you all may know is one of 
the U.S. Senators from here in Colorado. I also hope that all 
of our witnesses understand that when this legislation is 
enacted, we must always work together to help the National 
Cemetery Administration within the VA find a suitable location 
for this cemetery, and that this would serve the highest 
number, therefore, of veterans and their families.
    I want to thank everyone once again for being here today, 
and I'm looking forward to the testimony.
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.
    [The prepared statement of Congressman Lamborn appears on
p. 44.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Lamborn.
    I would now recognize Congressman Salazar for an opening 
statement.

           OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN T. SALAZAR

    Mr. Salazar. I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    First of all, I think that most of you may know John Hall. 
He's a famous songwriter, with the band Orleans, and wrote the 
songs, ``You're Still the One'' and ``Dance With Me.'' We 
appreciate you coming to Colorado. What do you think about the 
snow here in the Springs?
    Mr. Hall. I wish I would have brought my skis, and I wish I 
would have had time to use them.
    Mr. Salazar. I want to thank both you and Ranking Member 
Lamborn for having this important hearing here in Colorado.
    Let me just take a moment, briefly, to thank all of you in 
the audience who have served this country and your families. 
The great sacrifice that you've made is the reason that we have 
the greatest country in the world, in my opinion.
    I had the opportunity to serve at the tail end of the 
Vietnam War. My father was a World War II veteran. My son 
served two tours right after 9/11. We come from a long line of 
veterans, and I know the sacrifices that your families have 
made. What we're about to do here is a monumental task that we 
have taken on. Mr. Lamborn, I appreciate your hard work. You've 
truly been a champion on veterans issues, as you have, Mr. 
Hall.
    This legislation that we've been talking about was 
legislation that Congressman Hefley, Mr. Lamborn's predecessor, 
had worked on for nearly 15 years, on trying to create a 
southern Colorado cemetery. We got together earlier this year, 
Mr. Lamborn and I worked together on trying to provide language 
that would actually create what we call now the new southern 
Colorado veterans cemetery.
    According to the Congressional Research Service, which is a 
non-partisan office that provides research and information to 
Members of Congress, there are over 150,000 veterans that are 
making southern Colorado their home.
    The residents of southern Colorado have a long, long 
history of serving in the military. Until recently, Pueblo was 
America's only city that had four living recipients of the 
Medal of Honor. Congress realized 15 years ago, and recognized 
Pueblo, Colorado, America's ``Home of Heroes.''
    During the Vietnam War, almost 10 percent of Colorado 
soldiers killed in action were from Pueblo. Southern Colorado 
veterans and their families have been awaiting for an 
accessible veterans cemetery for far too long. When they pass 
away, they deserve facilities that are close to their families. 
It is wrong to expect a family to have to travel hundreds of 
miles in some areas to find a final resting place for their 
loved ones, simply because the current regulations do not take 
rural areas into account.
    I've had the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful 
cemeteries that I've ever seen in my life with Under Secretary 
Tuerk in Georgia. That's the way that we should honor those who 
have served us.
    During the winter months in Colorado, especially in my 
district where most of it is mountains, the mountain passes are 
often closed. In fact, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, just 
earlier today there was over six inches of snow. All too often, 
widows have to drive over 700 miles round-trip from Cortez, 
Colorado, to Fort Logan to see their loved ones.
    I was proud to be the author of H.R. 1660 along with Mr. 
Lamborn, which directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to 
establish a national cemetery for veterans in southern 
Colorado. This bill would do several things. It would place a 
veterans cemetery between Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Mr. 
Lamborn and I agreed during our discussions that, rightfully 
so, it should be in El Paso County because we have the largest 
number of military personnel.
    This is not only an Air Force issue, Mr. Chairman. It is 
also an Army issue. We have Fort Carson right here in El Paso 
County, just on the south side of Colorado Springs. And I'm a 
little partial to the Army because I served in the U.S. Army.
    The House of Representatives has shown strong support for 
our bill by adopting it in a unanimous voice vote on May 23, 
2007. Veterans in our district, and veterans service 
organizations agree that a cemetery is critical and that the 
need will continue to grow. We have information that Fort Logan 
will probably not be accepting more burials after about 10 
years from now. We're getting fairly full there.
    In a letter of support, the Military Order of the Purple 
Heart wrote, ``The defenders of our Nation's freedom and their 
families deserve much better. They deserve a national cemetery 
located in southern Colorado where they chose to live out their 
lives. We shouldn't punish those veterans for where they choose 
to live. The 150,000 veterans serving in Colorado served in 
World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Iraq conflicts. They 
chose to make southern Colorado their home. Our Nation should 
honor that service by providing them a final resting place.''
    It is not fair for our Nation to force a widow to drive 
from Alamosa over 500 miles round-trip or to drive from Cortez 
over 700 miles round-trip. We're placing a huge burden on the 
families with the added cost of the trip, and with the high 
price of fuel right now. National cemeteries are the final act 
of gratitude that we bestow upon those who served our Nation. 
They give families comfort and inspire future generations by 
preserving the memory of our heroes that are no longer with us.
    I look forward to hearing from my colleagues and the 
experts here with us today, on the current regulations and how 
we can better improve them to serve more veterans, especially 
those in rural areas.
    It is my understanding under the current regulations, that 
there would never be another cemetery built in a rural area, 
and actually in many States that are sparsely populated, 
western States such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, because 
of sparse population.
    With that, Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to thank you for 
having this hearing here today.
    And I want to welcome our guests. I appreciate your being 
here to testify.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Congressman Salazar.
    I ask unanimous consent that the opening statement of 
Congressman Udall from the Second District of Colorado be 
accepted into the record. Without objection, so ordered.
    Welcome to our panelists. Before we move to the first 
panel, I wanted to--in case you're curious who you're looking 
at, there are staff who I also want to thank from both sides of 
the aisle here on the dais. We have majority Staff Director and 
Counsel of the Subcommittee, Kimberly Ross, and Minority Staff, 
Jon Clark. Thank you to our stenographers and recordkeepers, 
without which this would not be an official hearing.
    All panelists, I would like to remind you that your 
complete written statements have been made a part of the 
hearing record. So please limit your remarks so that we may 
have sufficient time to follow up with questions, once everyone 
has had the opportunity to provide testimony.
    Joining us on our first panel is Linda Lee-Witt, President 
of the Gold Star Widows, and Milly Briseno, an Iraq war widow.
    Thank you and welcome to the table, please.
    Excuse me--Past Secretary of Gold Star Widows.
    Ms. Lee-Witt. I still have to correct you, Mr. Chairman. I 
am a member of the Gold Star Wives of America, and I am a Past 
Secretary for the local chapter.
    Mr. Hall. Past Secretary of the local chapter and member of 
the Gold Star Wives of America. Thank you. It's an honor to 
have you before us today. And, Ms. Lee-Witt, you are now 
recognized for 5 minutes. Speak into the microphone, and make 
sure it's turned on, please.

 STATEMENTS OF LINDA LEE-WITT, PETERSON AFB, COLORADO SPRINGS, 
 CO, MEMBER, GOLD STAR WIVES OF AMERICA; AND MILLY BRISENO, CO-
  FOUNDER, COLORADO MILITARY SURVIVORS, COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 
                        (IRAQ WAR WIDOW)

                  STATEMENT OF LINDA LEE-WITT

    Ms. Lee-Witt. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, distinguished 
Members of the Committee. I want to thank you for the 
opportunity to be here today. My name is Linda Lee-Witt. I am a 
member of the Gold Star Wives of America and the Administrative 
Officer of the Retiree Activities Office of Southern Colorado, 
in the 21st space wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado 
Springs. My testimony, however, today will be my story as a 
widow of a veteran.
    My husband, Robert, grew up in a military family. His 
father served during World War II and retired as a major from 
the Army. As a child, Bob lived and went to school all over the 
world. Like his father, he dedicated his whole career to the 
U.S. Government. He served with the United States Air Force and 
in Vietnam. After retiring from the Air Force in 1978, he 
continued to serve his country in civil service, in safety 
engineering at Fort Carson here in Colorado Springs, where he 
deployed with the troops wherever they went.
    His passion for the safety of the young soldiers was deep, 
and he identified with what they and their families faced every 
day.
    He died from a service-connected cancer on November 3, 
2004, in our home. Due to the weather conditions, which you all 
saw yesterday. We had a blizzard early in November, and our 
driveway has a steep incline. Due to that, when the mortuary 
van came, they couldn't get up the driveway to take my 
husband's body down to the van, and our son had to put his 
father's body in a four-wheel drive to take down to the 
mortuary van.
    I wanted my husband to be buried with the full honor and 
respect that he so deserved, and for months I kept his ashes, 
not wanting them in a civilian cemetery. Eventually, to my 
regret now, I chose to have his remains buried at the National 
Veterans Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. His parents are 
buried there. All of my children are here. My grandchildren are 
here. Had there been an appropriate cemetery in El Paso County, 
without question I would have had his remains here.
    We weren't a part of the military community at that time. 
It was civil service, and he'd been retired from civil service. 
So I had really never heard of Fort Logan, and it sounds maybe 
a little bit strange, but I thought Fort Logan was a town 
somewhere. I didn't know about Fort Logan being a military 
cemetery, a veterans cemetery. Together as a family, probably 
we will never be able to coordinate a trip together to 
Tennessee to visit my husband's grave.
    I would love for my grandchildren to see how this country 
honors our veterans, when they pass. I'd love for them to see 
the hundreds of headstones, their grandfather's among them, and 
know the freedoms and the rights that they have today are 
because of the men and women like their grandfather who were 
willing to give their lives for those freedoms.
    Working with the wives of servicemembers in the World War 
II and Vietnam era, they express how hard it is to make the 
trip to Denver. Some of them with their advanced age, many are 
unable or afraid to drive themselves and they have to ask 
someone to take them. Talking with young widows of today's war, 
the hardship for them is to take the whole day with young 
children and visit their husband's graves.
    The logistics involved getting to Fort Logan are trying, 
and many families have a hard time finding Fort Logan, from 
what I understand. Because of the sporadic unpredictable 
climate here in El Paso County, from late spring to fall, I-25 
is often impassable. Monument Hill, just north of town, can be 
treacherous.
    For the widow, visiting the grave site is one of the most 
important elements in the grieving process. And those first 
months, the loss and the feeling of aloneness is almost like 
fear. Visiting the grave is a way for us--some of us to connect 
to our spouse. Eventually, an acceptance of the fact that 
they're no longer here. For the children, it's seeing that 
their parent was given a place of honor, a resting place of 
honor.
    As with my husband, many of our service men and women and 
their families opt to stay and live in Colorado Springs after 
their military service. We have a huge military presence in 
Colorado Springs and it's rapidly growing, yet we have no 
national veterans cemetery to accommodate them when they're put 
to rest. El Paso County's need for a national cemetery is vital 
to the health and well-being of our widows, the dependents and 
our community.
    It's my hope that based on the hardships endured by the 
military widows and families in the southern Colorado area and 
the large military presence here, that the VA would grant El 
Paso County a national veterans cemetery.
    Congressman Lamborn, I'd like to thank you for arranging 
this today, and thank you, too, to your staff for the support 
you give the military.
    [The prepared statement of Ms. Lee-Witt appears on p. 45.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Ms. Lee-Witt.
    Ms. Briseno, you are now recognized for your opening 
statement.

                   STATEMENT OF MILLY BRISENO

    Ms. Briseno. Thank you so much for taking the time out to 
hear about our experiences as younger widows.
    At the height of my husband's 17-year Army career and in 
the 13th year of our marriage, our life came to screeching 
halt. An unexpected massive stoke at the age of 35 took his 
vibrant life from this temporary home and left my three 
children and me reeling as we struggled for direction and 
purpose in this completely unfamiliar world of loss. My 
husband's death was not combat-related, but from natural 
causes.
    My husband's untimely death came just 1 month after moving 
to Fort Carson. As a young family full of promise and a bright 
future, we never thought to discuss burial plans. I really 
struggled to know how to honor his life as a dedicated soldier, 
whose career in the Army Medical Specialist Corps demonstrated 
his commitment and the restoration and preservation of life.
    To honor him and affirm my family's identity as a military 
family, we chose to bury my husband at a national cemetery. We 
chose Fort Logan. Fort Logan was the closest one to our home 
and my in-laws' home. It has been difficult to visit his grave 
site, for many reasons. We really do want to visit more. My 
family and my in-laws reside in Colorado Springs, near Fort 
Carson. The travel distance to such a congested metropolitan 
area poses great inconveniences from my young family. At the 
time of my husband's death, my children were 9, 5, and 2\1/2\ 
years old. A trip to Fort Logan involves an entire day's plans. 
It is quite challenging at times for the children.
    With the weather here in Colorado, we mainly make it to 
Fort Logan, at the most, two times per year. We miss most of 
our significant special occasions, such as birthdays, 
anniversaries and other holidays, because they occur in the 
fall and winter seasons. As a family, we try to set a goal to 
get to Fort Logan, at least for Memorial Day. The effects of 
limited visits to Fort Carson have had an impact in these first 
3 years of grief, not only for my immediate family, but also 
for my mother and father-in-law, my husband's sisters and their 
families who reside in Colorado Springs.
    Our family has had less participation in commemorative 
events, which occur at Fort Logan. We have less opportunities 
to connect with the military's sensitive and supportive 
community, which can be found among the visitors at Fort Logan. 
My family may miss out on one way to continually affirm their 
military identity. And personally, I myself have struggled with 
having less access to an acceptable place to face the reality 
of grief and process those complicated emotions.
    It is difficult to deal with grief as a younger widow with 
young children. Through my involvement with Colorado military 
survivors, I have found that a new generation of widows are 
emerging. This new group of widows faces additional struggles 
in dealing with grief because we do not fit the common 
stereotype. I attend a widows' support group at Fort Carson, 
which averages from five to eight participants, and we meet 
twice a month.
    Up until recently, I was the oldest one by at least a 
decade. We are finding that we must find a safe place to face 
our grief, one in which we have opportunities to express our 
emotions of loss and pain. That is why we gather together, and 
that is why I wish we were closer to Fort Logan. The small plot 
of land that I stake claim to in Denver holds a vital place in 
my ability to process my grief. My husband's headstone is an 
immovable reminder that forces me to face the heartache 
involved in the unexpected ending of his earthly story.
    His headstone solemnly stands among thousands of its kind 
at Fort Logan. To most, these pale stones represent so much 
pain and suffering. But to me, they each hold a story. They are 
just like a sea of bookends. The dates engraved on my husband's 
headstone tell the beginning and the finale of his life. His 
headstone is a fixed mark that causes me to focus on the 
finale, and the heartache.
    A cemetery is an acceptable place in our society to express 
one's grief. Young widows find very few acceptable places to 
deal with their loss. With now almost 3 years of learning in 
the obstacle course of grief, I realize the necessity of 
exercising this heartache. It has taken me a long time to come 
to the understanding that heartache is strength training. It 
helps transform the weakness of my faith into a powerful 
conditioned response to my loss. Once only heartache, pierced 
through with fear, now has become thanksgiving that appreciates 
the work of sorrow.
    Military loss is more complex. It is a traumatic loss, 
especially for young families that face this sudden tragedy. 
Our society still puts expectations on grief recovery. Because 
of the traumatic grief that military families endure, their 
bereavement is prolonged and can be more difficult. It is a 
lifelong process to learn to move forward with one's grief. As 
an organization, Colorado military survivors strives to unite 
survivors in their loss, and help them find strength in a 
community well acquainted with sorrow.
    My initial connection with one of my dear friends now, also 
a young widow with two young children, was made at Fort Logan 
when I discovered that her husband was buried just two rows 
away from mine. Together we face each day encouraging each 
other to press on, to remember to have faith in God, and to 
grow through our grief in order to help one another.
    If we were able to be closer to a place that would help us 
face these challenges with greater strength, we could be more 
effective in encouraging a new generation of grieving families. 
We could accomplish this by affirming their value and assuring 
them of the honored place of appreciation that their loved 
ones' treasured stories hold in our community.
    Thank you.
    [The prepared statement of Ms. Briseno appears on p. 46.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Ms. Briseno and Ms. Lee-Witt.
    You each have a bottle of water in front of you that you 
may open and drink if you'd like, courtesy of the Subcommittee. 
I will just ask a couple questions, and then try and leave more 
time for our Colorado Representatives to ask theirs.
    Ms. Lee-Witt, first, let me express my sympathy to you and 
also Ms. Briseno, and my thanks for your gift to our country 
and for your loved ones, your husband's gift to our country, 
and blessings on you and them. Also thank you for coming here 
and for having the fortitude to come and tell us your story.
    I know the national cemetery policy is complicated, and 
that the problems that you described exist in many locations, 
including my home State of New York. But, Ms. Lee-Witt, can you 
tell me more about what you and your organization have done to 
bring a national cemetery to Colorado, and the response to 
those efforts? Please use the microphone.
    Ms. Lee-Witt. As far as Gold Star Wives, Rose Lee is a gold 
star wife, she is on this very Committee in DC. Locally, here, 
we don't really have a group that meets. We donate to the NALP 
organization. It's a non-profit organization. The widows who 
are involved in the government in Washington, D.C., really do a 
lot there and testify on behalf of military widows. I think 
Rose Lee was just in Florida for this very--this very 
discussion on the cemeteries. So that's what the Gold Star 
Wives do.
    As far as what I do with the Retired Activities Office, I 
try to help widows and retirees. I'm in contact with them and 
help direct them to the people that they need to meet to get 
what they should have in benefits and support. I didn't know a 
lot of this, of course, again, until after my husband died. So 
Gold Star Wives is active in this very thing, right here in the 
Springs, and at the base, we help the retirees.
    Mr. Hall. Well, thank you. And of course, thanks for the 
work that the Gold Star Wives do. We see Ms. Lee very 
frequently in Washington.
    Ms. Briseno, you mentioned in your testimony the personal 
struggle of having to travel long distances to visit your loved 
one, and I want to thank you for sharing a rather poetic 
testimony with us, of how you've had to endure this journey and 
this tremendous inconvenience. It's a journey, not only a 
physical one, but an emotional and spiritual one as well.
    In terms of the future, can you describe how an additional 
cemetery in the region would assist others who may face the 
same issues?
    Ms. Briseno. Well, as an organization, Colorado Military 
Survivors, is a new non-profit here in Colorado Springs. We 
have encountered many new surviving families in this area. And 
our hope is to advocate for those that need to be closer in 
order to process their grief. And I think my experience with 
widows and family members in this area show that we're--we're 
coming to the understanding that it's important to be closer, 
to face the challenges, especially as younger widows.
    We have additional challenges, with the complications of 
losing our loved one, that was active duty especially. I think 
that families, we can encourage families and support them in 
their grieving process and to continue to move on and show how 
much we appreciate what they've done by giving them access to a 
place that they can move forward in their grief.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you very much.
    Mr. Lamborn, you're now recognized for questions.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And thank you both for your eloquent and moving testimony.
    Ms. Briseno, you mentioned that your family tries to go to 
Fort Logan at least on Memorial Day, if not more often. Can you 
ever think of examples with yourself, or other people that you 
worked with through the Military Survivors Organization that 
you're working so much with, where trips have had to be 
postponed or canceled because of this changeable weather?
    The weather we have here today and yesterday is a perfect 
example of how our volatile weather can change plans.
    Ms. Briseno. Well, personally, my husband died on September 
28, 2005. Our 14th wedding anniversary was November 30th. I was 
bound and determined, because it takes a while to get the 
permanent headstone up, I had gotten word that his headstone 
had been placed. So I had not visited Fort Logan since his 
interment on the 28th of September, and that--the day before, 
it was predicted that there was going to be snow.
    My family and I were living with my in-laws. And my mother-
in-law was terrified that I was going to try and make it up 
there the next day, because I was bound and determined to visit 
his grave on our anniversary. And due to the weather, and also 
a little minor accident with my daughter at school on the day 
of our anniversary, I decided it was probably not a good day to 
go. And my mother-in-law was quite relieved that I did not try 
and trek up there by myself. I insisted on going by myself, 
because it was that personal time that you need and don't want 
to show it in front of everybody.
    And I think that that--I decided not to go that day. So I 
had to decide other ways to commemorate the day, without going 
to his grave site. So that postponed my first visit.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
    And for either one of you, you talked about a mother with 
small children. On the other end of the scale, someone, a widow 
or widower for that matter who is elderly, do you know of 
special needs there that might make it difficult to go from 
this part of the State to Fort Logan.
    Ms. Lee-Witt. Well, I deal with a lot of the older widows, 
Vietnam and World War II era. And many of them are in walkers. 
They are afraid to drive in a metropolitan area. They hate 
going over Monument Hill. We have a lot of accidents on 
Monument Hill. A lot of them are too sick to drive or they're 
too afraid to drive anywhere but their little neighborhoods.
    So for them, yes, they have to depend on someone else if 
they're going to go. I hate to--I'm not that old, but I hate to 
drive in Denver too. So, yes, that's a big issue with the older 
widows, and a lot of them have their spouses at Fort Logan.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you both.
    Mr. Hall. Thanks, Mr. Lamborn.
    Mr. Salazar.
    Mr. Salazar. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    That was very moving testimony, and my heart goes out to 
you and your families.
    The legislation that we currently have in the House, 
actually, is stuck in the Senate, does several things.
    First of all, it establishes a national cemetery in the 
southern Colorado region, and also requires the Secretary to 
establish a national cemetery in this county, in El Paso 
County. It requires the Secretary to consult with State and 
local officials as to the site selection, and it requires a 
Secretary to consult with government officials in the site 
selection. It authorizes the Secretary to accept the gift of an 
appropriate parcel of real estate to be used for the cemetery, 
and it requires the Secretary to submit to Congress a report on 
the establishment of the cemetery.
    It requires the Secretary to add the cemetery to the 
current list of priority projects. As you know, there are six 
cemeteries on the priority list. This will not circumvent any 
of those. It falls in line, it would be number seven. Under 
Secretary Tuerk, I hope, he agrees with that.
    It does not allow the cemetery to take priority over any of 
these current projects. Do you have any objections to any of 
these proposals, and would you have any objections if the 
cemetery was selected closer to the Pueblo line, as it might be 
able to serve more veterans and would cover a greater 
geographical area that would serve veterans in southeast and 
southwest Colorado. Would either one of you or both of you 
address that?
    Ms. Lee-Witt. Since Fort Carson is the--where they're 
expanding so much, the southern part of El Paso County would be 
fine with me, and between Pueblo and the Springs, I think would 
be appropriate. I think if it's in Pueblo or south of there, 
it's going to still be just as hard for the El Paso County 
widows and families.
    Mr. Salazar. This does designate that El Paso County will 
be the home.
    Ms. Lee-Witt. Okay.
    Mr. Salazar. We wanted to try to move it closer to the 
Pueblo County line, still in the El Paso County so that it 
would be able to serve more veterans, and I think that maybe we 
could find an appropriate gift of land in that area.
    Ms. Lee-Witt. I wouldn't have any objection to that, as 
long as it's not going over Monument Hill or having to be the--
--
    Mr. Salazar. It's warmer down south.
    Ms. Briseno. I think traveling aspect, that's probably the 
main concern, is that it would be accessible, even if the 
weather was a bit rough, just because--and then being less 
congested. It was hard to find Fort Logan the first time I 
went, and I think it would be easier for families that have 
even more complications in travelling, any families of any age, 
because it would be more accessible, and probably a calmer, 
quieter place for one to face their grief.
    Mr. Salazar. Would either one of you possibly think of 
disinterring the remains of your loved ones, and if we had an 
actual cemetery close by, bring the remains to this area?
    Ms. Lee-Witt. I would definitely consider that for my 
family.
    Ms. Briseno. When I talked with my in-laws, my father and 
mother-in-law, my sister-in-laws, even with my children, my 
oldest one being 12, that was everybody's first question, is 
whether we would do that. And I think for my in-laws, because 
of being parents and facing additional health issues and 
concerns, travel is hard for them. And we know several families 
in the Pueblo area of parents that, due to their age, it makes 
it difficult. And so that was the concern of my in-laws was if 
they would--if that would be a possibility for our family.
    Mr. Salazar. Thank you both very much. Thank you for your 
sacrifice.
    Ms. Lee-Witt. I'd like to add to that too. I did say that 
all my children and grandchildren are here now, and because my 
husband's body is in Tennessee, that also is where I will be 
buried. And that would be a hardship, at that point, for all of 
my family. So I would definitely consider that.
    Mr. Salazar. Thank you.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Ms. Lee-Witt and Ms. Briseno. And 
having spent a bit of my life making music in Tennessee, I can 
tell you that Nashville is a wonderful town. I would encourage 
you, if circumstances allow, to make the trip. Thanks again for 
your testimony, and you're now excused.
    We will call our second panel: Mr. Victor Fernandez, Co-
Founder of the Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery Committee; Mr. Bud 
Sailar, Director of El Paso County Board of Veterans; Mr. C. 
Douglas Sterner, Former Chairman of the Colorado State Board of 
Veterans Affairs; and Mr. Jeff Chostner, Pueblo County 
Commissioner; and Tim Grabin, Department Commander of the 
American Legion.
    As before, your written statements are in the record. So 
feel free to confine yourselves to 5 minutes. The yellow light 
means 4 minutes, and the red light means 5.
    So, Mr. Fernandez, you are now recognized.

STATEMENTS OF VICTOR M. FERNANDEZ, MEMBER, PIKES PEAK VETERANS 
CEMETERY COMMITTEE, COLORADO SPRINGS, CO; BUD SAILAR, DIRECTOR, 
 EL PASO COUNTY, CO, VETERAN AND MILITARY AFFAIRS; TIM GRABIN, 
DEPARTMENT COMMANDER, DEPARTMENT OF COLORADO, AMERICAN LEGION; 
  C. DOUGLAS STERNER, PAST CHAIRMAN, COLORADO STATE BOARD OF 
VETERANS AFFAIRS; AND HON. JEFF CHOSTNER, COLONEL, USAF (RET.), 
 COMMISSIONER, PUEBLO COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, PUEBLO, CO

                STATEMENT OF VICTOR M. FERNANDEZ

    Mr. Fernandez. Good afternoon. I'm Vic Fernandez, and I'm 
West Point Class 1959, and I was born in Trinidad, Colorado, 
where my World War II veteran father was intered--or is 
intered. I am a member of the Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery 
Committee. Thank you very much for coming to Colorado to hear 
our message.
    I'll cover three issues. First, why we need a new national 
veterans cemetery in Colorado. Second, why it should be 
established in the Pikes Peak region. And third, what we have 
done to assure that it is established here.
    Regarding the first issue, Fort Logan in Denver, the 
State's major national veterans cemetery is expected to reach 
capacity about 2020. Fort Logan National Cemetery is landlocked 
in a residential area of Denver and cannot be expanded. Because 
of the size, geography, and weather patterns of the State of 
Colorado, the State's other small, remotely located cemeteries 
do not offer reasonable service to Denver or the Pikes Peak 
region. Those are reasons why it should be in the Pikes Peak 
region, and that's all southern Colorado.
    First, the large veteran population of the Pikes Peak 
region has not been properly served by Fort Logan. Fort Logan 
is located in a difficult to find residential section of a 
major metropolitan area, with poor access from interstate and/
or other highways. This has resulted in surviving spouses and 
families from southern Colorado making the trip to visit the 
loved one, but failing to find the cemetery.
    Second, in winter, it is especially difficult to get to 
Denver over the topography of Monument Hill and through the 
weather patterns of what we call the Palmer Divide. Those 
topographic and weather pattern's hindrances make the Veterans 
Administration's internal 75-mile rule a useless tool in the 
State of Colorado, resulting in unsatisfactory service to 
veterans and their families in southern Colorado.
    Third, the Pikes Peak region, with its rapidly growing six 
military installations is producing veterans at a much faster 
rate than the remainder of the State of Colorado. Many local 
military complete their service and remain in this area. 
Additionally, hundreds of our local military have given their 
lives during the global war on terror, and were buried in our 
local cemeteries, these active duty Americans need to be 
counted and properly served by a local national veterans 
cemetery.
    And finally, the service life of Fort Logan can be 
lengthened for the veterans of Denver in the northern--in 
northern Colorado if the Pikes Peak cemetery is established and 
opens soon.
    So what have we done to assure that a national cemetery is 
established in the Pikes Peak region? My colleagues and I have 
worked for the establishment of this cemetery for over 10 
years. Politically, we have solicited and received the backing 
of past, as was mentioned, and present Members of Congress. We 
have the backing of all of the Colorado contingent in the 
Congress of the United States. We have the backing of county 
commissioners and city councils from several counties and 
cities in southern Colorado, including Pueblo and Colorado 
Springs. We are supported by all of the veterans organizations 
in the surrounding counties, and the United Veterans Council of 
Colorado, Committee of Colorado.
    We have made several contacts with and have carried on 
letter-writing campaigns to the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs 
for over these past 10 years. To date, we do not consider any 
of the responses to have been satisfactory.
    We studied the VA regulations. We performed due diligence 
studies. We have written a comprehensive plan, and that plan is 
entitled, ``A National Veterans Cemetery for the Pikes Peak 
Region.'' This is that plan.
    I will give a copy of this to each of you. The plan 
contains color maps, the photos of 10 most viable low and no-
cost undeveloped sites between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and 
a matrix that we use to rank these 10 sites.
    In conclusion, in order to provide sufficient burial space 
for Colorado's veterans in the future, and to fairly meet the 
needs of southern Colorado's veterans, plans for Pikes Peak 
Veterans Cemetery must get under way immediately, and we are 
prepared to help.
    Thank you.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Fernandez appears on p. 47.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, sir. And, without objection, I will 
ask that the report you're giving us be entered into the record 
of this hearing.
    [The report entitled, ``A National Veterans Cemetery for 
the Pikes Peak Region,'' appears on p. 63.]
    Mr. Hall. Mr. Sailar.

                    STATEMENT OF BUD SAILAR

    Mr. Sailar. Good afternoon, Congressman. My name is Bud 
Sailar, and I am the Director of El Paso County Veteran 
Military Affairs Office. I thank you for the opportunity to 
testify and present the views of our local veterans and their 
concerns. Like many, we consider the national cemeteries as 
memorials to veterans who preserved our freedom.
    The future veteran demographics of Colorado will show that 
the Pikes Peak region, with its military installations, are 
producing veterans at a much faster rate than the remainder of 
Colorado. Fort Carson, which is the most popular station of 
choice, is alone on track to go to a population of over 30,000 
soldiers, not counting their spouses. And when many, if not 
most of these local military complete their service, they 
remain in the area, which further accelerates the growth of the 
veteran population here. We also find that a large number of 
military, who were once stationed here, return here after 
military retirement. In short, our veteran population is 
growing at a much faster rate than the remainder of Colorado.
    I myself am a native of Pennsylvania. And when I completed 
my service at the Air Force Academy, I chose to stay here. And 
my family's here, and I've had 26 years living in this area.
    Additionally, we find that it is interesting and very 
disappointing that our large active duty military population is 
not counted in the veteran population numbers used to determine 
population served by national cemeteries. Presently, over 100 
burials per week take place at Fort Logan. During the next 22 
years, according to VA data, there will be an additional 40,000 
veterans in southern Colorado. Many of these will not be 
honored in the national cemetery because, in that same 22-year 
period, over 90,000 veterans will be buried at Fort Logan. This 
will more than tax the cemetery usage.
    One of the things that I find really disappointing, or 
disheartening is in talking to surviving spouses, I find that a 
lot of the surviving spouses have their spouses' remains in 
urns on a shelf in their home.
    I recently spoke to one widow, and Ms. Witt referred to it 
earlier, that she did not want to have her family or her 
husband buried at Fort Logan because of her age, and that she 
could not travel there. And it makes it very difficult on those 
individuals.
    So it is really disheartening to our staff that we see so 
many surviving spouses that have to hold their loved one's 
remains instead of being able to make a decision right away, 
and alleviate some of the pain that they have because they've 
already lost the loved one.
    Mr. Chairman, I wish you and Under Secretary Tuerk could 
have arrived in Denver yesterday morning and traveled down I-
25. You would have had a perfect example of the weather 
conditions here and what families have to put up with. And it 
would have been a firsthand experience seeing what was going 
on.
    And again, we thank you for coming here. We feel this is a 
very important issue, and that it really needs addressing, 
especially in thanking the numbers of veterans and their 
families that have served this country, and especially the 
numbers of the younger veterans that we're losing because of 
the war on terror.
    Thank you, sir.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Sailar appears on p. 49.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Sailar. I can tell you that Under 
Secretary Tuerk did, in fact, arrive yesterday. I chickened 
out. But he tells us that he made the drive and it was truly 
awful and dangerous. You'll hear from him in a little while, 
but thank you for your testimony.
    Mr. Grabin, you're recognized for 5 minutes.

                    STATEMENT OF TIM GRABIN

    Mr. Grabin. Mr. Chairman, Members of Subcommittee, 
Honorable Congressmen John Hall, Doug Lamborn and John Salazar, 
I am a native. My name is Tim Grabin, the Department Commander 
of the Colorado American Legion. I am a native of Canon City, 
Colorado, which is southern Colorado, a long history of family 
who have honorably served over many generations.
    During Word War II, I lost an uncle who was killed in 
action, and he is buried there in Canon City, and perhaps that 
is the reason he is buried there rather than Fort Logan due to 
some of the transportation situations and crossing the 
mountains. It is some complication.
    I would like to thank you for allowing the American Legion, 
the Department of Colorado, to present its views on the VA 
cemetery construction policy. I've endorsed a copy of the 
resolution adopted by our National organization. As part of my 
written testimony, this remains our current position on burial 
allowances. Burial plots, allowances and establishment of 
additional, national and State cemeteries.
    I would like to concentrate my remarks on the need for 
additional cemetery space in Colorado. And hopefully, in the 
Colorado Springs area, serving veterans in southern parts of 
Colorado and other areas. Colorado continues to grow, and new 
veterans and their families are a part of that growth. 
Historically, because of numerous military establishments in 
the southern Colorado area, veterans return to Colorado, making 
Colorado their new home because of climate, environment, and 
strong military support systems in place. With the new veterans 
population growth, will come the need for new cemeteries.
    Space for southern Colorado area is the perfect place for a 
new cemetery. As the Department Commander of the American 
Legion, I would like to put our organization on record as 
favoring the establishment of a new--a brand new cemetery in 
southern Colorado. And we would not favor the Fort Logan 
satellite concept.
    For instance, during our winters in Colorado, on many 
occasions Colorado Springs is separated and isolated from 
Denver because of inclement weather on Monument Hill. To count 
on Fort Logan establishment to provide support services during 
those times would possibly delay counsel, the services for 
those being intered. All support services must be co-located 
within the new cemetery. We are adamant that the location of 
the south of Monument Hill and located so that the maximum 
number of veterans be served.
    We want to thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to 
express our views. We want to continue to be a part of the 
discussion and decisionmaking. We stand ready, as an 
organization of over 2.7 million veterans, nationwide, to put 
our strong voice behind the efforts.
    Thank you for the privilege to serve here today for 
veterans on this day.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Grabin appears on p. 50.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Grabin.
    Mr. Sterner, you're recognized for 5 minutes.

                STATEMENT OF C. DOUGLAS STERNER

    Mr. Sterner. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, 
thank you for this opportunity.
    On February 4, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge, Army 
Private Harold D. Hissong was killed in action. On learning of 
his death half a world away in the small town of Somers, 
Montana, his mother, Florence Hissong planted a tree at the 
front entrance of her home, overlooking Flathead Lake. Five 
years later, I was born in nearby Kalispell. And in many ways, 
I grew up alongside that tree, for I could not miss it every 
time I visited my grandmother.
    As a growing boy, each time I saw it, it stood as a 
reminder, not only of the uncle that I never knew, but of the 
great price of freedom, of the responsibility passed on to 
every generation to answer its own call of duty. And when my 
day came, I understood my obligation was privileged to serve my 
Nation through two tours of duty in Vietnam. I was in no small 
part inspired by the lessons learned from a tree planted in 
honor of a World War II hero.
    Mr. Hall. Excuse me, Mr. Sterner. Is your microphone on? Is 
there a switch? Why don't you switch with Mr. Grabin? Thank 
you. I'm sorry to interrupt you.
    Mr. Sterner. Thank you. I am--from good to worse.
    Mr. Hall. Whoever has the knob, turn it down a little bit 
and we'll be fine.
    Mr. Sterner. I have come to learn and understand that 
memorials are not about those who went before us. Rather, 
memorials stand as an example as a beacon to inspire and guide 
future generations of Americans.
    The location of our veterans cemeteries is not so much 
about the convenience with which we place our dead, as it is 
about the convenience that we offer to the families who have 
lost a loved one, and are reminded and inspired by the 
monuments to their selfless service.
    The ethos of a warrior states, ``I will never leave a 
comrade behind.'' And no matter where in the world a young man 
or woman falls in service to their country, they know that 
their comrades will do everything in their power to see that 
they are returned home. This ethos is not predicated upon 
policies established within constraints of budgets and 
convenience. It is a solemn obligation to those who've served 
and have sacrificed. As a nation, we have no less a solemn 
obligation to ensure that the final resting place of our 
veterans be in close proximity to their home.
    Fifteen years ago, my hometown of Pueblo, Colorado, was 
recognized by the U.S. Congress as America's Home of Heroes due 
to the fact that it was the only city in America with four sons 
who are living recipients of the medal of honor. It should not 
be surprising that Pueblo would produce four such heroes over 
three different wars in a span of only 24 years. Pueblo is Home 
of Heroes because of these four, but also because of thousands 
others like them who have served with pride and patriotism.
    In the 2000 census, Pueblo numbered among the top 254 
largest cities in America, number five with the largest 
percentage of World War II veterans. Such dedication to service 
is endemic to our community, and our community believes 
strongly in duty, honor and country.
    Eight years ago, two of our hometown heroes died within 
months of each other. Bill Crawford, who earned the Medal of 
Honor in World War II was buried at the U.S. Air Force Academy. 
Carl Sitter, Bill's high school classmate who earned a Silver 
Star in World War II and the Medal of Honor in Korea was buried 
at Arlington National Cemetery. On April 6, 2007, Jerry Murphy 
passed away, the third Puebloan in less than 10 years to earn 
the Medal of Honor when he received it for his actions in 
Korea. Although funeral services were held in his hometown, he 
was subsequently transported far south to Santa Fe National 
Cemetery for burial.
    You see, there exists today no veterans cemetery within 90 
miles of Pueblo that ensures that Mr. Murphy, or for that 
matter, Mr. Crawford or Mr. Sitter could have returned home for 
their final journey. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, 
the VA cemetery construction policy failed these three 
distinguished heroes of my hometown, as well as the people of 
Pueblo who remembered them fondly. It continues to fail the 
families of our city of 100,000 citizens, comprising one of the 
highest percentages of World War II veterans in the Nation, and 
in fact a uniquely high percentage of veterans of all recent 
wars who must travel more than 100 miles and navigate the 
traffic of metropolitan Denver just to pay respect to their 
loved ones buried at Fort Logan.
    Please consider the needs of our city as well as the entire 
southern Colorado region, remembering our obligation as a 
Nation to our veterans and to their families, and provide the 
much needed national cemetery in our area so our heroes will 
rest in peace and dignity where they belong: at home in 
southern Colorado.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Sterner appears on p. 51.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Sterner.
    Colonel Chostner.

     STATEMENT OF HON. JEFF CHOSTNER, COLONEL, USAF (RET.)

    Colonel Chostner. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Congressman 
Lamborn and Congressman Salazar for having us here today. I've 
been involved with this matter since 2003 as a former member of 
the Pueblo Colorado City Council, as Chairman of the Greater 
Pueblo Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee, as 
President of the Air Force Association, Mel Harmon Chapter, and 
the American Legion. I served 22 years on active duty. I 
retired as a colonel in the United States Air Force, and I'm 
currently a Pueblo County Commissioner.
    This matter is near and dear to my heart, and I'm sure to 
my other colleagues because we've had other friends who have 
fallen in combat. And we need to dedicate their service to this 
country in an appropriate way where we can lay their remains.
    In April 1986, I was promoted to the grade of major with my 
fellow Mayor, Fernando Ribbas Dominici. Two weeks later, he was 
killed over the skies of Tripoli as the last 111 that went in 
over that particular city. In 1991, my wing deployed during 
operation Desert Storm, the Island of Diego Garcia. My wing, 
the 92nd bomb wing, was the only wing to lose a B52 during 
combat, and I lost friends on that particular aircraft as well.
    It's my view that it is imperative that a new veterans 
cemetery be established in southern Colorado. And by that, I 
mean in a location south of the city of Colorado Springs. As 
you know, the closest veterans cemetery is Fort Logan National 
Cemetery. It's located in the Denver metro area. It's a fine 
facility, and one of which we're all proud. I have two 
relatives who lay in that cemetery.
    However, it's my understanding that Fort Logan is nearing 
capacity, and there's a pressing need to establish another 
veterans cemetery, either as an adjunct of Fort Logan, or as a 
new cemetery. I've also been informed that there are different 
Veterans Administration regulations, based on the status of the 
cemetery.
    Under either criteria, however, we were dismayed to learn 
that the Veterans Administration has recommended a veterans 
cemetery between Colorado Springs and Denver. None of the 
participants to the discussions that I've been involved with 
over the last 5 years ever envisioned a cemetery north of 
Colorado Springs. All believe it should be south of Colorado 
Springs.
    I would urge that you review the current Veterans 
Administration regulations regarding status of veterans 
cemeteries and how said cemeteries define the geographical area 
in which they may be placed. In my view, the current 
regulations do not sufficiently take into account location of 
other existing veteran cemeteries, and the ability of other 
concentrations of veterans to avail themselves of the right to 
burial in the national cemetery.
    This discrepancy is most apparent in the matter before your 
Subcommittee, in that, as Mr. Sterner mentioned, the next 
closest veterans cemetery is Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    If you dealt just strictly in geographical terms, a new 
cemetery should probably be close to Trinidad, Colorado, but 
given the concentration of the veterans, we all came to a 
consensus that it should be at a location south of Colorado 
Springs.
    Yet, instead of proposing a cemetery that would either be 
more geographically central to the area or closer for other 
veterans in the region, the Veterans Administration recommends 
a new cemetery in close proximity to the existing one. While it 
will provide more capacity, it does not allow more convenience 
or availability to the region's veterans or their families.
    I appreciate the ability to speak before you today, and I 
would urge that you alter the regulations. Thank you very much.
    And, Congressman Salazar, as a fellow veteran, I would also 
thank you for your service to the United States.
    [The prepared statement of Colonel Chostner appears on p. 
59.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Colonel Chostner.
    Thank you all for your testimony, for your service to our 
country, and for your service to our veterans.
    Mr. Fernandez, I'll start off by asking you, in your 
testimony, you showed us and told us about the plan in National 
Veterans Cemetery for the Pikes Peak region, which we've 
entered into the record here.
    Have you received any feedback on this plan, and do you 
think plans such as yours would serve as a good example for the 
creation of future veterans cemeteries in other locations?
    Mr. Fernandez. Yes, sir, we have received feedback on it. 
We've received feedback from both Senators' offices, Senator 
Salazar and Senator Allard. We have received feedback from 
Congressman Salazar, of course Congressman Lamborn, and you 
received testimony today from Congressman Udall. He is also 
back. Several others have said that.
    This sort of a thing actually didn't come about by 
accident. My second career, after I finished playing soldier, 
was as an urban planner. And I realize the importance of urban 
planning to get anything done. We--I reached out to a fellow 
that I had worked with. His name is George Calhoun. He's a 
retired West Point officer, class of 1954, and he was the 
actual author of this.
    We on the Committee provided the data, photographs and maps 
that he would need to produce this document, and it was 
produced therefore by him, approved after some slight 
modifications by the Committee. It does have 10 sites, and 
those 10 sites are in the County--we have one site in Pueblo 
County, one site in Fremont County and the others are in El 
Paso County, and they are all between Colorado Springs and 
Pueblo, with the exception of one site that is east of Colorado 
Springs, near Schriever Air Force Base. That particular site 
was offered early on, and it is a good site, but doesn't meet 
the between the cities kind of thing.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, sir. I have 5 minutes total.
    Mr. Salazar. Mr. Chairman, may I request that this booklet 
be handed out so that we can look at those?
    Mr. Hall. Sure, that would be great. Thank you so much.
    We'll read the report and get back to you with more 
questions. Thank you for your response.
    Also, I wanted to ask Mr. Sailar, in your testimony, you 
mentioned that 400 active duty servicemembers who were 
stationed in Colorado have died serving this Nation over the 
last several years, but some were buried in their hometowns.
    Can you tell the Subcommittee why these veterans should be 
counted in the numbers for a local cemetery?
    Mr. Sailar. Because, sir, they have become a large part of 
this community and this county, and a lot of these veterans 
that were buried in other areas not only lost their lives 
during conflict, a lot of them passed away due to the injuries 
that they sustained in combat. So they were not counted as 
direct combat fatalities.
    This is important. We are finding more and more, especially 
from Fort Carson, there are individuals remaining in El Paso 
County and the Pikes Peak region. After their service, they 
come back here or they just stay here.
    Mr. Hall. So you think a significant number of the 400 
would have--their families would have chosen to have them 
buried in a cemetery in southern Colorado, were there one in 
existence.
    Mr. Sailar. Without a doubt, sir.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you.
    Mr. Grabin, how does the Fort Logan cemetery system 
currently handle inclement weather? Do they cancel interments? 
Do they have adequate indoor facilities for services?
    Mr. Grabin. As far as--I believe they do have indoor, as 
far as Fort Logan. I'm not as privy at this time to give that 
report. But I know, as far as southern Colorado, when the 
weather is bad, and they do close Monument Hill, we are not 
able to get over Monument Hill, even if you had a four-wheel 
drive, there are days, a four-wheel drive hearse, you would not 
be able to get over that hill.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, sir.
    That red light is for me, and I'm going to yield to Mr. 
Lamborn.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Mr. Fernandez, you heard from the testimony of the two 
widows earlier, and they talked about sometimes there are great 
difficulties in going from here to Fort Logan. You heard their 
testimony. Is there anything you could add to what they said 
about that particular situation?
    Mr. Fernandez. Yes, sir, I'll add two things.
    First of all, we did have a friend of ours pass away in 
December. His name was Colonel Bill Carnahan. Bill passed away 
about the 14th of December. And because of the weather patterns 
and topography, he was not able to be buried at Fort Logan 
until mid-January. That's item number one.
    Item number two, I know of at least a dozen families who 
presently have the ashes of their folks, if you will, on the 
shelf waiting because they want the cemetery so that they can 
put them in a proper veteran--national veterans cemetery here 
in the Springs or nearby.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
    Mr. Sailar, I was talking to a young Army captain last 
night, and he said that Fort Carson is maybe the most popular 
place to be stationed in the Army. If it's not the most, it's 
right up at the top.
    With that in mind, will that kind of reputation make the 
Pikes Peak area--make the numbers of veterans here accelerate 
more in the future as people rotate in on active duty or come 
here, possibly, after retirement?
    Mr. Sailar. Sir, your statement is exactly right. I have 
friends that actually were never stationed in the Pikes Peak 
region, and in having spoken to them, and told them about the 
area, they've come out and visited me. They have moved here. 
And others are planning to move here. So this situation is not 
just for ones that are stationed here. They are coming back 
here because they like the area so much and the community is a 
large veterans supportive community.
    There are individuals moving here. Myself and my colleague, 
Mr. Tackett, belong to the National Association of Veterans 
Service Officers, and we have contacts all over the country. 
And we get calls from veterans--in fact, I got calls just last 
month from a veteran in Florida that is moving to Colorado, who 
wanted to know what the veteran support system was here, 
because he's moving here to be with his family. His wife had 
passed away, and so he's going to move here to live with his 
daughter and her husband. And we're seeing more and more of 
this, older retirees and veterans moving into the area to live 
with families.
    My father-in-law, he and his wife, he is an ace from World 
War II, P-38 pilot. He's 88 years old, and we moved them here 
from Kansas. So hopefully it doesn't come soon, but when the 
time comes, there will be a national cemetery here because all 
of his relatives, my wife and his daughter all live in this 
area.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
    Another question for you, Mr. Sailar. You said that the 
VA's numbers do not include active-duty military. Could you do 
a quick rough calculation for us on if you did include active-
duty military and if you included dependents, how would those 
numbers change for the Pikes Peak area?
    Mr. Sailar. Well, just to give you a quick thing, on Fort 
Carson, alone, over the next couple of years, they expect over 
30,000 active-duty members to be stationed at Fort Carson. I've 
heard that there's going to be some other units coming in too. 
That doesn't count another 45,000 dependents. Now, there are 
spouses that are eligible to be buried along with their veteran 
spouse in a national cemetery. There are also children that can 
be qualified to be buried in the national cemetery with their 
father or mother if either parent is a veteran.
    So these numbers, like I mentioned earlier, from the VA 
data itself project over 125,000 veterans will pass away along 
the front rage between now and 2030. That doesn't count 
spouses. That doesn't count other individuals moving into the 
area. So those numbers could double very easily.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
    And one last question, before my time is up. Mr. Grabin, 
you heard what was said about the desire for people in Pueblo. 
We heard from a County Commissioner, for instance, and Mr. 
Sterner as well.
    Would those same feelings be echoed by the folks that you 
know where you live in Canon City, which is probably about the 
same distance, but in a slightly different direction?
    Mr. Grabin. A little different angle. I would personally 
like to share this portion as a representative of the American 
Legion in answering that: ``As to the exact location, we will 
leave that decision to the planners to determine the best 
location that will meet all the provisions of the law and the 
requirements for growth, space to provide the absolute best 
setting in terms of view, landscape, serenity for the final 
resting spot for America's veterans. But we are adamant that 
the location be south of Monument Hill, located so that the 
maximum number of veterans be served.'' That would be El Paso 
County.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Lamborn.
    Mr. Salazar.
    Mr. Salazar. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    All of you are aware of the proposed sites for the 
cemeteries, correct? Have all of you been? Is there any 
preference?
    And I'd like each one of you to answer that, starting with 
Colonel Chostner, if you will.
    Colonel Chostner. I prefer the one that is further south. 
I'm not sure exactly what the name of it is. I'd have to look 
at it. I'm not sure of the exact name of it. Mr. Sterner can 
refer to that.
    If I could mention, though, Congressman, there are 16,000 
veterans in Pueblo County. And if you look at the veterans in 
Fremont County, El Paso County, and Teller County, you're 
looking at a significant number of veterans themselves. So in 
response to your question, Congressman Lamborn, there's a 
significant population south of the El Paso County line that 
have availed themselves of a cemetery, hence my recommendation 
that it be as far south as possible.
    One last thing, Congressman, with regard to the inclement 
weather. I mentioned I had two relatives that were buried in 
Fort Logan. The last one I did was in January of 2003. That 
ceremony was almost canceled because of the weather. And 
secondly, it was held outside, which was not the most 
appropriate way to commemorate that individual.
    Mr. Salazar. You are aware that the legislation that is 
being proposed that we actually passed includes the 29 counties 
of southern Colorado in order to be able to meet the 150,000 
veteran threshold. And that is why we thought that it would be 
better to be south of Colorado Springs so that we could address 
all of southern Colorado.
    Mr. Sterner.
    Mr. Sterner. Yes, Congressman Salazar, and thank you for 
all your great work on behalf of veterans over the years.
    I've done some markups on this. I'd like to point out a 
couple of things.
    First of all, in the 29 counties that were identified in 
H.R. 1660, the Rio Grande County was not listed, and yet it 
falls within that area, bringing in another 3,000 veterans. 
Also locating the cemetery somewhere in El Paso County, or in 
that vicinity, while it would--Chaffee County and Park County 
are not counted as part of the southern Colorado region, but 
they do fall within the attachment area. Park County population 
is 19.2 percent veterans, one of the highest in the Nation. 
Chaffee County's population is 17.1 percent. So now we're 
talking even outside a region of numbers well in excess of the 
150,000.
    I have done a series of documents that I would be happy to 
present to the Committee showing five different locations, 
ranging from the proposed Douglas County option, which I find 
unacceptable, to my hometown of Pueblo. Frankly, I find 
Florence is a very, very attractive area, or in that near area 
between the Fremont-El Paso County line. We've got open area 
there. It falls well in attachment area for Colorado Springs, 
for Canon City, for Westcliffe, for Pueblo, and the surrounding 
areas. That would be my personal preference.
    Mr. Salazar. Mr. Grabin.
    Mr. Grabin. I don't truly have a personal preference. I 
want to stay more neutral. I do think that south of Monument, 
up around the Air Academy, is the most beautiful as far as its 
scenery. Down toward the old racetrack, south of Colorado 
Springs, while we have easily accessible, I think that's a very 
good location. And I'm not so sure as far as out toward Fort 
Carson, just how that would work, but I think that's something 
to consider as well.
    Mr. Salazar. The old dog track area----
    Mr. Grabin. Well, the racetrack.
    Mr. Salazar. The racetrack, okay. There is actually 
property there, a sufficient amount. Is it 500 acres.
    Is that correct, Mr. Fernandez?
    Mr. Fernandez. The Pikes Peak International Raceway portion 
of that had been sold, and so therefore it's not available. But 
there are sites on either side of I-25 that are public 
property. They are property of Colorado Springs Utilities, and 
there is sufficient acreage, approximately 250 acres, and one 
in close to almost 300 acres in the other that would be 
satisfactory.
    Mr. Salazar. And is your preference closer to the Pueblo 
line or somewhere in that neighborhood south of Fort Carson?
    Mr. Fernandez. Sir, I'm going to have to remain neutral 
also, but I would like to bring to your attention Figure----
    Mr. Salazar. You sound like a Congressman.
    Mr. Fernandez [continuing]. Figure 4.1. Under figure 4.1, 
we did rate these things, and we rated them by availability of 
water, accessibility, acreage, land ownership, topography, 
aesthetics, and feasibility. And the top sites were the 
Cheyenne Mountain State Park site, which is actually on Highway 
115. Second was the Cane Ranch, which is free property to us.
    Mr. Salazar. And that was my next question.
    Mr. Chairman, I know my time is up, but can I just have 
another couple minutes? Thank you, sir.
    The Cane Ranch, for example, isn't it the owner, if I am 
correct, he has agreed to actually donate the property?
    Mr. Fernandez. He has done so. The property is now in the 
hands and holding by El Paso County.
    Mr. Salazar. And that is which proposed site?
    Mr. Fernandez. That is proposed site--it's called Cane 
Ranch. If you'll take a look at Figure 4.1, you'll see that 
rated 31 points in our booklet.
    Mr. Salazar. And that is exactly--oh, that's south of Fort 
Carson.
    Mr. Fernandez. It's actually outside--it's outside of gate 
1, on Highway 115, across--oh, the Cane Ranch, no. Cane Ranch 
is in Fountain. It's in Fountain.
    Mr. Salazar. Well, Mr. Sailar----
    Mr. Fernandez. It's south of Colorado Springs.
    Mr. Salazar. Mr. Sailar, do you have any objection to that 
site, or is that your preferred?
    Mr. Sailar. Sir, in speaking to a lot of veterans in our 
community, they want it in southern Colorado, and I have heard 
them say anywhere other than over Monument Hill; Right on the 
border line between Pueblo and Colorado Springs is very 
preferable to everyone that I have spoken to. And I really 
don't believe any member of any committee that I am a member 
of, would object to that. If that was the area that was going 
to be picked, that would be very pleasing to all of the members 
of our military community and their families.
    Mr. Salazar. Thank you very much.
    And I just want to--just a quick comment. Mr. Sterner, 
thank you very much for helping to author the Stolen Valor Act, 
which the President signed into law last year. We really 
appreciate that.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Salazar.
    Thank you, all on our second panel, for your testimony and 
for your service to our country and to our veterans.
    And we're now going to take a recess of about 3 minutes and 
then come back.
    [Recess.]
    Mr. Hall. The Subcommittee will return from recess and come 
to order.
    And our third panelist is Under Secretary William Tuerk, 
Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery 
Administration (NCA), for the U.S. Department of Veterans 
Affairs.
    And your entire statement, of course, is in the record, as 
you know, having done many of these affairs. And you're 
recognized now for your testimony.

    STATEMENT OF HON. WILLIAM F. TUERK, UNDER SECRETARY FOR 
   MEMORIAL AFFAIRS, NATIONAL CEMETERY ADMINISTRATION, U.S. 
                 DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

    Mr. Tuerk. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it.
    And you anticipated my first request, and that is to submit 
my statement and have it printed in the record. I don't propose 
to read it to you. You and the visitors here who are in 
attendance have copies of my testimony, and it's available, and 
you can read it. So I'll summarize some of the points raised in 
that testimony, and perhaps amplify some other points, 
particularly in light of some of the comments that I've heard.
    I commend you and I commend the staff for your foresight in 
making me last, and not first witness. It was useful to hear 
the prior testimony before giving my own, and I appreciated 
that opportunity. Surely I was going to stay and listen to the 
testimony of the witnesses that came after me, but I'm glad I 
had a chance to hear them before I offered this testimony.
    If I may, just a couple things before I start.
    First, to Ms. Briseno and Ms. Lee-Witt, I want to thank you 
both for your husbands' service to our Nation. I'm sure I speak 
for everyone in the room--the members of the panel have already 
spoken for themselves in expressing our appreciation for the 
service that your families have rendered.
    I don't know if it's appropriate to do this, but I'm going 
to do it as just a personal note. To both of you ladies, I can 
tell you, I understand from personal experience your grief, 
your situation. I understand from personal experience the 
comfort one can get from visiting one's spouse's gravesite, and 
I wish that your spouses' gravesites were more convenient for 
you. I hope they will become more convenient for you.
    Again, I would suggest to you, Ms. Lee-Witt, that when we 
build a cemetery here in Colorado, you certainly ought to 
consider having your husband's remains reinterred up here. I 
can tell you, I have been to the Nashville National Cemetery, 
and it's an extraordinary site, a very historic site dating to 
1862. I happened to be there at an event commemorating the 
burials of what are called, in sort of arcane language, U.S. 
Colored Troops, African American citizens of the north who fell 
to preserve the union. Many hundreds of them are buried in 
Nashville; it is a very interesting and historic site. Believe 
me, your husband is in a place of honor there.
    Now, if I may, and I'm going to try and do this as quickly 
as I can. But some of these points, I think, bear some 
amplification.
    First, I'd like to talk just a little bit about the 
background of NCA and what we're tying to accomplish now--what 
this formula that's been cited, imperfect though it be. Right 
now we are engaged in the largest expansion in the national 
cemetery system since the Civil War. In a course of about 10 
years, we will have opened 17 new national cemeteries and over 
40 State cemeteries.
    Our goal is to provide services to more veterans than are 
currently served. Our tactic, and we've been directed by 
Congress to pursue this tactic, is to identify the areas with 
the largest populations of unserved veterans and locate new 
cemeteries there. Consistent with that approach, we have, in 
the last several years, opened up cemeteries in major, major 
metropolitan areas, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, 
Seattle, Pittsburgh, Miami. We are on target, right now, to 
open up cemeteries in other large cities, Sarasota, 
Philadelphia, other sites.
    This is not to say that the people of Colorado Springs are 
served as well as we like or are adequately served. It's a 
matter of ranking priorities. Chicago, for example, when we 
decided to build a cemetery there, had 991,000 veterans living 
within 75 miles of Chicago, veterans who were unserved. Sites 
that remain to be served don't have numbers quite that 
dramatic, but I want to make the point that our prioritizing 
system has attempted to locate the Federal dollars and to 
locate the facilities where we can do the most good for the 
most people.
    I do understand there are unserved veterans who are not in 
proximity, even by our standard, to Fort Logan National 
Cemetery. By our reckoning, about 27,000 veterans live beyond 
the 75-mile ring from Fort Logan. And I understand reasonable 
people can differ on whether that's an intelligent standard or 
not. But by that standard, just for perspective, there are many 
other cities with many more unserved veterans that have yet to 
have the benefit of a national cemetery,
    In Charleston, West Virginia, for example, there are 
154,000 veterans who have no burial option within 75 miles. The 
nearest national cemetery to the people of Charleston, West 
Virginia, is West Virginia National Cemetery, 142 miles away, 
over very difficult West Virginia terrain. Similarly, in the 
Chairman's home State, in Buffalo, New York, there are 144,000 
veterans living within 75 miles of Buffalo who have no burial 
option at all. The nearest national cemetery to Buffalo is 105 
miles away, in Bath, New York, in south central New York. As in 
West Virginia, there is difficult mountainous terrain to 
traverse between Buffalo and Bath.
    I don't offer this except for perspective on where our 
standards have led us. I've heard much discussion about the 
imperfections in that standard, and I recognize there are 
imperfections in that standard. We know it is imperfect. We 
have asked a contractor to analyze that standard critically and 
to perform many other forward-looking activities for us. So 
that standard perhaps might be changed. But one point I want to 
make to this community is that, heretofore, we have been less 
than encouraging to this community using that standard because 
we took into account the fact that Fort Logan was operating 
just 59 miles north of here.
    We have, however, reassessed the situation in light of one 
inescapable fact that's already been cited to you. Fort Logan 
National Cemetery is now interring veterans in its last active 
area. As one of the witnesses testified, it is landlocked. We 
cannot acquire land contiguous to Fort Logan. It is going to 
close, it must close. We estimate now that in 2019, plus or 
minus 1 or 2 years, that cemetery is going to close.
    And as I have discussed with your delegation, we are 
looking at the situation of cemetery service on the front range 
in a new way now. We are assessing the situation with the 
assumption that after 2019 there will no longer be a cemetery 
in Denver. Looked at from that point of view, if one doesn't 
take into account the presence of a cemetery in Denver, we see 
that there are some 285,000 veterans in the Denver-Colorado 
Springs-Pueblo area who will be unserved the day that cemetery 
closes.
    By our standard, 170,000 unserved veterans within 75 miles 
qualifies a location for a new cemetery. Clearly, the front 
range in Colorado would merit a new cemetery under that 
standard. And I'm here to tell you, we are proceeding on the 
assumption that there will be a new cemetery to be located 
here, a cemetery that will succeed Fort Logan, and I'll get 
into details about that in just a second. But we are no longer 
of the view that this community should not get a cemetery. We 
are committed to the idea that a cemetery ought to come here.
    Now, I can't promise a new national cemetery here before 
you today. I can promise I will actively advocate for it. And I 
can advise you that I have actively advocated for it with some 
success. But many other players will be involved before a new 
national cemetery can be built here, the Office of Management 
and Budget (OMB), the next Administration, most importantly, 
the Congress. I will need the Congress's support to get 
authorization to build that cemetery and to get funding to 
build that cemetery.
    But subject to that caveat, I can tell you that the 
National Cemetery Administration will proceed, and we have 
already started our initial steps. But the point I want to make 
here is that it's not so much a question of if a cemetery is 
going to be built here, it's a question of when and where.
    Now, let me talk, for a second, if I can, though I'm over 
my time, Mr. Chairman----
    Mr. Hall. Go ahead.
    Mr. Tuerk [continuing]. On the when and where questions.
    First, when. We estimate that Fort Logan will close in 
about 10 years. I've learned from hard experience over the last 
couple of years, that it's a 5-year proposition to get a new 
national cemetery open--to acquire the land, to go through all 
of the environmental analysis, to design the cemetery, to 
construct the cemetery's first phase, not the entirety of the 
cemetery, but just the first phase, is a 5-year proposition. 
We're about 10 years out from Fort Logan closing. We recognize 
that reality. We are proceeding now with the first steps to get 
the new cemetery in place.
    What have we done? We have sought and we have pending 
before the Congress right now a legislative proposal to include 
in our budget a separate line item, which would authorize us to 
acquire land independent of a separate authorization to build a 
new cemetery, to acquire a land in advance of the precise need 
for that land so that we may start to shop and seize 
opportunities to acquire land as they become available. We had 
specifically in mind, when we requested this authority, this 
community and a couple of other communities that will suffer a 
similar fate as this one will if we don't get moving now.
    Portland, Oregon, is in a similar situation to Denver-
Colorado Springs. Our cemetery in Portland can't expand. We've 
got to find a successor site there. San Juan, Puerto Rico is in 
a similar situation. We're at the end, the last phase of 
cemetery development there. We've got to start acquiring land 
now so that we can have a new cemetery already in place when 
the old one closes.
    If we get this authorization, and if we get adequate 
funding from the Congress to proceed, we expect, depending on 
when this year's appropriations bills get enacted, to proceed 
to start to scout for land immediately. Upon getting that 
authority and getting funding, we will start to look.
    The next critical question is where. This Under Secretary 
wishes he hadn't already popped off on that subject. But I did 
testify before your senior Senator about 3 weeks ago. Senator 
Allard asked me the question of where I thought the appropriate 
site might be. I did offer in that testimony the view that it 
seemed to me that somewhere between Colorado Springs and Denver 
would probably make sense. Why? That point of view was pretty 
much governed by what I have heard from this community telling 
me that traversing from here to Denver is unacceptable.
    My thought process was, when Denver's cemetery closes, the 
veterans of Denver would have the same point of view if the 
cemetery were all the way down here or south of here. They 
would have to traverse the same traffic that Colorado Springs' 
veterans do traveling north. They would have to traverse the 
same weather. They would have to traverse the same highways 
that the folks in Colorado Springs find unacceptable heading 
north.
    I offered that opinion based, essentially, on that fact. 
But it was premature for me to have offered an opinion, I 
think, on where the cemetery ought to be sited. If we get the 
authority we seek, I am going to send real estate pros out here 
to scour the entirety of the front range to see what we can 
find, to see what's available, to see what might be appropriate 
sites. I or my successor--candidly it will probably be my 
successor--will get recommendations from that group of 
professionals, recommendations that won't look unlike these 
with the sort of scoring, the sort of charting, taking into 
account various factors. And at that point, the Under 
Secretary, after having gotten input from the community, will 
probably, at that point, make a decision on where the site 
ought to be.
    What sort of things will he take into account, will he or 
she take into account? Certainly the size of an available site 
is very important to us. This will not be a satellite cemetery 
to Fort Logan. It will be a full blown national cemetery that 
we will want to last for up to 100 years.
    We will be looking for at least, least 200 acres, probably, 
in view of the topography here, twice that amount. We will be 
looking at, and we will take into account, proximity of various 
sites to the veteran population to be served, a factor that I 
prematurely took into account with my testimony and my response 
to Senator Allard. It's one factor; but it's only one factor.
    We will look at the quality of the land in question. Does 
it have access to utilities? Does it have access to water? Is 
it relatively flat? Is it free from subsurface rock and fill? 
That's an important factor to us.
    We'll take into account, finally, the cost, the cost to buy 
the proposed site and the cost to develop it. When all of these 
factors and others are taken into account, that's when a 
decision will be made. And certainly we will take into account 
what I have heard here about the desire to be south of--the 
hill that I----
    Mr. Hall. Monument Hill?
    Mr. Tuerk [continuing]. The Monument that I got stuck in on 
the way down from here. Certainly that will be taken into 
account as well. I did not mean to suggest that Pueblo is 
entirely inappropriate. I did not mean to suggest that southern 
El Paso County is entirely inappropriate. These things will 
have to be weighed, but they have to be weighed, it seems to 
me, in light of the fact that Denver, at the point of decision, 
will be facing an absence of a cemetery. And there's a very 
significant veterans' community up there as well.
    So to summarize and to close out so that I can answer 
questions, subject to the caveat that OMB, the Congress, the 
next Administration will also have to buy in, we anticipate 
building a new cemetery in this area. When we will build it 
depends on when we get funding. We will need the assistance of 
this Committee and other Members of Congress to get the 
authority and to get the funding to do that.
    We must proceed, and I want to make this point clearly. We 
cannot wait for 10 years when Fort Logan closes to start the 
process. We have no intention of waiting 10 years. There will 
be overlap. Both cemeteries will exist, if for no other reason, 
that we can't fine tune the construction process to the point 
that the new cemetery opens the day Fort Logan closes. We will 
get going faster. The two cemeteries will, by necessity, both 
exist simultaneously for a time before Fort Logan closes, and 
we're going to have to start in the next few years. And it is 
my intention, if we get authority, to start as soon as we get 
that authority, which would be October 1st, if we do it on 
time.
    Where we will go will depend on many variables. But I want 
to reiterate, I've learned a lot here about the desires of this 
community, and I will take them into account. And I will assure 
that my successor takes them into account.
    And I'm way over time. And I apologize, Mr. Chairman. I'd 
be delighted to answer your questions.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Tuerk appears on p. 59.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you so much, Mr. Under Secretary. I'm so 
glad I didn't have to use this.
    Mr. Tuerk. I'm glad you didn't, too, sir.
    Mr. Hall. You can thank Chairman Filner of the full VA 
Committee for your being able to testify after the other 
panels. We try to do that for the reasons that you mentioned. 
You answered some of my questions with your opening statement, 
so I'm going to keep it short in order for our Colorado 
representatives to get their questions in while there's time.
    First of all, you made the point about needing Congress's 
help. I would--I'm sure you've noticed, other people have also, 
that the House has moved on this issue, and on many issues. In 
fact, faster than the Senate. So I think you can count on the 
House of Representatives to be responsive.
    Mr. Tuerk. I appreciate that. I would ask you to speak to 
your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee.
    Mr. Hall. I'll speak to my brother about running for the 
Senate.
    [Laughter.]
    Mr. Hall. You did answer some of my questions, such as the 
VA taking into consideration factors like weather, driving 
distance and terrain. But I wanted to ask you, how long does it 
take from the beginning of the site selection process to a 
cemetery opening?
    Mr. Tuerk. As I said, it's about 5 years. Let me divide it 
into two pieces. Once we select and secure a site, it's 
generally about a 3-year process to get a cemetery open, and I 
know that sounds ridiculous, but it takes time to acquire a 
site, I've learned. It's a difficult possess. It takes time to 
do the environmental analysis. It takes time to resolve all the 
mitigation issues. It takes time to design the cemetery. And 
finally, it takes time to get the initial portions of the 
cemetery open. That's about a 3-year process.
    From a point where we decide we're coming to a community, 
it's probably 2 years before we can buy a site. We can't just 
come in and make a decision to buy a site. We have to comply 
with the National Environmental Policy Act. We have to do all 
kinds of environmental analysis on alternative sites. And it 
chews up much, much time. That's why we need to get started 
pretty quickly.
    Mr. Hall. I agree, sir. The reason I'm asking this, if it's 
5 years on average, and the Denver cemetery, Fort Logan 
cemetery will be full and closed, you're guessing, around 2019. 
It's 2008. If we were to make some kind of a quick decision, 
for instance, have a decision--start the 5-year process by 
2010, and have that cemetery open 2015, wouldn't that take some 
of the pressure off of Fort Logan for the remaining time that 
it's open?
    Mr. Tuerk. Oh, I think it would. I think it would result in 
Fort Logan being open longer, the population from down here, if 
the cemetery were to be located down in this direction, would 
now be going to the new cemetery. And I think Fort Logan would 
last longer.
    Mr. Hall. Maybe we could even move in 2009 to get the 
process started. But anyway, that's my only question for now.
    Mr. Lamborn.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and that's exactly 
what my first question was going to be.
    My hope is that if we were to have something moving here, 
then by extending Fort Logan, because there would be less 
demand for the space there, because this would take up some of 
the demand, that would stay open longer to serve the people of 
the Denver metro area.
    So it would be my hope that we could have two cemeteries, 
at Fort Logan cemetery and a southern Colorado cemetery.
    Mr. Tuerk. As I tried to express, I think that's 
inevitable. There will be overlap between the two facilities. 
Because if I were here, I wouldn't risk an interruption in 
service. And I'm betting my successor won't risk it either, 
won't risk having a single day where the Denver-Colorado 
Springs community isn't served. He or she will need to get the 
new cemetery up and moving before the old one is closed. And 
there will be an overlap, and I think the only issue is how 
long. And that depends on whether we can find land, how quickly 
we can find land, et cetera.
    There will be a job ahead dealing with the OMB and dealing 
with the Congress on why do you need to do it now, Mr. Under 
Secretary? I can hear it coming. Can't you wait a couple years? 
We'll have to work through that issue, but we have no more than 
a 5-year window--by the simple arithmetic, we've only got about 
10 years of capacity left at Fort Logan, and it's going to take 
us 5 years to get up and moving at the successor site. We've 
only got about a 5-year flex.
    Now, that seems like a long time. But as I have learned in 
this job, in the course of building a $30 million, $40 million 
cemetery, and a cemetery that's going to cost hundreds of 
millions of dollars over its life, it takes time. It takes time 
to comply with the statutes that we have to comply with, and so 
it's only a question of how long.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you.
    Now, let's talk about the specific line item that I was so 
happy to work with you on, and to see your Department moving 
forward on, and that is asking for the $5 million.
    Mr. Tuerk. And I certainly appreciated your assistance.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you. You've mentioned Fort Logan. You 
also mentioned Portland, Oregon. You also mentioned San Juan, 
Puerto Rico. That line item is not earmarked for one of either 
those three places. It's not earmarked for any particular 
place.
    What assurance can you give us that $5 million would be 
used here in Colorado?
    Mr. Tuerk. Well, I guess I can't give you that assurance 
yet. I don't have it yet.
    I don't know, candidly, how much money we're going to need 
for all three of these communities. For example, in Portland, 
there might be an opportunity to get land for free, at Camp 
Bonneville through the Base Realignment And Closure process. 
Alternatively, we may be buying there. Perhaps there will be 
opportunities to get land here for free, from the Academy or 
from other sources.
    So I'm not sure how long it will stretch, how far the money 
will stretch. But we will have a start. We will have the 
ability to transfer money from some of our other accounts, if 
necessary, from our construction account, if we can into that 
account. And furthermore, Congress might further supplement in 
future years the amount of funding that is in that account.
    Mr. Lamborn. Mr. Secretary, let me mention that, for the 
record, on the Republican budget views and estimates that I 
support, we are asking for $20 million for that particular line 
item. I'm hoping that as we go through the total negotiations 
of the entire budget process, that one way or another we can 
bump up that $5 million.
    Mr. Tuerk. Senator Allard and I had that discussion on that 
very point. And I think he is--he is aware of that possibility 
as well. I had to tell him I don't know precisely what it will 
take because I don't know what donations I'm going to get, and 
I don't know where I'm going to buy land.
    For example, in this community I'm told--and I drove it 
yesterday to get a sense of the lay of the land at least--that 
land between Colorado Springs and Denver is considerably more 
expensive than land between Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
    I've told you, it is our intention to build the cemetery at 
the right site, not at the cheap site, and we will hope that we 
will get the support of Congress to get enough funding to buy 
the proper site--the site that we all come to agreement on is 
the appropriate place. But what that precise amount will be, 
what the quantum of required funding will be, as I said to 
Senator Allard, is right now an unknown.
    Mr. Lamborn. And our veterans deserve that. They need the 
right site, not like you said, a cheap site or something that's 
just because it's there, because it's available.
    Mr. Tuerk. The fortunate thing is, it can be the case that 
a cheap site is the right site. Mr. Salazar noted us going 
together to the Georgia National Cemetery at the base of the 
Blue Ridge Mountains, a little bit north of Atlanta. That site 
was a gift to VA by a real estate developer, and it is an 
extraordinary site. So it might be that the ranch, for example, 
that was mentioned in earlier testimony is an entirely 
appropriate and beautiful site. There's not necessarily direct 
relationship between quality and how much a site costs. But we 
will have to scout the sites that are available and start to 
make some sensible decisions on where would be the better 
sites.
    Mr. Lamborn. Thank you so much for your testimony, for 
coming here, for your answers to my and the other questions.
    And, Mr. Chairman, if we have time for a short second 
round, I certainly wouldn't mind that at all.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Lamborn.
    Mr. Salazar.
    Mr. Salazar. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    And thank you, Under Secretary Tuerk. I just appreciated 
your time with me in Georgia and your work on behalf of 
veterans.
    As you know, our budget continues to tighten up, and 
tighten up, and tighten up. This $5 million line item, in order 
for it not to be considered an earmark, could have a specific 
place for it to go. In other words, it would just be, in 
general, for the VA. And that's probably the reason that you 
can't really say that it would be just for El Paso County 
unless you support earmarks. I personally support earmarks 
because I live in a very poor district, and that's the only way 
that I can get the Federal Government to fight for--or get 
Federal dollars back to my district as the budget continues to 
get tighter.
    It seems to me like the logical place for this to happen is 
really the Cane Ranch, which is more than the 200 acres that is 
your minimum. It's actually a 400-acre block. It's right at the 
base of Pikes Peak. It's right next to the gate of Fort Carson, 
the southern gate of Fort Carson. And, you know, in light of 
our budgetary problems, I would really urge you to look at that 
site. And, of course, like you said, it's not going to be up to 
you. It's probably going to be up to your predecessor.
    Mr. Chairman, I would also urge you that in this coming 
year, that we move toward and try to make the needs of the VA 
heard to the VA Committee, so that we can get this process 
started. I agree with you. I think that if--the sooner we get 
started, the longer longevity we're going to have at the Fort 
Logan cemetery.
    And Frankly, Mr. Tuerk, I'm a strong believer that people 
in Denver, they'd love to get out here in the country and rest.
    [Laughter.]
    Mr. Salazar. Now, you talk about a monument, Pikes Peak, 
what a beautiful monument to have as your headstone. But I 
don't have any questions, Mr. Tuerk. I just wanted to thank you 
for your dedication to the veterans.
    Mr. Tuerk. Let me offer this. We will look at that site. It 
would seem it certainly merits a look-see, and we will look at 
that site, and we will look at the other sites in this report. 
This is good, valuable work, and I appreciate it very, very 
much. We will probably look at other sites as well but I'm 
happy to go look at that site. And if I don't, the career 
professionals who will be on staff, irrespective of who sits in 
the Under Secretary's chair, will, I think, be interested in 
looking at it as well.
    One of our factors is cost. It's not our only factor, but 
it's not an insignificant factor. And certainly, there would 
certainly seem to be some cost advantages there. But still, 
other questions would remain. Is it proximate to the 
population? Does it have a water source? Are there utilities? 
What is the topography like? What are the subsurface strata 
like? These are the sorts of things that my pros have to look 
into, because they also weigh on the question of cost, 
specifically on the cost to develop.
    Mr. Hall. Mr. Tuerk----
    Mr. Salazar. Can I finish up, Mr. Chairman?
    Mr. Hall. I'm sorry, Mr. Salazar.
    Mr. Salazar. I just wanted to ask you, in this case, for 
example, you're not really proposing buying a site. Can you 
actually send your planners out to look and see if this would 
be a site that could actually be used as a cemetery?
    Mr. Tuerk. I think what I would like to do is look at it in 
comparison to other potential sites. But that said, sure, if 
you would like me to do that, Mr. Salazar, I will be happy to 
send them out and take a preliminary look. They will make a 
judgment, I believe, looking at that site in relation to other 
potential sites. But we could at least get a feel, early on, 
whether that site might be feasible.
    Similarly, I've heard, perhaps, that the Academy might 
possibly have some sites available. We'd be happy to look at 
those as well, independent of this authority. I still need 
authority to secure them, but I don't think I'm going to have 
much problem getting the authority to take possession, as 
distinguished from buying. So we would be happy to look at that 
site, and I can direct that be done, Mr. Salazar, and I will so 
direct.
    Mr. Salazar. I appreciate that. One other thing, I just 
wanted to thank you for noting today that your comment at 
Senator Allard's hearing was premature.
    Mr. Tuerk. I knew I shouldn't have said that.
    Mr. Hall. We're going to--since we have until 3 o'clock, 
roughly, have a lightning round, a second round of questions.
    And, by the way, another editorial comment. I don't call 
them ``earmarks.'' I call them ``legislatively directed 
initiatives.'' We had a discussion actually, in the 
Subcommittee about this when we were talking about cemeteries 
last year, during which I said that it's my belief that we, in 
Congress, are a co-equal branch of government, and that it's 
not only our right but our duty to try to represent our 
constituents, and that both of those gentleman, Mr. Lamborn and 
Mr. Salazar, have been doing a very good job of that in 
Washington.
    Furthermore, I don't believe that this should be looked at 
as somehow targeting Federal money that's paid by the taxpayers 
of Colorado to the government in Washington, that somehow the 
representatives in Congress are trying to bring some of that 
money back here for real needs, for real people to serve, in 
this particular case, to serve the veterans' community. I don't 
think there's anything wrong with it. In fact, I think it's 
highly constitutional, and should not be a dirty word. It's not 
a guppy museum. It's not a bridge to nowhere. It's a real thing 
that is needed of the community. So, end of sermon.
    I wanted to ask you what kind of public input incurs 
ordinarily in the site selection process.
    Mr. Tuerk. We always go to the veterans service 
organization community through forums that they have sponsored 
on our behalf to get the views of local veterans. We have, on 
occasion, depending on the site and depending on the 
sensitivity and depending on the level of controversy, I would 
anticipate in this community, we--let me back away from that 
statement.
    We have also participated--I have spent many, many hours in 
suburban Philadelphia before township boards of supervisors and 
planning commissions talking to them about various alternative 
sites in metropolitan Philadelphia.
    So we've spoken to the people's elected representatives at 
the very local level on these issues as well.
    It kind of depends on the community. It depends on the 
level of interest and controversy. In some cases, there is much 
demand for public input. In others, there is less, it would 
seem. But we will do what needs to be done in order to get the 
support of the community. It is essential for us that the 
community support where we go, that the community support the 
cemetery that is going to be part of that community for as long 
as a century. So we seek that out.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, sir. And how do you do that? Is there 
a Committee? Do you have an advisory Committee once you decide 
on a region or an area.
    Mr. Tuerk. Yes, that's one of our mechanisms. We will 
appoint a Director before we've even started construction, and 
ask him or her to set up veterans outreach mechanisms, 
including advisory Committees and the like. And yes, we do 
that.
    Mr. Hall. Is there or is there not a formalized process by 
VA to do that?
    Mr. Tuerk. There is no formalized process, no, sir.
    Mr. Hall. So does it vary from case to case, or is it 
sometimes more clear that everybody prefers one?
    Mr. Tuerk. It does. It does vary from case to case, and 
there is not a formal process. I have been trying to telescope 
the length of time it takes to open up the six new cemeteries 
that I'm attempting to open up right now. In Bakersfield and 
Birmingham, Alabama, in Columbia, South Carolina, in 
Philadelphia, and in two other sites, Jacksonville and 
Sarasota, I have been attempting to get these sites opened as 
quickly as possible, basically thinking about my dad, who has 
now passed on, and his generation. I'm trying to get sites open 
as quickly as I can so that they can be of use to the World War 
II generation.
    I have resisted lengthy APA sort of mandated formal 
procedures for securing community input so that we could get 
moving. That said, I have spent a lot of time before local 
bodies, service organizations, as have my employees, in order 
to assure that we have a consensus within the community of 
where to go. And in all the sites we have picked in these six 
sites, the veterans' community is supportive.
    Mr. Hall. That's good to know. Would you object to a highly 
efficient and short community process being formalized?
    Mr. Tuerk. My successor will probably be displeased if I 
say yes, but no, of course, we would not object to that.
    Mr. Hall. It might actually help.
    Mr. Tuerk. We want community support.
    Mr. Hall. Like the study we just saw, some work has been 
done, in effect for you, by veterans' groups.
    Mr. Tuerk. I would ask the Chair, however, to consider--of 
course, we could conduct more formalized and regularized sorts 
of proceedings. I guess I would just ask the Chair to assess 
whether we lack community support and input under the less 
formal processes that we're using now. And I would suggest to 
you, Mr. Chairman, that we do not.
    Mr. Hall. Today, certainly, seems like there's plenty of 
input.
    Mr. Tuerk. And these are the sorts of proceedings that we 
seek out. It's not often that a Congressional Committee 
conducts a hearing like this.
    But I have stood before some pretty tough bodies of 
citizens, and not just veterans, but also planning commissions, 
boards of supervisors and the like, getting their buy-in. And 
I've done an awful lot of that, and will continue to do that. 
And I'm sure my successor will. Not because the law requires 
it, but because our approach to being an accepted member of a 
community mandates that we do it as a matter of just being 
smart.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you. And my time is about to run out again, 
but on a different topic, how many of the national shrine 
projects have been restored or completed, and when do you think 
the entire project will be finished?
    Mr. Tuerk. We've had a good year in 2008. The Congress was 
very, very generous with us on funding for national shrine 
projects. Coming into this year, we were better than halfway 
through, as I recall, that original list of national shrine 
projects. This year, the Congress, if memory serves--and I 
jotted these numbers down when I heard your statement because I 
anticipated you might ask about this--if memory serves 
properly, the Congress fenced $27 million of operations and 
maintenance money for us this year to do national shrine 
projects, all of which will be focused on turf renovation, 
headstone raising and realigning and cleaning. In addition, 
Congress gave us three times what we asked for, if I recall--we 
asked for $25 million, and we got $75 million for minor 
construction. That is a huge increase, and much of it will be 
dedicated to capital improvement national shrine sort of 
projects. We'll be well past the halfway point then.
    I do want the make one point, though, about that list. That 
list was a list of projects that needed to be done at that 
point in time. We assess every year the state of our 
cemeteries, what needs to be done now, what projects should 
take priority over, perhaps, lower priority projects on that 
original list, and we reshuffle the deck every year to make 
sure that our money doesn't just go to getting rid of projects 
specified on an old list, but making sure that our money goes 
to the highest priority projects. But we're making substantial 
progress.
    Mr. Hall. That's good. I'm glad to hear that. Therefore, 
given the funding that you received, are you on target for your 
national shrine completion?
    Mr. Tuerk. It's difficult to answer that question because 
that implies that a certain point in time will be finished.
    Mr. Hall. Would trajectory be a better word?
    Mr. Tuerk. Trajectory may be a better word because we will 
never be done with projects that need to be done to achieve and 
maintain national shrine status. Cemeteries need constant 
attention. Buildings continue to deteriorate. Roofs continue to 
go bad. HVAC systems continue to go bad. Turf goes bad. 
Headstones move over time. So it's not a static thing that we 
will ever finish. We will never finish.
    I would point out, you'll see I wear this lapel pin which 
commemorates and really congratulates my employees for 
achieving the highest American Customer Satisfaction Index 
Survey scores any organization, public or private, has ever 
gotten in 2009, repeating our achievement from 2003. Toyota 
came in second. National Cemetery Administration came in first.
    Mr. Hall. Congratulations.
    Mr. Tuerk. Thank you. I appreciate that.
    Why do I bring that up? The public was asked to assess our 
physical plant, our facilities, whether they meet national 
shrine status, and we scored 98 out of 100 on that count. We're 
not complacent. We're not finished. We'll never be finished, 
but we're making great progress, and we will make--we will 
achieve--shrine status at every cemetery, and many still need 
work.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Tuerk.
    I'm going to have to stop you there, and turn to Mr. 
Lamborn for a second round of questions.
    Mr. Lamborn. Okay, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    This is a two-part question. The first has to do with a 
study that's being done now. It was supposed to be done 
yesterday. But it has to do, among other things, with the 
burial programs of the VA, and a review of that, as well as 
some other matters that the office of policy and planning was 
working on.
    When will that be done at this point?
    Mr. Tuerk. This is being done by an outside contractor, and 
is being administered by a different office within VA than the 
National Cemetery Administration. The latest I hear, and I will 
do my best to hold them to it, I'm hearing that a draft will be 
available for us to comment on May 15th. And I'm hearing later 
this summer for a final report.
    The Deputy Secretary and I have been pushing the VA's 
Office of Policy and Planning in trying to move these folks 
along. Some of these delays were unavoidable. But we want to 
get this report while we're still in office at VA to use it to 
start to chart NCA's future course. This it is not the only 
thing we will use in charting that course. This is a tool, not 
the tool, that we'll use to chart the future course.
    But it will study many things, including the 75-mile, 
170,000 veteran criterion, which I know was controversial here, 
but which I believe probably isn't any longer because, even 
under that criterion, we're going to build a new cemetery here 
because Denver's closing. But we're also asking them to look at 
services we provide. Should we offer urban facilities, for 
example--and there are many things we're asking them to look 
into.
    Mr. Lamborn. That's good. With our limited time, I'd like 
to focus in on that 75-mile rule, with 170,000 veterans being 
served. To me, the current status, the current regulations are 
sort of wooden. They're inflexible. They're rigid. They don't 
take into account the weather that we have in Colorado, or the 
Monument Hill, or the Palmer Divide, as its called, or Buffalo 
weather.
    In the Midwest, you know the terrain is easier. In eastern 
areas of this country, it's more of a congested population. But 
things like travel distance, travel time, access to public 
transportation, traffic, and then, of course, as it's come up 
time and time again, natural barriers and features, including 
weather and mountain ranges, are really not taken into account. 
I mean, 75 miles here between Colorado Springs and Denver might 
take the time it would take 100 miles to travel in the Midwest.
    So if we said, well, this is the equivalent of a 60-mile 
difference, as opposed to 75, then all of Colorado Springs is 
left entirely outside of the so-called served area, and would 
more easily qualify for its own area.
    Mr. Tuerk. I do understand that point. Again, we're going 
to get a cemetery here on the front slope in any case, but I do 
understand that point, and we asked them specifically to take 
such factors into account. And it's not just geographic 
terrain.
    Let me give you an example that's very, very different from 
the one you cited. The cemetery which serves New York City is 
out on the end of Long Island. There aren't any mountains 
between Calverton National Cemetery and the Brooklyn Bridge. 
But by golly, the traffic is something awful. Similarly, our 
cemetery that serves Los Angeles, Riverside National Cemetery, 
is 65 miles from downtown LA. I've driven it. It is urban 
driving the entire time, the entire distance, and no place has 
traffic jams like LA has traffic jams.
    We've asked them to take into account factors such as that 
as well. That's part of the travel time equation as well, not 
just physical impediments, but density of population between 
here and there, and we have asked them to see if they can come 
up with a way that does adapt some flexibility. Though, again, 
I would point out there are communities like Omaha and Buffalo 
and Charleston, West Virginian that even under this standard, 
would seem to be places that can make a good case, even though 
they don't meet our criterion.
    For example, Charleston, West Virginia has pretty tough 
terrain and pretty lousy roads. Getting from Buffalo to 
southern New York is a pretty tough proposition in the winter. 
So we have seen these problems in the context of many 
communities, and that's why we directed the contractor to do 
precisely what you're suggesting here.
    Mr. Lamborn. I look forward to that study. And once again, 
thank you for your time.
    Mr. Tuerk. You bet, sir. My pleasure.
    Mr. Hall. Mr. Salazar, any further questions?
    Mr. Salazar. Yes, just a quick one.
    Mr. Secretary, what is the typical cost of creating a new 
national cemetery at this point in time?
    Mr. Tuerk. We put that in our written testimony, and I'll 
refer to that. It is on page 4 of my testimony. There we 
estimate costs to build the initial phase of the cemetery, the 
first 10-year buildout.
    First, I would point out, we buy several hundred acres. We 
do not develop them all in year one. We take 10-year bites.
    Mr. Salazar. Excuse me. Let's just say that a site, if you 
don't have to acquire the land, what would the cost be?
    Mr. Tuerk. Apart from the land, as we summarized in our 
testimony, it takes anywhere from $500,000 to $750,000 to get 
through environmental compliance requirements. It takes $1 
million to $2 million to conduct master planning and to design 
a new cemetery. It takes $5 million to $10 million, perhaps 
more, to acquire land, but you're asking me to set that aside. 
Actually, it cost us more than that in Sarasota, for example. 
We spent $12 million for property down there. Once we have the 
land, once we've done the design and environmental compliance, 
which is anywhere between $2 million to $4 million, actual 
construction of the first 10-year phase of a cemetery is a $20 
million to $30 million proposition. And then each subsequent 
phase will cost a similar amount of money, though slightly less 
than the initial phase because we only have to build an admin 
building and maintenance facilities in the first phase. And 
then in the second phase, we're just expanding grave sites. 
That's what it costs for the first 10-year build out of a 
national cemetery today. And of course, that doesn't take into 
account construction inflation, which can be pretty 
considerable.
    Mr. Salazar. Okay. This leads to my next question. Is it 
legal for the VA to take gifts?
    For example, let's just say that Mr. Lamborn, and Mr. Hall, 
and myself, and all the members of this community were to go 
out and raise funds so that we could begin the initial phase. 
And maybe we could raise $15 million or $20 million toward the 
construction. Does this legislation actually make it legal to 
accept land as a gift, but not necessarily funding for the 
construction.
    Mr. Tuerk. Actually, VA currently has authority to accept 
gifts of land. The land you walked down in Atlanta, for 
example, was a gift. The cemetery we're about to build in 
Bakersfield will be on land that we will have received as a 
gift, from Tejon Ranch Company, a large landowner.
    Mr. Salazar. Do you have the authority to actually accept 
funds for the construction?
    Mr. Tuerk. I do not know the answer to that, Congressman. 
I'd have to ask Counsel. I do know we can accept land, and I 
know VA, the larger entity that I'm part of, can accept gifts 
and bequests. And many people every year give money to VA in 
their wills. Whether we can accept gifts under this sort of 
circumstance, I'd have to run through Counsel.
    Mr. Salazar. I would appreciate if you could look that up 
for us.
    Mr. Lamborn. And let all of us know.
    Mr. Tuerk. Sure. You bet.
    [The VA responded in a follow-up letter from Under 
Secretary Tuerk, dated July 11, 2008, which appears on p. 97.]
    Mr. Salazar. I think that Mr. Lamborn and Mr. Hall, in all 
their infinite riches, would be happy to help. And so would I, 
in my poverty.
    Mr. Hall. Thank you, Mr. Salazar.
    Mr. Tuerk, thank you very much for your testimony.
    I thank everybody here today for being here and thank you, 
especially, to all of our witnesses on all three panels.
    We will allow 5 legislative days for Members to revise and 
extend their remarks. Of course you can all send, if you would 
like, a correspondence to the Subcommittee on Disability 
Assistance and Memorial Affairs of the full Veterans' Affairs 
Committee at the House of Representatives in Washington. That 
can be done by e-mail, actually, through the Web site, as well 
as by snail mail. So I'm going to encourage you, if there's 
something left unsaid that needs to be said, then we'll be 
happy to wait for that.
    [The Committee does not accept e-mail through the 
Committee's website, but the public may fax correspondence to 
the Committee at 202-225-2034.]
    Mr. Hall. Thank you again for your insight, your opinions 
and your passionate caring and service to our veterans and an 
attempt to resolve these questions in a democratic fashion.
    I'm enjoying my time in Colorado. Thank you very much, Mr. 
Lamborn, for inviting me.
    Mr. Salazar. Mr. Chairman, if we would have the national 
cemetery here, I want to let you know that there would probably 
be a lot more Democrats in El Paso County.
    Mr. Hall. You're probably right. Thank you all.
    And the hearing now stands adjourned.
    [Whereupon, at 2:56 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]









                            A P P E N D I X

                              ----------                              

           Prepared Statement of Hon. John J. Hall, Chairman,
       Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
    Good Afternoon.
    Would everyone please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance?
    Thank you all for coming to today's Disability Assistance and 
Memorial Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs' field hearing entitled ``Is the VA Cemetery Construction 
Policy Meeting the Needs of Today's Veterans and their Families''--a 
topic of particular significance to this region and throughout the 
country.
    A few preliminaries: First, I ask unanimous consent, that 
Congressman John Salazar of the 3rd District of Colorado and a Member 
of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs be invited to sit on the 
dais. Without objection, so ordered. I would also like to recognize any 
Members or staff representing Members in the audience.
    Welcome Congressman Salazar. It is a pleasure to have you be a part 
of these DAMA Subcommittee proceedings and I know your input will prove 
invaluable to today's topic. I am pleased that H.R. 1660, a bill you 
sponsored to build a national cemetery in the southern Colorado region 
passed the full House unanimously and now awaits further action by the 
Senate. I know that you and Ranking Member Lamborn as well as the rest 
of the Colorado delegation have worked on VA's national cemetery policy 
concerns in your region on a bipartisan basis. I am glad we are able to 
bring this hearing to your state where these issues are front and 
center.
    Last preliminaries: Also, in accordance with Committee Rules, I ask 
that all cell phones and pagers be turned off. As we have a lot of 
business to conduct in a short period of time I would like to conduct 
this hearing with as few interruptions as possible. Also, out of 
respect for our witnesses, I ask the audience to please refrain from 
speaking out of order.
    I would first like to thank the witnesses for coming today to 
appear before the Subcommittee. I know the issues pertinent to the 
national cemetery policy at the Department of Veterans Affairs or 
``VA'', are of utmost importance to you. I look forward to receiving 
your testimonies.
    On a personal note, as Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, it 
is a special privilege for me to conduct this hearing in my Ranking 
Member's district, Mr. Doug Lamborn and an honor for me to be able to 
address the issues facing veterans in or nearby their hometowns. 
Although my district, the 19th district of New York is thousands of 
miles away, we share a lot of similarities with Mr. Lamborn's district 
(CO-5th). For instance both our districts are home to one of our 
Nation's fine military academies, in mine there is West Point and in 
Mr. Lamborn's, the U.S. Air Force Academy. Also our districts house 
many prominent military installations and are both places where a high 
percentage of our Nation's veterans call home. In fact, the Southern 
Colorado region, I understand is home to one of the largest 
concentrations of World War II and Vietnam veterans in the country.
    Since their genesis on July 17, 1862, national cemeteries have 
served as the hallowed resting place for our Nation's veterans and 
their loved ones. Currently VA operates 125 national cemeteries in 39 
States and Puerto Rico and maintains over 2.8 million gravesites. The 
annual number of burials is on the up rise, with just 36,000 in 1973 to 
over 100,200 in 2006. Veterans, who have served in this country's Armed 
Services, are buried in cemeteries operated by the States, VA, the 
Department of Interior, Arlington National Cemetery, and American 
Battle Monuments Commission. VA also provides grants to over 69 State 
veterans' cemeteries under its National Cemetery Administration's State 
Cemetery Grants Program that operate in 35 States, Guam and the 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
    We are here today to examine the adequacy of VA's current policy 
which entails locating national cemeteries in areas with the largest 
concentration of unserved veterans and providing a reasonable access to 
a burial option in a national or State Veterans cemetery within 75 
miles of their residence. As such VA concludes that new national 
cemeteries will be established in areas with an unserved veteran 
population threshold of 170,000 within a 75-mile radius. Under this 
policy 83% of all veterans are served, the converse of which means that 
there are at least 17% or nearly 2 million veterans and their families 
who are underserved by this policy.
    The Subcommittee also addressed the VA's national cemetery policy 
issues last year during a hearing held on May 8, 2007, wherein I 
expressed concerns of whether this policy was adequate enough to 
address both rural and urban locations. Those concerns still stand. I 
also think it is critical that VA makes sure that there is plenty of 
opportunity for public input during any new cemetery policy or location 
selection process. I know that VA is currently conducting its own study 
of these criteria and has plans to move the percentage of veterans 
served to 90% by FY 2010. I look forward to hearing more about these 
plans during your testimony.
    In the way of follow-up to last year's hearing, I would like to be 
updated on the current status of VA's National Shrine Commitment.
    Lastly, the Subcommittee has been apprised of a situation at 
Greenwood Island or the old Camp Jefferson Davis site and the Soldiers' 
Asylum Home in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where veterans of the Mexican 
American War are buried but whose resting places are being eroded by 
nature and construction. It is reported that some of the coffins and or 
bodies have became disinterred being found by local fisherman I 
appreciate the NCAs response provided by staff, but I would like to 
know the NCA implications of this situation and how we can possibly 
remedy this oversight.

                                 
  Prepared Statement of Hon. Doug Lamborn, Ranking Republican Member,
       Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs
    Good afternoon, thank you Chairman Hall.
    I would like to personally thank you, Mr. Salazar, and your staff 
for making this field hearing possible. There is a lot of work involved 
with bringing Congress to Southern Colorado and I appreciate it. It is 
an honor to participate in this momentous occasion. I also thank you 
and your staff for your flexibility and patience with the number of 
witnesses that will present important testimony today.
    I would also like to thank all of the witnesses for being here 
today, especially my good friend, Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs 
Bill Tuerk, for joining us here today to discuss the Department of 
Veterans Affairs policy for the construction of new national 
cemeteries.
    Mr. Chairman, properly honoring a deceased veteran is one of our 
most sacred and solemn responsibility. These patriots have earned 
honored repose in a national shrine. Veterans and their families are 
due the tribute and thanks of a grateful nation. We should ensure that 
the final resting place for our great heroes is accessible to family 
members and all proud Americans who come and pay tribute to the service 
and sacrifice of those brave men and women who have borne the battle.
    We are seeing increased demand on all of our National cemeteries, 
especially as members of the Greatest Generation pass from our 
presence. VA estimates that interments in national cemeteries will rise 
from the current level of 2.8 million to 3.2 million by 2012.
    The National Cemetery Administration (NCA) estimates that as early 
as 2016 Fort Logan National Cemetery will be at full capacity and they 
will be looking to construct a replacement cemetery.
    Today Mr. Chairman, we will hear very emotional and eloquent 
testimony from Coloradans who are personally affected by the distance 
of the national cemetery in Fort Logan near Denver to their homes and 
communities.
    I believe that there is a better way to determine need than drawing 
circles in a 75 mile radius around a national cemetery to determine 
where the most ``underserved'' veterans are.
    There are many other factors that need to be taken into account 
including travel time to and from national cemeteries, access to public 
transportation in the area, and other factors that are more tangible 
than a large circle on a map.
    However, I know that this problem is not just limited to Southern 
Colorado; and if we held this hearing in many other cities and towns 
across the Nation that we would find these problems and concerns extend 
to many rural and urban regions like Nebraska, New York City, Los 
Angeles, Buffalo, NY, and many other areas that are adversely affected 
by VA's somewhat arbitrary rules.
    Mr. Chairman, it is for that reason that I was pleased to work with 
you and Mr. Salazar to pass H.R. 1660, as amended, in the House last 
year.
    This bill would authorize the establishment of a national cemetery 
in El Paso County and greatly benefit those veterans and families in 
this fast-growing area. This bill represents a major step forward in 
campaign to establish a national cemetery. I urge our colleagues in the 
Senate, including Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
Senator Akaka of Hawaii to take this bill up as soon as possible.
    I also hope that all of our witnesses understand that when this 
legislation is enacted we must all work together to help NCA find a 
suitable location for this cemetery that serves the highest number of 
veterans and their families. I believe that this location should be in 
El Paso County and I will work with you Mr. Secretary to ensure that 
this is the case.
    I want to thank everyone once again for being here and I am looking 
forward to the testimony.
    Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back and welcome you to Colorado!

                                 
          Prepared Statement of Linda Lee-Witt, Peterson AFB,
        Colorado Springs, CO, Member, Gold Star Wives of America
    Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the 
committee.
    My name is Linda Lee-Witt. I want to thank you for the opportunity 
to testify before you today. I am a widow, and a member of Gold Star 
Wives of America, Inc. which is a non-profit membership organization, 
chartered by the U.S. Congress as a unique organization on December 4, 
1980. To be eligible for membership, your spouse must have died while 
on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or died from a service related 
disability.
    I am also the Administrative Officer of the Retiree Activities 
Office under the 21st Air wing, Peterson Air Force Base working 
directly with retirees, spouses, and dependants.
    Because of my involvement with Gold Star Wives, and the RAO, I am 
in a position to hear the frustrations, and concerns of surviving 
spouses, dependants, and retirees.
    My testimony today will be my story. My husband grew up in a 
military family. His father fought during WWII, and retired from the 
Army as a Major. As a child, my husband lived and went to school all 
over the world.
    Like his father, my husband dedicated his whole career to the U.S. 
Government. He honorably served our country during the Vietnam War and 
peace time in the United States Air Force.
    After retiring from the Air Force, he continued to serve his 
country in Civil Service working in Safety Engineering at Fort Carson, 
where he deployed with the troops wherever they went. Whether it was to 
Kuwait after the Gulf War, fighting fires in California, training and 
educating our soldiers and their commanders on safety issues, or 
investigating accidents and fatalities off and on Base when it involved 
any of our troops. He had a deep passion and love for this country, for 
our soldier's and their safety, and he identified with what they and 
their families faced every day.
    He was a true patriot, and a hero. He died from a service connected 
cancer on Nov. 3, 2004 in our home. Because there had been a snow 
storm, and our driveway is up hill, the mortuary van was unable to 
navigate the driveway to pick up and transfer his body to the funeral 
home. Our son had to put his father's body in his four wheel drive to 
get down to the van.
    I wanted my husband to be buried with the full military honors that 
he so deserved. For months after his death I kept his ashes, not 
wanting his remains to be buried in a civilian cemetery, but also 
wanting his remains close. All of our children and Grandchildren live 
here. We have a very large military presence in El Paso County that is 
quickly growing, yet no military cemetery. Because of the month of my 
husband's death, it is often not possible to get safely over Monument 
Pass to Denver. Veterans Day, when it would mean so much for my 
children and grandchildren together as a family, to see firsthand the 
price that has been paid by so many for the freedom and the rights we 
have today. For them to take part in the ceremonies honoring our 
veterans, and paying tribute to those brave warriors who risked their 
lives for their country and families. To see those who have given all, 
being honored on that special day in a national cemetery, knowing that 
their father and grandfather paid the ultimate price, would be a 
valuable and inspiring experience for us together as a family. Again, 
it is not always possible to travel over Monument Pass to get to our 
national cemetery at that time of year.
    My husband's parents settled in Nashville TN, where two of his 
brothers still live. I finally decided to have his remains buried in 
the national cemetery there. I regret that realistically, we will never 
all be able to visit the Nashville National Cemetery together. Only one 
of our children has been able to make the trip to see the site where 
their father is buried. The others have only seen pictures.
    Right now, with the war in Iraq, our city is rapidly growing. There 
are more and more troops being stationed here, and more and more new 
young widows and dependants living here. As it was with my husband, 
many of our service men and women opt to stay, and live in Southern 
Colorado. In the next few years, the new retiree population will be 
much larger here then it will be in the Denver area. We need a national 
cemetery here, in El Paso County. It doesn't make sense to build one 
anywhere else in the state with so many of our military bases here in 
southern Colorado.
    As I talk with the widows of the WWII and Vietnam era, they express 
how hard it is to make the trip to Denver. Because of their ages, many 
must rely on someone taking them to Denver because they are afraid or 
unable to drive themselves. Many of them have expressed they were not 
able to find the National Cemetery at Fort Logan when they did go.
    In talking to the young Iraq widows and their family's, it is clear 
that it is a hardship for them to take a whole day with young children, 
to visit their husband's graves. They say that during the grieving 
process it would be so comforting to be able to sit quietly by the 
graves of their loved ones while their children are in school, without 
having to try to find a babysitter. That due to the distance, changing 
weather conditions so common in our area, and the traffic, they can't 
risk not being able to get back in time for their little ones. They 
tell me how important it is and how healing it is for their children to 
see the place where their parent's remains are, so that they can work 
through their grief, and see how their parent was given a resting place 
among our bravest and best. Hero's all. To see how our leaders and our 
country honor our fallen hero's, and to be proud of their parent's 
sacrifice and dedication to a better and free country for them.
    I would like to quote from President Abraham Lincoln's Second 
Inaugural address, March 4, 1865. ``With malice toward none; with 
charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see 
right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the 
nation's wounds, to care for him who has borne the battle, his widow 
and his orphan.''
    Again, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and 
express the views of myself and other military spouses, dependants, and 
retirees on an issue very close to our hearts.

                                 
            Prepared Statement of Milly Briseno, Co-Founder,
   Colorado Military Survivors, Colorado Springs, CO (Iraq War Widow)
    At the height of my husband's 17-year Army career and in the 13th 
year of our marriage, our life came to a screeching halt. An unexpected 
massive stroke, at the age of 35, took his vibrant life from this 
temporary home and left my three children and I reeling as we struggled 
for direction and purpose in this completely unfamiliar world of loss. 
My husband's untimely death came just one month after moving to Fort 
Carson. As a young family, full of promise and a bright future, we did 
not think to discuss burial plans. I struggled to know how to honor his 
life as a dedicated soldier whose career in the Army Medical 
Specialists Corps demonstrated his commitment to the restoration and 
preservation of life. To honor him and affirm my family's identity as a 
military family, we chose to bury my husband at a national cemetery. 
Fort Logan was the closest one to our home and my in-laws' home.
    It has been difficult to visit his gravesite for many reasons. My 
family, and my in-laws, reside in Colorado Springs, near Fort Carson. 
The traveling distance to such a congested metropolitan area poses 
great inconveniences for my young family. At the time of my husband's 
death, my children were 9, 5 and 2\1/2\ years old. A trip to Fort Logan 
involves an entire day's plans and is challenging at times for the 
children. With the weather here in Colorado, we mainly make it to Fort 
Logan, at the most, two times per year. We miss most of our significant 
special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays 
because they occur in the fall and winter seasons. As a family, we try 
to set a goal to get to Fort Logan at least for Memorial Day.
    The effects of limited visits to Fort Logan have had an impact in 
these first three years of grief not only for my immediate family but 
also for my mother and father-in-law, my husband's sisters and their 
families. Our family has had decreased participation in commemorative 
events which occur at Fort Logan. We have had less opportunities to 
connect with a military-sensitive and supportive community which can be 
found among the visitors at Fort Logan. My family may miss out on one 
way to continually affirm their military identity. I, myself, have 
struggled with having less access to an acceptable place to face the 
reality of grief and process those complicated emotions.
    It is difficult to deal with grief as a younger widow with young 
children. Through my involvement with Colorado Military Survivors, I 
have found that a new generation of widows is emerging. This new group 
of widows faces additional struggles in dealing with grief because we 
do not fit the common stereotype. I attend a widows support group at 
Fort Carson which averages from 5-8 participants. Up until recently, I 
was the oldest one by at least a decade. We are finding that we must 
find a safe place to face our grief, one in which we have opportunity 
to express our emotions of loss and pain. That is why we gather and 
that is why, I wish we were closer to Fort Logan.
    The small plot of land that I stake claim to in Denver, holds a 
vital place in my ability to process my grief. My husband's headstone 
is an immovable reminder that forces me to face the heartache involved 
in the unexpected ending of his earthly story. His headstone solemnly 
stands among thousands of its kind at Fort Logan. To most, these pale 
stones represent so much pain and suffering, but to me they each hold a 
story. They are just like a sea of bookends.
    The dates engraved on my husband's stone tell the beginning and the 
finale of his life. His headstone is a fixed mark that causes me to 
focus on the finale. A cemetery is an acceptable place in our society 
to express one's grief. Young widows find very few acceptable places to 
deal with their loss. With now almost three years of learning in the 
obstacle course of grief, I realize the necessity of exercising this 
heartache. It has taken me a long time to come to the understanding 
that heartache is strength-training. It helps transform the weakness of 
my faith into a powerful conditioned response to my loss. Once only 
heartache, pierced through with fear, now has become thanksgiving that 
appreciates the work of sorrow.
    Military loss is more complex, especially for young families that 
face this sudden tragedy. Our society still puts expectations on grief 
``recovery''. It is a lifelong process to learn to move forward with 
one's grief. As an organization, Colorado Military Survivors strives to 
unite survivors in their loss and help them find strength in a 
community well-acquainted with sorrow. My initial connection with one 
of my dear friends now, also a young widow with two young children, was 
made at Fort Logan when I discovered that her husband was buried just 
two rows away from mine. Together we face each day, encouraging each 
other to press on, to remember, to have faith in God and to grow 
through our grief in order to help another. If we were able to be 
closer to a place that would help us face these challenges with greater 
strength, we could be more effective in encouraging a new generation of 
grieving families by affirming their value and by assuring them of the 
honored place of appreciation that their loved ones hold in our 
community.

                                 
           Prepared Statement of Victor M. Fernandez, Member,
      Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery Committee, Colorado Springs, CO
    Good Morning, Congressmen. My name is Vic Fernandez, and I am a 
founding member of the Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery Committee. Thank 
you for coming all the way out to Colorado to hear our message, and 
thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak for the Pikes Peak 
Veterans Cemetery Committee.
    I am here today to answer three major questions.
    First: Why do we need a new National Veterans Cemetery in Colorado?
    Second: Why should it be established in the Pikes Peak Region?
    Third: What have you (meaning us) done to assure that a national 
Veterans Cemetery is established here?
    In response to the first question it is important to know that the 
State Of Colorado's major National Veterans Cemetery is Fort Logan in 
Denver.
    A new cemetery is needed because Fort Logan is filling up fast, and 
is expected to reach capacity between the years 2020 and 2024. However, 
Fort Logan National Cemetery is landlocked in a residential area of 
Denver, and can not be expanded without purchasing the very expensive 
developed residential land around it. The longer period of capacity is 
contingent on construction of a Columbarium on ground already set aside 
for such a facility at Ft. Logan.
    Because of the size, geography, and weather hindrances of the State 
of Colorado, and the small size and remote location of the state's 
other Cemeteries at Ft Lyon, and Homelake, the Veterans Count of The 
Pikes Peak Region are poorly served, and these Cemeteries do not offer 
reasonable service to Denver and its surrounding population centers.
    This life of service of Fort Logan can be lengthened somewhat for 
the Veterans of Denver and Northern Colorado if the Pikes Peak Veterans 
Cemetery were to be established and open within the next five years. 
The actual lengthening of lifespan is totally dependant upon when the 
cemetery we propose is established.
    In response to the second question, there are several cogent 
reasons why the Pikes Peak Region is the logical location for the 
proposed National Veterans Cemetery.
    First, is the fact that the large Veteran population of The Pikes 
Peak Region and southern Colorado has not been properly served by Fort 
Logan, or the other veteran cemeteries in Colorado. Fort Logan is 
location in a difficult-to-find residential section of a major 
metropolitan area with poor access from Interstate or other highways. 
This has meant that surviving spouses and families from southern 
Colorado sometimes have made the trip to visit their loved ones, but 
failed to find the Cemetery.
    Second, in Winter, it is especially difficult to get to Denver from 
Southern Colorado because of the Monument Hill geography, and the 
Palmer Divide weather patterns. These geographic and weather pattern 
hindrances make the Veterans Administration internal 75-mile rule a 
useless tool in the State of Colorado. The combination of the 
geography, weather patterns, and a foolish regulation serve only to 
assure that the Veterans and their families in the Pikes Peak Region 
and southern Colorado are not properly nor fairly served by Fort Logan.
    Third, the future Veteran demographics for Colorado will show that 
the Pikes Peak Region, with its six military installations are 
producing Veterans at a much faster rate than the remainder of 
Colorado, where only one small Air Force Base exists. Fort Carson, 
which is the Army's most popular station of choice, is alone on track 
to grow to a military population over 30,000 soldiers. And when many, 
if not most of these local military complete their service, they remain 
in the area, which further accelerates the growth of the Veteran 
population here. We also find that a large number of military who were 
once stationed here, return here after military retirement. In short, 
our veteran population is growing at a much faster rate than the 
remainder of Colorado.
    Additionally, we find it interesting and somewhat incongruous that 
our large active-duty military population is not counted in the Veteran 
population numbers used to determine populations served by National 
Veterans Cemeteries. This is especially telling since approximately 400 
of our local military have given their lives during the Global War on 
Terror. While some of these brave Americans were buried in their 
hometowns, many of them have been buried or inurned in our local 
civilian cemeteries. These active duty Americans need to be counted, 
and properly served by a National Veterans Cemetery in the Pikes Peak 
Region.
    So, what have we done to assure that a National Veterans Cemetery 
is established in the Pikes Peak Region?
    My colleagues and I have worked for the establishment of a National 
Veterans Cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region of Colorado for over ten 
years. In that time, we have solicited the backing of members of the 
House of Representatives including Congressmen Joel Hefley, Doug 
Lamborn, John Salazar, and the past and present Colorado Contingent. We 
have also received the backing of Senators Ben Nighthorse Campbell, 
Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar over these years. Additionally, we have 
the backing of County Commissions and City Councils from several 
counties and cities in southern Colorado, as well as the last two 
Governors of the State. We are supported by the Pueblo Veterans 
Council, The Pikes Peak Veterans Council, all of the Veterans 
Organizations in the surrounding five counties, and the United Veterans 
Committee of Colorado.
    We have made personal contact with, and have carried on letter-
writing campaigns to the serving Secretaries of Veterans Affairs for 
these past ten years. To date, we do not consider any of the responses 
from the VA to be satisfactory. They appear mostly to be boiler plate 
responses, written to protect internal VA agendas.
    Politically, working in concert with our past and present elected 
Congressional and Senatorial representatives we have helped write and 
support House and Senate Bills which specifically address the 
establishment of a National Veterans Cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region 
to serve southern Colorado's Veterans. The present House Bill, written 
by Congressmen Salazar and Lamborn passed in the House, and was sent to 
the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, where, much to our chagrin, 
neither the Senate Bill nor the House Bill have been stymied by Senator 
Akaka. Letter writing campaigns to him have not brought any results, as 
he has not responded to us, and has not placed the Bills on the 
Committee agenda for discussion and passage.
    Locally, we studied the VA regulations, we have performed due 
diligence studies regarding site selection, land requirements and 
acquisition, water and environmental requirements, we have done on-the-
ground surveys of potential sites, and we have written a comprehensive 
plan entitled ``A National Veterans Cemetery For The Pikes Peak 
Region''.
    For your information and use, here is a copy of the 2008 Pikes Peak 
Veterans Cemetery Committee's planning document. It contains color maps 
and photos of the various undeveloped sites, and most importantly a 
matrix (Figure 4.1) that contains the Committee's ranking of the ten 
most viable sites. Our conclusions and recommendations are contained in 
section Five. The Appendices contain 2000 Census data, and the VA Fact 
Sheet on creating a Veterans Cemetery.
    All sites included in this plan are more than 75 miles from Fort 
Logan, however, if this requirement is waived to move the proposed 
cemetery closer to Denver, we would recommend it be sited along I-25 on 
the Air Force Academy. Of course, The Commanders of Fort Carson and The 
Air Force Academy are precluded from making any commitments to us 
concerning use of DoD land, but since it is already federally owned, we 
know a Veterans Cemetery established in the installation buffer zones 
can be authorized, and can be used to protect against encroachment on 
these military installations.
Conclusion
    In order to provide sufficient burial space for Colorado's Veterans 
in the future, and to fairly meet the needs of southern Colorado's 
Veterans, plans for the Pikes Peak Veterans Cemetery must get underway 
immediately. Please do not wait until Ft. Logan is full before 
establishing a new Veterans Cemetery in Colorado. Use the plan we have 
already produced and provided to you as a starting point. And finally, 
please address the need to move the pending Bills for a Veteran 
Cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region through Senator Akaka's Committee for 
Congressional passage.
    Thank you!

                                 
              Prepared Statement of Bud Sailar, Director,
            El Paso County, CO, Veteran and Military Affairs
    Good afternoon Congressmen. My name is Bud Sailar and I am the 
Director of Veteran and Military Affairs for El Paso County, Colorado.
    I thank you for the opportunity to testify and present the views of 
our local veterans and their concerns. Like many, we consider the 
National Cemeteries as memorials to veterans who preserved our freedom.
    The future Veteran demographics for Colorado will show that the 
Pikes Peak Region, with its six military installations are producing 
Veterans at a much faster rate than the remainder of Colorado, where 
only one small Air Force Base exists. Fort Carson, which is the army's 
most popular station of choice, is alone on track to grow to a military 
population over 30,000 soldiers. And when many, if not most of these 
local military complete their service, they remain in the area, which 
further accelerates the growth of the Veteran population here. We also 
find that a large number of military who were once stationed here, 
return here after military retirement. In short, our veteran population 
is growing at a much faster rate than the remainder of Colorado.
    Additionally, we find it interesting and somewhat incongruous that 
our large active-duty military population is not counted in the Veteran 
population numbers used to determine populations served by National 
Veterans Cemeteries. This is especially telling since approximately 400 
of our local military have given their lives during the Global War on 
Terror. While some of these brave Americans were buried in their 
hometown, many of them have been buried or inurned in our local 
civilian cemeteries. These active duty Americans need to be counted, 
and properly served by a National Veterans Cemetery in the Pikes Peak 
Region.
    Presently, over 100 burials per week are taking place at Fort 
Logan. During the next 22 years, according to VA data, there will be 
over 40,000 veteran deaths in the Southern Colorado area. Many of these 
veterans will not be honored in a National Cemetery because during the 
same 22 years, there will be over 90,000 veteran deaths in the Denver 
area alone. This will more than tax the cemetery at Fort Logan.

                                 
        Prepared Statement of Tim Grabin, Department Commander,
                Department of Colorado, American Legion
Mr Chairman and members of the Subcommittee:
    Thank you for allowing The American Legion Department of Colorado 
to present its views on the VA Cemetery Construction Policy and whether 
it is meeting the needs of today's Veterans and their families.
    I have enclosed a copy of the resolution adopted by our National 
organization as part of my written testimony that was passed by our 
National convention in Salt Lake City in August of 2006. This remains 
our current position on the burial allowances and burial plot 
allowances and the establishment of additional national and state 
veteran's cemeteries.
    Specifically I would like to concentrate my remarks on the need for 
additional cemetery space in Colorado and hopefully in the Colorado 
Springs area serving veterans in the southern parts of Colorado and 
other areas not served by a national cemetery.
    The population of the State of Colorado continues to grow and new 
veterans and their families are a part of that growth. Historically, 
because of the numerous military establishments in the southern 
Colorado area, veterans return to Colorado after their tour of duty to 
retire or to make Colorado their new home because of the climate, 
environment and the strong military support systems in place. This 
trend has continued for many, many years and I don't see that trend 
abating anytime soon. With the new veteran population growth will come 
the need for new cemetery space and the Southern Colorado area is the 
perfect place for a new cemetery establishment.
    I understand there is debate on whether a new cemetery would need 
to be a stand alone national cemetery with its own unique name and its 
own administration or a satellite of the Ft Logan Cemetery in Denver. 
As Department Commander of The American Legion I would like to put our 
organization on record as favoring the brand new concept and we would 
not favor the satellite concept. I do not believe that a satellite 
could or would adequately address the needs of the veteran or their 
family. For instance, during our winters in Colorado on many occasions 
Colorado Springs is separated and isolated from Denver because of 
inclement weather over Monument Hill. To count on the Ft Logan 
establishment to provide support services during those times would 
possibly delay or cancel services for those being intered. This would 
not be an acceptable outcome for our veteran heroes. All support 
services must be co-located within the new cemetery.
    As to the exact location we will leave that decision to the 
planners to determine the best location that will meet all of the 
provisions of the law and requirements for growth and space to provide 
the absolute best setting in terms of view, landscape and serenity for 
the final resting spot for America's veterans but we are adamant that 
the location be south of Monument Hill and located so that the maximum 
number of veterans be served.
    In closing we want to thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to 
express our views and we want to continue to be a part of the 
discussions and decisionmaking process. We stand ready as an 
organization of over 2.7 million veterans nationwide to put our strong 
voice behind your efforts.

                               __________
        EIGHTY-EIGHTH NATIONAL CONVENTION OF THE AMERICAN LEGION
                          SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
                        AUGUST 29, 30, 31, 2006
                          RESOLUTION NO.: 313
SUBJECT: The American Legion Policy on the National Cemetery 
        Administration
    Origin: Oregon
    Submitted by: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation
    WHEREAS, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery 
Administration (NCA) was established by Congress and approved by 
President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to provide for the proper burial and 
registration of graves of Civil War dead; and
    WHEREAS, NCA is currently comprised of 123 national cemeteries in 
39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as, 33 soldiers' lots and monuments; 
and
    WHEREAS, More than 2\1/2\ million Americans including veterans of 
every war and conflict are buried in VA's national cemeteries; and
    WHEREAS, More than 25 million veterans and Reservists and National 
Guard members have earned the honor of burial in a national cemetery; 
and
    WHEREAS, Annual interments in national cemeteries have annually 
increased and are projected to increase for the next several years due 
to an aging veteran population; and
    WHEREAS, Appropriate land acquisition is a key component to 
providing continued accessibility to burial options; and
    WHEREAS, Operations, maintenance, renovation, and construction 
funding must continually be adjusted to reflect the true requirements 
of the National Cemetery Administration; and
    WHEREAS, NCA administers a program of grants to states to assist 
them in establishing or improving state-operated veterans cemeteries in 
locations where there are no nearby national cemeteries; and
    WHEREAS, In 2005, there were 61 operating state cemeteries that 
performed more than 200,000 interments; and
    WHEREAS, Congress must provide sufficient major construction 
appropriations to permit NCA to accomplish its stated goal of ensuring 
that burial in a national or state cemetery is a realistic option by 
locating cemeteries within 75 miles of ninety percent of all veterans; 
and
    WHEREAS, In addition to providing a grave site, NCA provides a 
headstone or marker, a Presidential Memorial certificate, a U.S. Flag, 
and perpetual care for the grave; and
    WHEREAS, The 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act eliminated the 
then-headstone allowance of $85, which was paid to all eligible 
veterans in lieu of a government-provided headstone or marker and now 
directly provides a standard government headstone or grave marker to 
eligible veterans anywhere in the world; and
    WHEREAS, VA pays a burial allowance of $2,000 for veterans who die 
of service-related causes. For veterans who were receiving VA 
compensation or pension, VA pays $300 for burial and funeral expenses 
and $300 for a plot. The plot allowance would still be payable to state 
veterans cemeteries; and
    WHEREAS, If a veteran passes away in a Department of Veterans 
Affairs hospital, nursing home, or domiciliary, or in an institution at 
which the individual was receiving hospital or nursing care at the 
expense of the United States at the time of death, VA will pay for the 
cost of transporting the remains to the place of burial; however, a 
veteran who passes away in a State Veterans Home is not allowed 
transportation cost for the remains to the place of burial by VA; now, 
therefore, be it
    RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled 
in Salt Lake City, Utah, August 29, 30, 31, 2006, That The American 
Legion support the establishment of additional national and state 
veterans cemeteries and Columbaria wherever a need for them is apparent 
and petition Congress to provide required operations and construction 
funding to ensure VA burial in a national or state veterans cemetery is 
a realistic option for veterans and their eligible dependents; and, be 
it further
    RESOLVED, That The American Legion support restoration of a 
veterans burial allowance and an increase in the burial benefit; along 
with restoration of the pre-1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act 
criteria to provide eligibility for a government-furnished headstone or 
marker allowance and restoration of the burial plot allowance for all 
honorably discharged veterans; and, be it finally
    RESOLVED, That The American Legion support action to provide that 
when an eligible veteran dies in a state veterans hospital or nursing 
home, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall pay for the cost of 
transporting the remains to the place of burial as determined by the 
Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

                                 
        Prepared Statement of C. Douglas Sterner, Past Chairman,
                Colorado State Board of Veterans Affairs
    Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the 
opportunity to testify before you today on behalf of my fellow veterans 
in Southern Colorado.
    On February 4, 1945, in heavy fighting in the Ardennes Forest 
during the Battle of the Bulge, Army Private Harold E. Hissong was 
killed in action. On learning of his sacrifice, half-a-world away in 
the small town of Somers, Montana, his mother Florence Hissong planted 
a tree in front of the entrance to her home overlooking the Flathead 
Lake.
    Exactly five years later, nearly to the day, I was born in nearby 
Kalispell. In many ways I grew up alongside that tree, for I could not 
miss it every time I visited my grandmother. As a growing boy, each 
time I saw it, that tree stood always as a reminder not only of the 
uncle that I never knew, but of the great price of freedom and the 
responsibility passed on to every new generation to answer its own call 
to duty whenever the rights of free people are threatened anywhere in 
our world. When my day came I understood my duty, and was privileged to 
serve my Nation during two tours of duty in Vietnam. I was in no small 
part inspired by the lessons learned from a tree planted in honor of a 
dead American hero.
    I have come to learn and understand that memorials are NOT about 
those who went before; those who either individually or collectively 
are called to mind by such memorials. Rather, those memorials stand as 
an example, and as a beacon, to inspire and guide future generations of 
Americans. You see, the location of our Veterans cemeteries is not so 
much about the convenience with which we place our dead, as it is how 
convenient we make it for those who have lost a loved one to be 
constantly reminded, and inspired, by monuments reflecting their 
selfless service to America.
    The question before the Committee today is, ``Is the VA Cemetery 
Construction Policy Meeting the Needs of Today's Veterans and their 
Families?'' I applaud the goal set forth by the VA in the last several 
years of locating suitable Veterans burial locations within 75 miles of 
their hometown. As a policy this echoes the ethos of the warrior that 
says, ``I will never leave a comrade behind.'' No matter where in the 
world brave young men and women in service to our Nation fall, they 
know that their comrades will do all in their power, to and including 
risking and even sacrificing their own life, to insure that every 
fallen hero will return home.
    For the soldier in the field, insuring that a fallen comrade is 
recovered and returned home is not predicated upon policies established 
within the constraints of budgets or convenience, it is a solemn 
obligation to those who served and sacrificed. As a nation, we have no 
less a solemn obligation to insure that the final resting place of our 
veterans be in close proximity to their home, not only out of some 
moral obligation, but also as a sign of respect to the living who 
remember them fondly.
    My hometown is Pueblo, Colorado, only 30 miles south of where we 
are meeting today. Though it is my adopted hometown, I have come to 
love it for a unique sharing of the values I hold dear. Fifteen years 
ago Pueblo was recognized by the U.S. Congress as America's Home Of 
Heroes due that fact that at that time it was the only city in America 
to have four sons who were living recipients of our highest award for 
military valor, the Medal of Honor.
    It should not however, be surprising that Pueblo would produce four 
such heroes in three different wars over the span of only 24 years. 
Pueblo is the Home Of Heroes not only because of the four men who 
earned the Medal of Honor, but also because of the thousands of others 
who served with pride and patriotism when duty called. The 2000 census 
reflected that Pueblo, Colorado, numbered among the top five cities in 
America with populations over 100,000, in terms of the percentage of 
living World War II veterans. Such dedication to service is endemic to 
our community which believes strongly in duty, honor, country, and in 
the obligation to serve. In 1970 Pueblo comprised only 5% of our 
state's population, yet during the Vietnam War of that period, Pueblo 
sons and daughters reflected nearly 10% of our state's more than 600 
soldiers killed in action. Our city is today, in fact, home of the 
Colorado State Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Not only do the members of 
our community believe in personal service, we are committed to 
remembering all those who have served.
    Eight years ago two of our Medal of Honor recipients died within 
months of each other. Bill Crawford, who earned the Medal of Honor in 
World War II, was buried at the Air Force Academy cemetery, having 
established a relationship with that institution in the later years of 
his life when he worked there as a lowly but dedicated janitor. Colonel 
Carl Sitter who earned the Silver Star in World War II and the Medal of 
Honor in Korea, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, where today 
383 other Medal of Honor recipients rest.
    Raymond G. ``Jerry'' Murphy was born and raised in Pueblo, and 
during the Korean war became the third Puebloan in less than ten years 
to earn the Medal of Honor. In later years he chose to live in 
Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked in the Veterans Administration 
to help other veterans. When Mr. Murphy became seriously ill a few 
years ago however, he returned home to Pueblo, to live in the Veterans 
Nursing Home there.
    On April 6, 2007, Jerry Murphy passed away in his hometown of 
Pueblo. Although funeral services were held in his hometown, Mr. Murphy 
was subsequently transported far south to the Santa Fe National 
Cemetery for burial. You see, there exists today no Veterans cemetery 
within 90 miles of Pueblo to insure that Mr. Murphy or, for that matter 
Mr. Crawford or Mr. Sitter, could have returned home for their final 
journey.
    In point of fact, the VA Cemetery Construction Policy failed these 
three distinguished heroes, as well as the people of Pueblo who 
remember them fondly. It continues to fail the families of a city of 
more than 100,000 citizens, comprising one of the highest percentages 
of World War II veterans--and in fact a uniquely high percentage of 
veterans of all recent wars--who must travel more than 100 miles and 
navigate the traffic of Metropolitan Denver, to pay respects to loved 
ones buried at Fort Logan.
    Please consider the needs of our city as well as the entire 
Southern Colorado Region, remembering our obligation to our veterans 
and their families, and provide for a much-needed National Cemetery in 
our area so that our heroes will rest in peace and dignity where they 
belong--at home in Southern Colorado.
    This concludes my oral statement to the Committee.
                                EXHIBITS
VETERAN NUMBERS & STATISTICS \1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ Unless otherwise cited, all statistics are based upon the 2000 
Census, as reported in ``Veterans: 2000, Census Brief,'' U.S. Census 
Bureau, Issued May 2003.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As a state, Colorado veteran statistics rank within the median of 
the overall national numbers. Based upon on the 2000 Census, Colorado 
ranks 22d in the Nation in overall population and 21st nationally in 
the percentage of adults over age 18 who are veterans of military 
service. Specifically, the 2000 Census counted a total civilian adult 
population in Colorado of 3,177,044, of which 446,385 were identified 
as Veterans. As such, Colorado veterans represent 16.5% of the state's 
adult civilian population, a number that is 2% higher than the national 
average of 14.5%.
    The burial needs of Colorado's active duty military personnel 
killed in the current Global War on Terrorism, as well as surviving 
veterans of wars past, are addressed primarily in three of four 
National or State Veterans Cemeteries as follows:
COLORADO NATIONAL & STATE VETERANS CEMETERIES
    1. Fort Logan National Cemetery, located in the heart of 
metropolitan Denver, is the largest Veterans Cemetery in Colorado. 
Nearly 100,000 veterans have been buried at Fort Logan since 1889.
    NINE of Colorado's ten largest cities lie within the 75-mile 
catchment area of Fort Logan, and SEVEN of these NINE comprise the 
Denver-Metropolitan area with a population of 1\1/2\ million adult 
citizens. Two of these nine largest cities border the Fort Logan 
catchment area with Colorado Springs (the 2d largest Colorado City) 67 
miles from Fort Logan and Fort Collins (the 5th largest city) lying 
72\1/2\ miles from Fort Logan. This means that in all, nearly TWO 
MILLION Colorado citizens reside within the catchment area of Fort 
Logan which, by all estimates, based on current burial rates, will 
reach capacity by the year 2020.
    The southern Colorado city of Pueblo is the ONLY city in the state 
with a population greater than 100,000 that is totally outside Fort 
Logan's catchment area at a driving distance of 111 miles from that 
site.
    2. Fort Lyons National Cemetery is the only other National Veterans 
Cemetery in Colorado. Located in the eastern plains, the nearest large 
city is Pueblo, which is 15 miles beyond the catchment area at 90.4 
miles. Only 11 of Fort Lyons' 52 acres have been developed, providing 
burial for a total of 3,042 eligible veterans and family members. 
Through Fiscal Year 2007, Fort Lyons has buried 2,144 persons and, 
without expansion in the near future, that facility can accommodate 
fewer than 1,000 additional burials. That reality is critical in light 
of the fact that this is an area of our state that has one of the 
highest percentages of veterans among the population.
    3. The Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado is one of two 
State Veterans Cemeteries located in Colorado. Opened in 2002, it 
adequately addresses veterans burial needs on Colorado's Western Slope 
and, with a present capacity of more than 3,000 burials on the 
property's 22\1/2\ acres, it will be sufficient to meet the needs of 
Veterans and their families west of the Continental Divide for decades 
to come. Due to its far-west location however, the cemetery's impact on 
areas of concern in today's hearing are virtually nil.
    4. The Colorado State Veterans Center At Homelake is the only 
Veterans' burial facility located entirely in the area defined as the 
Southern Colorado Region. The grounds of that facility are nearly full 
and it offers fewer than ten burial sites at the time of this hearing. 
The Homelake cemetery has virtually no current positive impact on 
addressing the future burial needs of veterans in the southern counties 
of Colorado.
       Figure 1--National & State Veterans Cemeteries in Colorado


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


    The three operational cemeteries accepting Veteran burials in 
Colorado are reflected above with the green circles denoting a 
catchment area with a 75 mile radius. The 29 counties defined in H.R. 
1660 as comprising the ``Southern Colorado Region'' are within the area 
shaded red.
    Figure 1 clearly demonstrates that the city of Colorado Springs, 
our State's second largest city, lies at the far edge of the catchment 
area for Fort Logan National Cemetery. Pueblo, our state's ninth 
largest city, lies 15 miles outside the catchment area for Fort Lyon 
National Cemetery and 36 miles beyond the catchment area of Fort Logan. 
The desperate need for a national cemetery in this region becomes even 
more imperative in light of the demographics of these two cities, as 
well as that of the rural areas farther south and west.
COLORADO VETERANS CORRIDOR
    The 2000 Census demonstrated that Colorado as a whole has a 
Veterans population 2% above the National average. Even more striking 
is a Veterans demographic for the geographical area that runs from 
Colorado Springs, south through Pueblo to the New Mexico border, and 
west into the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This area, comprising 9 of the 
29 counties defined as the ``Southern Colorado Region'' were found in 
the 2000 count to have a veterans population far exceeding the national 
average.
                  Figure 2--Colorado Veterans Corridor


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


    Counties denoted above in light blue have Veterans populations 
significantly larger than the National average, and those counties 
shaded in the dark blue were found to have veterans populations one-
and-a-half times the National average. This high proportion of veterans 
in Southern Colorado is further reflected in the statistics for the two 
largest cities in the Veterans' Corridor.
COLORADO SPRINGS VETERAN POPULATION
    The centennial count identified more than 50,000 veterans living in 
Colorado Springs (nearly 75,000 in El Paso County), a number which at 
that time indicated a veterans population comprising more than 20% of 
the total civilian adult population of Colorado's second largest city. 
Of 250 American cities with a population in excess of 100,000, Colorado 
Springs ranked 5th in the Nation in terms of its percentage of 
veterans:
        Figure 3--Ten Major Cities with high Veteran Populations
    Ten Places of 100,000 or More With the Highest Percentage of 
Veterans in the Civilian Population Aged 18 and Over: 2000 (Data based 
on sample. For information on confidentiality protection, sampling 
error, nonsampling error and definitions, see www.census.gov/prod/
cen2000/doc/sf3.pdf)


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                          90-percent confidence
                   Place                      Number of veterans    Percent of veterans          interval
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hampton VA                                                28,312                  27.1                26.5-27.8
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Clarksville, TN                                           15,319                  24.4                23.7-25.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fayetteville, NC                                          19,060                  23.7                23.0-24.4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Virginia Beach, VA                                        60,260                  21.7                21.4-22.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colorado Springs, CO                                      51,609                  20.2                19.9-20.6
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Norfolk, VA                                               30,068                  19.9                19.5-20.4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Newport News, VA                                          24,021                  19.9                19.4-20.4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Columbus, GA*                                             24,984                  19.6                19.1-20.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chesapeake, VA                                            25,621                  18.9                18.4-19.4
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Portsmouth, VA                                            12,955                  18.4                17.8-19.1
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Among these same 250 major American cities:

      Colorado Springs ranks 3rd in the Nation with the highest 
percentage (7.8%) of Vietnam War and Vietnam era veterans (20,011).
      Colorado Springs ranks 8th in the Nation with the highest 
percentage (5.7%) of Gulf War veterans (14,650).

    Of further significance is a steady migration of retiring active 
duty military personnel into the Pikes Peak region, in no small part 
due to the location of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, and 
other military posts in the vicinity. At a time when the percentage of 
veterans is declining through attrition in most communities across the 
nation, Colorado Springs continues to experience an increasing number 
of military retirees that may, in fact, push the 2010 enumeration well 
above the already-high percentage revealed eight years ago.
    While northern El Paso County falls within the catchment area for 
the Fort Logan National Cemetery, southern El Paso County including the 
south side of Colorado Springs and popular military retirement areas at 
Fountain and Security outside Fort Carson are beyond the catchment 
area. Considering that the Fort Logan facility is already overburdened 
to meet the needs of eight of our State's largest cities, including the 
Denver-Metropolitan Area, construction of a new National Veterans 
Cemetery south of Colorado Springs would both relieve pressure on the 
existing facility to the north, and provide a convenient and dignified 
burial location for the many families of Colorado Springs' significant 
veterans population.
PUEBLO VETERAN POPULATION
    Thirty miles south of Colorado Springs and well beyond the 
catchment area of Fort Logan and Fort Lyons National Cemeteries is the 
city of Pueblo, the only Colorado city with a population in excess of 
100,000 residents that has no convenient Veterans cemetery. Pueblo is 
the ninth largest city in Colorado and ranks 242d in size among the 254 
American cities with populations over 100,000. Pueblo is, however, a 
city whose populace has risen to the call of duty time and again in 
wars of the past, in far greater numbers than almost any other large 
city.
    Of the 254 largest American cities:

      Pueblo ranks 4th in the Nation with the highest 
percentage (4.2%) of World War II veterans (3,201)
      Pueblo ranks 9th in the Nation with the highest 
percentage (2.8%) of Korean war veterans (2,133).

    As a community the citizens of Pueblo have demonstrated not only an 
uncommon willingness to serve their Nation in time of war, but also an 
admirable sense of community pride in its sons and daughters currently 
on active duty, as well as its veterans of past wars. In 1993 Pueblo 
was recognized by the U.S. Congress as America's Home Of Heroes due to 
the fact that is was the ONLY city in America with four living 
recipients of the Medal of Honor. This symbolizes a tradition of valor 
that extends far beyond these four distinguished hometown heroes; more 
than FIFTEEN Pueblo servicemen have received one of the military's top 
two levels of awards, more than any Colorado city other than Denver.
    In honor of its Veterans, Pueblo is the site of one of only FOUR 
National Medal of Honor memorials, and is home to the Colorado State 
Vietnam War Memorial. Currently development is underway on Pueblo's 
Historic Riverwalk Project for a Veterans Bridge to honor local 
veterans of all wars, as well as those who have served in peace time.
    The proudly patriotic citizenry of Pueblo, a city that was once 
described by a visiting Medal of Honor recipient as ``The most 
patriotic city in America,'' have no convenient and appropriate place 
to bury our dead among their comrades in arms. For the veterans who 
reside in America's Home Of Heroes, and the surviving family members 
who have gone to uncommon efforts to ensure that their service is never 
forgotten, the VA Cemetery Construction Policy is NOT Meeting the Needs 
of Today's Veterans and their Families.
ENUMERATION
    Nine of the 29 Colorado counties identified as the ``Southern 
Colorado Region'' lie within the area I have defined herein as the 
Colorado Veterans Corridor (Figure 2). Five of these nine counties have 
veteran populations well above the national average (12.7%), ranging 
from 18.9 to 21.8%. Based upon the 2000 Census, veterans number by 
county as follows:


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Male Under   Male Over     Female    Female Over     Total
               County                   Percent        64          64        Under 64        64        Veterans
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Custer County                             21.8%          353         228           13           --          594
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
El Paso County                            21.4%       51,007      14,902        8,126          955       74,990
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fremont County                            21.3%        5,267       2,135          324           62        7,788
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Huerfano County                           18.9%          661         483           35           17        1,196
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Teller County                             19.9%        2,204         557          253           --        3,014
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          21.0%       59,492      18,305        8,751        1,034       87,583
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    The other four counties in this corridor have veteran populations 
of between 15.7-17.7% of the total adult civilian population. Those 
numbers are reflected as:


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                   Male Under   Male Over     Female    Female Over     Total
               County                   Percent        64          64        Under 64        64        Veterans
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bent County                               17.7%          504         283           18            3          808
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Crowley County                            16.9%          581         167           10           --          758
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Las Animas Cty.                           16.0%        1,030         733           67           14        1,844
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Otero County*                             15.7%        1,352         680           92           15        2,139
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pueblo County                             16.7%       10,001       6,528          837          234       17,600
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          16.6%       13,468       8,391        1,024          266       23,150
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Otero County is NOT listed among the 29 counties comprising the Southern Colorado Region in H.R. 1660, but it
  IS surrounded on all sides by counties that are, and lies within the catchment area of the proposed National
  Cemetery.


    The remaining 20 counties defined as located within the Southern 
Colorado Region have an aggregate population of more than 350,000 adult 
civilians and a veteran population that averages 14.2% of the adult 
population. A total of 38,254 veterans were counted in these 20 
counties in the 2000 census.
    Based upon this data, a total of 148,987 veterans would be directly 
impacted by location of a new Veterans Cemetery in southern Colorado. 
This exceeds the VA's desired population impact by nearly 150%. More 
than 50,000 of these veterans enumerated above currently reside more 
than 100 miles from the nearest Veterans cemetery and a large number of 
those live more than 150 miles from the nearest such facility.
OUTLOOK FOR THE FUTURE
    More than 16 million men and women served in military service 
during World War II, more than at any other period in our Nation's 
history. Six decades after that war the Veterans Cemetery System has 
become strained by their burial needs. Veterans of that war continue to 
pass away in large numbers in a daily basis, further bringing our 
veterans cemeteries to capacity or near-capacity.
    In the year 2000 the World War II veteran population numbered 5.7 
million, or 21.7% of America's veteran population. Those numbers were 
exceeded only by Vietnam War and Vietnam era veterans which numbered 
8.4 million, comprising 31.7% of our Nation's veteran population. The 
average age of these, our largest block of living veterans (those who 
served from 1964-1975) presently averages 61.3 years of age. Within a 
decade the Vietnam veterans, following closely behind the loss of 
nearly all of our World War II and our 4 million Korean war veterans, 
will be faced with Veterans cemeteries that have reached capacity and 
closed to further burial. This will be especially significant in the 
Southern Colorado Region which boasts one of the largest Vietnam 
veteran populations in America. As previously noted, Colorado Springs 
has the 3rd highest percentage of Vietnam Veterans of any of our 
country's 250 largest cities. Other areas of Southern Colorado are also 
populated by large segments of the Vietnam War era veterans. (During 
that war the city of Pueblo lost 58 of its hometown heroes, a death 
toll numerically exceeded only by Denver. While comprising only 5% of 
Colorado's total populace in 1970, Pueblo alone suffered 10% of the 
state's Vietnam War casualties. Colorado Springs had the third-highest 
number of Vietnam War casualties, with 46 local heroes killed in that 
war.)
CONCLUSIONS
    The need for a Veterans cemetery to serve the Southern Colorado 
Region is obvious.

    1.  This region has proportionally one of the highest percentages 
of veterans in America.
    2.  Both geographically and demographically, the vast majority of 
the veterans in this region and their families are located far beyond 
the catchment area of any existing veterans cemetery.
    3.  Fort Logan National Cemetery, which borders a limited number of 
these affected areas is already addressing the demands of eight of 
Colorado's ten largest cities and will likely reach capacity within 
little more than a decade.
    4.  Establishment of a national Veterans Cemetery in the Southern 
Colorado Region is not only practical to addressing future capacity 
problems at Fort Logan and expansion and development at Fort Lyon, it 
is the RIGHT THING TO DO for a population that has answered the call to 
duty in admirable numbers.

    The VA's goal of locating Veterans cemeteries within a 75-mile 
radius of a hero's hometown, or that of the family which remembers and 
honors that veteran, is NOT being met for tens of thousands of military 
veterans in Southern Colorado. This can and should be addressed by 
construction of a national Veterans Cemetery in the Southern Colorado 
Region.
    Furthermore, there are few areas in America that better exemplify 
the stated vision of the National Cemetery Administration that: ``Every 
national cemetery will be a place that inspires visitors to understand 
and appreciate the service and sacrifice of our Nation's veterans.''
    The Pikes Peak region is not only inspirational with its high 
mountains and natural wonders, it is home to the U.S. Air Force 
Academy, the proud tradition of the ``Mountain Post'' at Fort Carson, 
and many other facilities where young men and women continue a 
tradition of service that dates back to the Revolutionary War. The 
patriarch of Colorado Springs, William Jackson Palmer, was in fact a 
recipient of the Medal of Honor for his heroic leadership in the War 
Between the States, and chose regularly to reunite the men of his 
regiment at his mountain residence in the decades that followed the 
war.
    Pueblo has a history of service and valor that can be matched by 
few cities in America. In traditions of the G.A.R. following the War 
Between the States which inspired programs of reverence for our 
military veterans, Pueblo is home to multiple veterans memorials and 
regularly hosts public, patriotic programs to honor and remember our 
heroes.
    Florence, Colorado, just 30 miles south of Colorado Springs and 25 
miles west of Pueblo is named for the wife of Navy Commodore Byron 
McCandless, a hero of World War I who later designed the Flag of our 
Commander in Chief, as well as the Presidential Seal. His son became 
one of the great heroes of World War II, earning the Medal of Honor, 
and his own son, Bruce McCandless, II, continued that tradition of 
service as a Naval Officer and NASA astronaut, becoming the first man 
to walk in space untethered.
    Such accounts of service, sacrifice, and heroism abound in the 
Southern Colorado Region, a largely rural area with deeply rooted 
traditions of military service. There can be few places so emotionally 
inspiring and few locations with more awe-inspiring landscape as this 
area of our Nation.
    Indeed as a veteran myself, I can think of few places I would 
rather someday lie than beneath the towering mountains from which more 
than a century ago Katharine Lee Bates looked down and, personally 
inspired by what she saw, penned the words that mean so much to every 
American veteran: ``America the Beautiful.''

                                 
    Prepared Statement of Hon. Jeff Chostner, Colonel, USAF (Ret.),
     Commissioner, Pueblo County Board of Commissioners, Pueblo, CO

                              Board of Pueblo County Commissioners,
                                                        Pueblo, CO.
                                                        May 1, 2008

The Honorable John J. Hall
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
335 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Hall:

    I am writing to you with regard to the location of a Veterans 
Cemetery in the Southern Colorado region. I have been involved in this 
matter since 2003, as a former member of the Pueblo, Colorado, City 
Council, Chairman of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce Military 
Affairs Committee, President of the Air Force Association (Mel Harmon 
Chapter) and the American Legion.
    In my view it is imperative that a new Veterans Cemetery 
established in Southern Colorado--by that, I mean in a location south 
of the City of Colorado Springs, and preferably in Pueblo County. As 
you know the closest Veterans Cemetery is Ft. Logan National Cemetery, 
located in the Denver metro area. This is a fine facility and one of 
which we are all proud. However, it is my understanding that Ft. Logan 
is nearing capacity and there is a pressing need to establish another 
Veterans Cemetery, either as an adjunct to Ft. Logan or a new cemetery. 
I have also been informed that there are different Veterans 
Administration regulations based on the status of the cemetery. Under 
either criteria, however, we were dismayed to learn that the Veterans 
Administration has recommended a veterans cemetery between Colorado 
Springs and Denver. None of the participants to the discussion of 
location envisioned a cemetery north of Colorado Springs; all believed 
it should be south of Colorado Springs.
    I would urge that you review the current Veterans Administration's 
regulations regarding status of Veteran Cemeteries and how said status 
defines the geographical areas in which they may be placed. In my view, 
the current regulations do not sufficiently take into account location 
of other existing veteran cemeteries and the ability of other 
concentrations of veterans to avail themselves of the right to burial 
in a national cemetery.
    This discrepancy is most apparent in the matter before your sub-
Committee, in that the next closest Veterans Cemetery is in Santa Fe, 
New Mexico. The distance between Ft. Logan and the Santa Fe cemetery is 
approximately 400 miles. Yet instead of proposing a cemetery that would 
either be more geographically central to the area, or closer for other 
veterans in the region, the Veterans Administration recommends a new 
cemetery in close proximity to the existing one. While it will provide 
more capacity, it does not allow for more convenience or availability 
to the regions veterans.
    I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the Committee, and 
look forward to discussing the matter further on May 2, 2008, in 
Colorado Springs.

            Sincerely,
                                Colonel J. E. Chostner, USAF (Ret.)
                                                       Commissioner

                                 
              Prepared Statement of Hon. William F. Tuerk,
Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery Administration,
                  U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
    Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, and Members of the Subcommittee, 
thank you for the opportunity to testify today on VA's national 
cemetery construction policy and how the National Cemetery 
Administration (NCA) is working with Congress to meet veterans' and 
their families' burial needs, an issue of great interest to Colorado 
veterans.
    One of NCA's four statutory missions under title 38, United States 
Code, is to provide burial for eligible veterans and their eligible 
dependents, and to maintain those places of burial as national shrines.
    NCA currently maintains more than 2.8 million gravesites at 125 
national cemeteries in 39 States and Puerto Rico, as well as 33 
soldiers' lots and monument sites. Since 1973, when Congress created a 
National Cemetery System under the jurisdiction of VA, annual 
interments in VA national cemeteries have almost tripled from 36,400 to 
about 100,200 in FY 2007. (We expect to perform nearly 103,000 
interments in 2008, a 2.3 percent increase over the number performed in 
2007.) Additionally, 69 State veterans cemeteries funded under the 
State Cemetery Grants Program are operated in 35 States, Guam and the 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
    NCA is experiencing an unparalleled expansion that will help to 
ensure veterans are served with a burial option in a national or State 
veterans cemetery within a reasonable distance of their home. The 
Veterans Millennium Healthcare and Benefits Act of 1999 mandated 
reports that have served as valuable tools for the Department by 
providing data for use in our planning processes. Armed with the data 
generated by these reports, we have been able to plan effectively to 
meet the burial needs of veterans.
    We seek to maintain the highest level of service to our veterans. 
VA's goal is to increase service delivery by providing more veterans 
with reasonable access to a burial option (whether for casketed or 
cremated remains) in a national or State veterans cemetery within 75 
miles of their residence. VA's current policy is to locate national 
cemeteries in areas with the largest concentration of unserved 
veterans. VA and Congress have determined that new national cemeteries 
will be established in areas with an unserved veteran population 
threshold of 170,000 within a 75-mile service radius. This policy has 
enabled VA to focus resources on serving areas in which high 
concentrations of veterans do not have access to a burial option.
    Currently, over 83 percent of all veterans in the Nation reside 
within a 75-mile radius of a national or State veterans cemetery. NCA 
intends to increase the percentage of veterans served to 90 percent by 
FY 2010. Strategic initiatives are in place to meet this goal. They 
are:

      Establishment of additional national cemeteries in 
unserved areas;
      Expansion of existing national cemeteries to provide 
continued service; and
      Establishment or expansion of State veterans cemeteries 
through the State Cemetery Grants Program.

    Future Burial Needs, Volume 1 of the Millennium Act report, 
completed in 2002, is the most recent demographic study to assist the 
National Cemetery Administration in its long-range planning. This 
report assessed the number of additional cemeteries needed to ensure 
that 90 percent of veterans live within 75 miles of a national or State 
veterans cemetery, and identified 31 locations with the greatest 
concentration of unmet need for burial spaces. In June 2003, VA 
transmitted to Congress revised veteran population estimates, based on 
2000 United States Census data, for all locations identified in the 
report. From these two listings, 12 locations were identified as having 
the greatest number of veterans with unserved burial need; all met VA's 
veteran population threshold of 170,000 for planning new national 
cemeteries. Public Law 106-117 and Public Law 108-109, in tandem, 
mandated that NCA construct new national cemeteries in locations 
identified as having the greatest need. These locations included 
Atlanta, Georgia; Detroit, Michigan; Ft. Sill (Oklahoma City), 
Oklahoma; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Sacramento, California; south 
Florida (Miami); Bakersfield, California; Birmingham, Alabama; 
Columbia/Greenville, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; 
Southeastern Pennsylvania; and Sarasota County, Florida.
    Currently, Colorado has two national cemeteries, Ft. Logan and Ft. 
Lyon National Cemeteries, and one VA-funded State veterans cemetery, 
Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado in Grand Junction. The 
vast majority of veterans who reside in the Colorado Springs area are 
currently served by either Ft. Logan National Cemetery or Ft. Lyon 
National Cemetery. Currently, NCA projects that Ft. Logan National 
Cemetery will have casket and cremation burial space available until 
approximately 2019. Unfortunately, there is no land contiguous to the 
existing cemetery to purchase for future gravesite development. Ft. 
Lyon National Cemetery will have casket and cremation burial space 
available beyond 2030.
    As I testified this February before the full House Veterans' 
Affairs Committee, the Denver and Colorado Springs area currently 
served by Ft. Logan National Cemetery has a significant number of 
veterans, well beyond our 170,000 criterion. It appears that Ft. Logan 
National Cemetery is one of the next large cemeteries that will reach 
capacity on its current acreage. If our FY 2009 budget request is 
approved, we will be able to undertake a new expedited land acquisition 
process. That new process will greatly assist us in providing a 
successor cemetery to Ft. Logan National Cemetery and ensuring there 
will not be a lapse in service for the veterans in the Denver/Colorado 
Springs area.
    The cost of establishing a new cemetery is considerable. Based on 
recent experience, the cost for establishing new national cemeteries 
ranges from $500,000 to $750,000 for environmental compliance 
requirements; $1 million to $2 million for master planning and design; 
$1 million to $2 million for construction document preparation; $5 
million to $10 million for land acquisition, if required; and $20 
million to $30 million for construction. The average annual cost for 
operating a new national cemetery ranges from $1 million to $2 million. 
Until Ft. Logan National Cemetery can no longer meet the burial needs 
of the region, all veterans residing within 75 miles are considered 
served, and VA national cemetery resources will be directed to planning 
a successor national cemetery.
    The State Cemetery Grants Program, vital to achieving NCA's burial 
access goal and permitting NCA to meet the needs of veterans in less 
populated areas where the concentration of veterans cannot meet NCA's 
criterion for the establishment of a national cemetery, can provide 
additional burial options for Colorado veterans. Through this program, 
VA may provide up to 100 percent of the cost of improvements in 
establishing a State veterans cemetery, including the cost of initial 
equipment to operate the cemetery. VA worked with Colorado officials in 
providing more than $6 million to establish the State veterans cemetery 
in Grand Junction and would be pleased to assist the State in exploring 
this option for the Colorado Springs region.
    As the National Cemetery Administration proceeds with construction 
of the last 6 of the 12 new national cemeteries mandated by Congress, 
and as it continues to provide grants to the States for construction of 
State veterans cemeteries, we believe it is time to reassess current 
policies and to think strategically about how we will meet the needs of 
veterans in the future. To do this, VA has commissioned an independent 
program evaluation of all burial benefits. The evaluation will address 
issues such as:

      Assessment of VA's current access policies to include the 
75-mile service area standard;
      Adequacy of the 170,000 veteran population threshold for 
planning new national cemeteries; and
      Factors influencing veterans' burial choices such as 
cremation-only burial sites, mausoleums, distance and driving time to a 
national or State cemetery, family practices, religious affiliation and 
generational differences.

    Following receipt of the report, the Secretary will assess current 
planning practices and recommend any new strategic goals, policy 
direction, and planning standards that will position the Department to 
continue to meet veterans' burial needs in the future. We will be 
pleased to share this program evaluation study with the Congress this 
summer.
    Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share with you an overview 
of NCA's cemetery construction policy and efforts. I look forward to 
working with the members of this Subcommittee as we jointly meet the 
burial needs of the veterans we are trusted to serve. I would be 
pleased to answer any questions.

                                 
                     Statement of Hon. Mark Udall,
        a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado
    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
thank you for holding this hearing to discuss the VA National Cemetery 
Administration's policies for providing the respectful final resting 
places that our veterans so deserve. I regret that a conflict in 
scheduling makes it impossible for me to attend this field hearing and 
express my appreciation and concerns in person.
    In three weeks, we will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice 
in defending our Nation, as we celebrate Memorial Day weekend. On that 
weekend, friends and family members of our departed veterans will visit 
VA cemeteries throughout the country to honor the memory of their loved 
ones. Unfortunately, far too many family members will have to travel 
far too many miles to pay their respects. Even worse, the long distance 
that some veterans' survivors must travel will prevent them from making 
the trip at all.
    It is particularly appropriate that this field hearing is being 
held in Colorado Springs. Southern Colorado's population features one 
of the highest concentrations of veterans in the nation, yet the vast 
majority of veterans in southern Colorado are located far outside a 75-
mile radius of the nearest VA cemeteries, Fort Logan National Cemetery 
in Denver and Fort Lyon National Cemetery in Bent County.
    For nearly a decade, it has been a goal of the Pikes Peak Veterans 
Cemetery Committee, as well as the Department of Colorado Veterans of 
Foreign Wars, the Colorado chapters of the American Legion, the 
Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Association for Service Disabled 
Veterans, to bring a National Cemetery to El Paso County. Last year, my 
colleague in the Colorado delegation, Representative John Salazar, 
introduced legislation that would address this issue. It was my honor 
to join Ranking Member Lamborn and our fellow Colorado Representatives 
Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette and Marilyn Musgrave in cosponsoring 
Congressman Salazar's bill.
    That bill, H.R. 1660, passed the House of Representatives 
unanimously by voice vote, highlighting the support southern Colorado 
veterans have received from the entire Nation for the establishment of 
a VA cemetery in El Paso County. Unfortunately, this bill has seen no 
legislative action in the Senate. Hopefully, this hearing will raise 
awareness of the need for a new national cemetery for southern 
Colorado, so that we can ensure all of our veterans receive the 
recognition they deserve with a final resting place close to their own 
communities.
    Again, Mr. Chairman and Committee Members, thank you for holding 
this hearing and addressing the concerns of our Nation's honorable 
veterans.

                                 
         A NATIONAL VETERANS CEMETERY FOR THE PIKES PEAK REGION
      A REPORT ON THE PIKES PEAK REGION VETERANS' CEMETERY PROJECT
       Prepared For: The Pikes Peak Veterans' Cemetery Committee
   Acknowledgements: Technical assistance provided by the Integrated 
             Resources Division, Colorado Springs Utilities
Authorization to use extracts from the Eastern El Paso County map sheet 
provided by MACVAN, The Map Company, 929 West Colorado Avenue, Colorado 
                        Springs, Colorado 80905
                     ``It's all for the Veterans''
                              October 2007
                               __________

                         C O N T E N T S

_________________________________________________________________

                                                                   Page

Section 1--Introduction..........................................    65
    1.1 General..................................................    65
    1.2 Background...............................................    65

Section 2--Regional Demographic Profile..........................    66
    2.1 General..................................................    66
    2.2 Data Baseline............................................    66
    2.3 Potential for Growth.....................................    67
    2.4 Summary..................................................    67

Section 3--Creating a National Cemetery..........................    67
    3.1 General..................................................    67
    3.2 Site Selection...........................................    68
    3.3 Environmental Assessment.................................    68
    3.4 Land Acquisition.........................................    68
    3.5 Master Planning and Design Development...................    68
    3.6 Contract Document Preparation............................    68
    3.7 Construction Award and Completion........................    68
    3.8 The Committee's Role in the Creation Process.............    68
    3.9 Summary..................................................    69

Section 4--Potential Cemetery Sites..............................    69
    4.1 General..................................................    69
    4.2 Cheyenne Mountain State Park (Site 1)....................    75
    4.3 Nixon Power Plant, East Side of I-25 (Site 2)............    75
    4.4 Nixon Power Plant, West Side of I-25 (Site 3)............    77
    4.5 East Boundary of Fort Carson (Site 4)....................    78
    4.6 Entrance to Turkey Creek Recreation Area (Site 5)........    79
    4.7 RMK Ranch (Site 6).......................................    81
    4.8 Pueblo Chemical Depot (Site 7)...........................    83
    4.9 Kane Ranch (Site 8)......................................    84
    4.10 BLM Land (Site 9).......................................    85
    4.11 Brush Hollow Reservoir (Site 10)........................    87
    4.12 Summary.................................................    88

Section 5--Conclusions and Recommendations.......................    88
    5.1 General..................................................    88
    5.2 The Department of Veterans Affairs' Position.............    88
    5.3 Counter Arguments to the DVA Guidelines..................    89
    5.4 Grass Roots Level Actions................................    89
    5.5 Conclusions..............................................    90
    5.6 Recommendations..........................................    90

Tables
Table 1.1 Advocates for a Regional VA Cemetery...................    66
Table 2.1 35-County Veteran Population Data......................    67

Figures
Figure 4.1--Cemetery Site Evaluation and Ranking Procedure.......    71
Figure 4.2--Proposed Site #1, Cheyenne Mountain State Park.......    75
Figure 4.3--Proposed Site #2, Nixon Power Plant, East of I-25....    76
Figure 4.4--Proposed Site #3, Nixon Power Plant, West of I-25....    78
Figure 4.5--Proposed Site #4, East Boundary of Fort Carson.......    79
Figure 4.6--Proposed Site #5, Entrance to Turkey Creek Recreation    81
  Area.
Figure 4.7--Proposed Site #6, RMK Ranch..........................    82
Figure 4.8--Proposed Site #7, Pueblo Chemical Depot..............    84
Figure 4.9--Proposed Site #8, Kane Ranch.........................    85
Figure 4.10--Proposed Site #9, BLM Land..........................    87
Figure 4.11--Proposed Site #10, Brush Hollow Reservoir...........    88

                               Section 1
                              INTRODUCTION
1.1 General
    A cemetery for veterans does not appear magically just because of 
popular demand or because of a demonstrated need for one. Rather, such 
a cemetery, whether funded by the U.S. Government or the state 
government, will be established only after many hours and often many 
years of diligent work by dedicated individuals willing to devote their 
time, energy and frequently their personal funds to completion of the 
project. The report which follows provides an account of work by a 
committee of concerned veterans, working through and with their elected 
representatives, to secure a National Veterans Cemetery for the Pikes 
Peak region.
    The purpose of this report is to:

      Present a review of the work which has been accomplished 
to obtain a veterans cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region
      Inform and obtain the support of the general public and 
other interested parties and organizations of the need for such a 
cemetery
      Identify tasks that must be accomplished in preparation 
for establishment of a veterans cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region

    Note: The term, ``Pikes Peak Region'' as used throughout this 
report refers to the 35 counties located in what can be described in 
general terms as the southeast quadrant of the State of Colorado.
1.2 Background
    The origin of the idea for a veterans' cemetery in the Pikes Peak 
Region can be traced to LTG Forester, a former commander of Fort 
Carson, who raised the issue during the 1990-1991 timeframe. Further 
interest in the idea was expressed during the mid and late 1990s, 
within the local chapter of the Military Officers Association of 
America (MOAA) and The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA). 
Subsequently, both Senator Allard and Representative Hefley introduced 
bills in their respective houses of Congress seeking a National 
Veterans Cemetery in the Colorado Springs area. Action on both bills 
ended in 2000, however, when the Veterans Administration announced 
there were requests for six other cemeteries across the United States 
considered to be more essential as well as being mandated by the 
Congress.
1.3 Recent Congressional Actions
    Representative Hefley with other members of the Colorado 
congressional delegation introduced a new bill (H.R. 4907) on March 8, 
2006, to direct the Secretary of the Veterans Affairs to establish a 
national cemetery for veterans in the Pikes Peak Region. Senators 
Allard and Salazar introduced a similar bill in the Senate (S. 2387)
    Senator Salazar has written a number of letters to the Department 
of Veterans Affairs setting forth his support for a regional veterans' 
cemetery. His first letter, in April 2005, gave reasons for questioning 
the relevancy of the VA's objections in 2000 to establishment of a 
regional cemetery. Subsequently, Senator Salazar wrote to the VA 
Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs and cited a number of unique 
factors that should be addressed by VA guidelines for placing veterans' 
cemeteries. These unique factors, as they pertain to the Pikes Peak 
Region, include:

      Future Growth: The current VA guideline sets a threshold 
population of 170,000 veterans in a region to create a new cemetery. 
This guideline does not account for the future growth, which should 
include projected troop increases at Fort Carson, which is likely to 
grow larger in coming years. Growth projections create a different 
picture of the military and veterans' presence in the Pikes Peak Region 
than does VA's most recent evaluation.
      Travel Time vs. Travel Distance: Colorado Springs is 
within 75 miles of Denver (straight line distance) but due to traffic 
it can take more than two hours to travel between the two cities. VA 
guidelines should reflect such considerations.
      Cultural Realities of Colorado: Even though Denver and 
Colorado Springs are relatively close geographically the community of 
Colorado Springs is the ``center of gravity'' for military and veterans 
affairs within the state and represents the people and communities of 
southern and southeastern parts of Colorado together with counties in 
the San Luis Valley, the Arkansas River Region and the Eastern Plains.
Project Coordination and Support
    Concurrent with meeting and discussions with Members of Congress, 
the Department of Veterans Affairs and officials at the State and local 
levels, members of the Committee have worked to enlist the support of 
other veterans' organizations as well as civic organizations in the 
civilian community. These organizations are listed at Table 1.1, below.
            Table 1.1--Advocates for a Regional VA Cemetery
Colorado Congressional Delegation
The Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs
The United Veterans Committee of Colorado
El Paso County Commissioners
Fremont County Commissioners
Colorado Springs City Council
Pueblo City Council
City of Fountain City Council
The Military Affairs Council of the Colorado Springs
Chamber of Commerce
Fort Carson Encroachment Committee
Military Officers Association of America
Chapter One of the Retired Enlisted Association
The Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association
Pikes Peak Veterans Council (with 41 member organizations)
Pueblo Veterans Council (with over 12 member organizations)
                               Section 2
                      REGIONAL DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE
2.1 General
    In a statement to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs former 
Congressman Joel Hefley observed that demographics are the primary 
driver in determining the scope and level of investments at the 
National Cemetery Administration level. In looking to the future, 
veteran deaths will peak in 2008 at 676,000 with a slow decline 
thereafter to an estimated 672,000 veteran deaths in 2010. 
Concurrently, annual internments can be expected to increase from 
93,000 in 2004 to approximately 114,700 in 2010 as new national 
cemeteries are established. \1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ Statement by Congressman Joel Hefley, R-CO, to the Senate 
Veterans' Affairs Committee on June 23, 2005
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.2 Data Baseline
    Accepting the validity of Congressman Hefley's comment that 
demographics are the primary driver in determining the scope and level 
of investments at National Cemetery Administration facilities, a review 
of the demographic data pertaining to the 35-county region's veteran 
population is warranted. The principal source of data for this 
examination is the year 2000 U.S. Government census report for 
Colorado. As tabulated on Table 2.1, below, there were 155,501 veterans 
in the 35-county region in the year 2000.
    Under existing Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) guidelines a 
population of 170,000 veterans in a region is required to justify 
creation of a new cemetery. From the population data, above, the number 
of veterans in the region as of the year 2000 was not sufficient for 
such a project. However, DVA guidelines do not account for future 
growth, which, in the case of the Pikes Peak Region is quite likely to 
continue for the foreseeable future.
    The most significant factor contributing to continuation of the 
population increase is the presence of the large military population 
assigned to Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force 
Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the Air Force Academy. 
These installations are home to about 33,000 active duty military 
personnel with an estimated increase of another 5,000 soldiers at Fort 
Carson within the next two years--according to recent estimates. \2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ Military Facts for Fiscal Year 2005, by the Greater Colorado 
Springs Chamber of Commerce, 2005

                                  Table 2.1--35-County Veteran Population Data*
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                      Number of                       Number of                       Number of
            County Name               Veterans       County Name      Veterans       County Name      Veterans
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alamosa                                   1,280           Fremont         7,788          Montrose         3,936
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Archuleta                                 1,205          Gunnison         1,150             Otero         2,339
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Baca                                        462          Hinsdale            78             Ouray           471
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chaffee                                   2,238          Huerfano         1,176              Park         2,126
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cheyenne                                    191             Kiowa           159            Pitkin         1,113
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Conejos                                     750        Kit Carson           817           Prowers         1,037
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Costilla                                    394                  La Plata 4,290            Pueblo        17,600
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Crowley                                     758                  Las Anima1,844          Saguache           550
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Custer                                      594                  Lincoln    736          San Juan            88
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Delta                                     3,832              Mesa        14,908        San Miguel           478
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dolores                                     217           Mineral           115            Teller         3,014
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
El Paso                                  74,992         Montezuma         2,775                --          --
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total Vets                               86,913        Total Vets        35,836        Total Vets        32,752
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Total Veterans                    155,501
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veteran Data, Census 2000, Colorado by County & Period of
  Service.


2.3 Potential for Growth
    A comparison of the Census 1990 veteran population with the Census 
2000 data for the State of Colorado shows an 8.9% increase in the total 
number of veterans during that ten year period (409,932 veterans 
growing by 36,453 to 446,385 veterans). Using this same growth data and 
assuming the number of veterans in the 35-county region will increase 
at the same rate it is possible to estimate the regional veteran 
population by the year 2010, namely, 155,501 veterans in 2000 
multiplied by 1.089% equates to 169,340 in 2010 which is within a few 
hundred individuals of the 170,000 veteran threshold required under the 
DVA guidelines. \3\ (See Appendix A for Bureau of the Census population 
data)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Census 1990 vs. Census 
2000 Veteran Population In the U.S. and Puerto Rico
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
2.4 Summary
    This examination of the potential for growth within the Pikes Peak 
Region was conducted to provide an estimate of the veteran population 
at the end of the 2000-2010 decade. With an assumed continuation of the 
8.9 percent growth rate experienced within Colorado during the previous 
ten-year period, a regional population of 169,000 + veterans can be 
projected realistically.
                               Section 3
                      CREATING A NATIONAL CEMETERY
3.1 General
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) creates a new national 
cemetery through a six-step process with each step requiring that 
congressionally approved funds be available. The general process which 
is provided in a DVA Public and Intergovernmental Affairs fact sheet 
will be summarized in this section (A copy of the fact sheet is at 
Appendix B).
    This summary provides an overview of the different steps with the 
purpose being to promote an understanding of the process with emphasis 
upon the relationship between the activities of the Pikes Peak Veterans 
Cemetery Committee and other government agencies.
    The six steps consist of: site selection, environmental assessment, 
land acquisition, master planning and design development, preparation 
of construction documents and, lastly, the actual construction.
3.2 Site Selection
    The process begins with identification of a geographic area with a 
large veteran population unserved by a national or state cemetery. Size 
of the cemetery and the number of gravesites will be determined by 
demographic forecasts. Criteria for site selection include: 
accessibility, available utilities and water, surrounding land use, 
soil topography and shape, aesthetics in terms of appearance and 
restrictions to development and other factors such as the presence of 
endangered species and mineral rights or easements. Two to five sites 
are identified.
3.3 Environmental Assessment
    An environmental assessment document must be prepared for the 
selected site to ensure compliance with the National Environmental 
Policy Act. \4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ Fact Sheet: How a VA National Cemetery is Created, United 
States Department of Veterans Affairs, Public and Intergovernmental 
Affairs, April 2005 The assessment must result in a finding of no 
significant impact for the site to be considered. Upon receipt of a 
positive finding, the VA makes the results available to the public for 
a 30-day comment period. After the comment period VA officials make a 
recommendation to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs who decides whether 
to acquire the property.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
3.4 Land Acquisition
    Land can be acquired by donation, by purchase or through transfer 
of federal or state land to the VA. The value for land which is 
purchased is established through a real-property appraisal. The 
Department of Justice reviews all of the related real property 
documentation to ensure the contract and title meet requirements for 
legal transfer of the property.
3.5 Master Planning and Design Development
    After the VA takes title to the land, contract bids are solicited 
for design of the new cemetery. The winning contractor prepares a 
master plan for development of all phases of the cemetery which is 
followed by more detailed designs for the separate phases of 
construction. The first phase usually includes the first active burial 
section with the necessary infrastructure for operation of the 
cemetery. The later phases of construction typically include new burial 
sections, with associated infrastructure, designed to provide burial 
space for ten years.
3.6 Contract Document Preparation
    Under a second negotiated contact the contractor prepares plans and 
specifications that detail all aspects of the phase-one construction; 
e.g., active burial sections, administrative and maintenance buildings, 
a public information center, committal shelters and roads. The 
documents provide the basis for project construction bids.
3.7 Construction Award and Completion
    Following completion of the first five steps in the process the VA 
solicits bids and awards a contract for construction of the new 
cemetery. This process usually takes about four months but the actual 
construction of Phase 1 takes approximately 24 months. In fact, to 
complete each phase, land purchases and construction will require 
multiple congressional appropriations over several years' budgets.
    Beginning with selection of the site, through the environmental 
assessment, master planning, design and Phase 1 construction steps, the 
process requires about five years for completion. The follow-on phases 
of construction will occur over a period of many years driven to a 
large degree by the requirements for burials.
3.8 The Committee's Role in the Creation Process
    Although the Committee does not have an official standing in the 
sense that its actions represent the position of or are conducted under 
the authority of a legally constituted organization it does, however, 
have a role in the creation of a new cemetery by virtue of its contacts 
with Members of Congress, the United States Department of Veterans 
Affairs, state and local governments, the regional veterans groups and 
the public at large. There are at least three areas in which the 
Committee serves actively in its role as a voice for the regional 
veterans--individually and collectively.

      The first area in which the Committee has played and 
continues to play a significant role in the DVA's six-step process lies 
in the identification of an area with a large veteran population 
unserved (perhaps inadequately served) by a state or national cemetery. 
The Committee's principal reason for organizing was to focus the 
attention of the DVA and the Colorado congressional delegation on the 
need for a veterans' cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region.
      The second area in which the Committee plays a role in 
the process is through its contacts with the Colorado congressional 
delegation. As indicated in Section 1, members of the Committee have 
been quite persuasive in discussions with members of congress regarding 
the need for action at the congressional level to introduce the bills 
necessary to obtain the proper funding.
      The third area in which the Committee has been active is 
the identification and survey of potential sites for a cemetery. These 
surveys have been successful in locating sites with the physical 
characteristics required by the DVA. The next section will provide the 
results of the Committee's surveys.

3.9 Summary
    The summarization of the DVA's six-step process in creating a 
national cemetery was provided to promote an appreciation for the 
activities and events that must take place before a cemetery is fully 
functional. It is evident from the review of the process that: (a) 
creation of a National cemetery will require several years and (b) at 
each step funding must be provided.
                               Section 4
                        POTENTIAL CEMETERY SITES
4.1 General
    In addition to their meetings, briefings and discussions regarding 
the cemetery, members of the Committee have also been involved in 
researching information associated with the physical attributes of the 
cemetery while locating and visiting potential sites. Committee members 
gave particular attention to the factors listed below during the site 
surveys.

      Location: The location should be outside the 75 mile 
radius from the Fort Logan National Cemetery and be accessible from 
Interstate 25 or one of the primary state highways. Land for the site 
should be on state or federal property or on property that could be 
obtained through donation, land-swap or outright purchase.
      Acreage Requirements: Using the standards established by 
the DVA for fifty or more years of burials, the requirement for a 
veterans cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region would be 200-250 acres. The 
surveyed sites met or have the capacity for exceeding the acreage 
requirement.
      Water Requirements: Based upon calculations provided by 
the Colorado Springs Utilities office, using an estimate of 50-acre 
additions every ten years, the calculations indicated a requirement of 
approximately 18 acre-feet per 50 acres per year.
      Other Factors: During the surveys the topography and the 
aesthetics of each site were considered in terms of suitability for use 
as a cemetery. The feasibility of using the site was also noted but no 
definitive information was developed at the time.

    Ten potential sites have been identified and a general survey of 
each site was conducted. The results of the individual surveys, 
together with the related graphic illustrations, follow. There is no 
particular priority to the order in which the sites are presented.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]



    Area map of potential cemetery sites


                                                                   Figure 4.1--Cemetery Site Evaluation and Ranking Procedure
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                      Nixon Pwr     Nixon Pwr                  Entrance to                   Pueblo
                  Required Feature                     Cheyenne Mt  Plant E of I- Plant W of I-   East Side   Turkey Creek    RMK Ranch     Chemical     Kane Ranch     BLM Land    Brush Hollow
                                                       State Park        25            25        Fort Carson       RA                         Depot                                   Reservoir
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Water supply \1\                                                4             5             5             1             4             5             5             4             1             5
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Access To Site \2\                                              5             3             4             1             5             1             3             4             3             2
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On-site Acreage \3\                                             4             4             4             4             4             3             5             4             1             5
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Land Ownership \4\                                              5             4             3             1             4             2             5             5             5             4
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Topography \5\                                                  4             3             3             2             5             4             5             5             1             4
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Aesthetics \6\                                                  5             4             1             1             4             3             3             4             1             4
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Feasibility \7\                                                 5             4             2             3             4             3             3             5             3             2
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total Score                                                   32            27            22            13            30            21            29            31            15            26
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:
1. Figure 4.1.1 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Water
2. Figure 4.1.2 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Accessibility
3. Figure 4.1.3 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Acreage
4. Figure 4.1.4 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Land Ownership
5. Figure 4.1.5 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Topography
6. Figure 4.1.6 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Aesthetics
7. Figure 4.1.7 Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Feasibility


          Figure 4.1.1--Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Water
    Criteria: Water availability
Ranking Position:
    5-- Available on-site in quantity required by DVA. Dependability of 
supply has been determined and confirmed.
    4-- Available on-site in quantity required by DVA but dependability 
of supply has not been confirmed.
    3-- Available on-site but quantity and dependability of supply must 
be determined.
    2-- Not currently available on-site but evidence indicates a supply 
can be provided from an offsite source.
    1-- Not available on-site. Whether an adequate supply can be 
provided from an on or offsite source must be determined.
      Figure 4.1.2--Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Accessibility
    Criteria: Accessibility
Ranking Position:
    5-- Interstate or National highway not more than one mile from the 
site. Little, if any road construction required to provide access to 
the site. Required exit ramps/interchanges exist.
    4-- Interstate or National or 2-4 lane State highways more than one 
mile from the site. Little, if any road construction required to 
provide access to the site. Required exit ramps/interchanges exist.
    3-- National highway or 2-4 lane State highway not more than one 
mile from the site. Feasibility of providing an exit ramp from the 
highway must be determined.
    2-- National highway or 2-4 lane State highway not more one mile 
from the site. Feasibility of providing an exit from the highway must 
be determined.
    1-- County road, one-half mile or more in length, provides sole 
access to the site or extensive road construction would be required to 
provide adequate site access.
         Figure 4.1.3--Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Acreage
    Criteria: On-site Acreage
Ranking Position:
    5-- Minimum of 500 acres available on-site.
    4-- Minimum of 400 acres available on-site.
    3-- Minimum of 300 acres available on site.
    2-- Minimum of 200 acres available on-site.
    1-- Approximately 100 acres on-site.
     Figure 4.1.4--Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Land Ownership
    Criteria: Land Ownership
Ranking Position:
    5-- Owned by Federal, State or Local Government. Could be 
transferred to VA without cost.
    4-- Owned by private individual, estate or corporation. Could be 
transferred to VA without cost.
    3-- Owned by private individual, estate or corporation. Could be 
transferred to VA with modest cost.
    2-- Owned by private individual, estate or corporation. Could be 
transferred to VA but at significant cost.
    1-- Determination of actual ownership not established or 
unwillingness of owner to transfer land to VA is uncertain.
       Figure 4.1.5--Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Topography
    Feature: Topography--Identification of the landforms associated 
with the various cemetery sites.
Ranking Position:
     5-- Alluvial Plain: Formed from deposits of Earth material from a 
higher elevation onto flatter land. Presents a relatively even surface 
which facilitates construction, access and grounds maintenance. 
Construction costs relatively low.
     4-- Valley: A low area between hills and/or mountains where a 
stream may flow. Valley floors frequently dissected by ravines caused 
by erosion which can increase costs in site preparation. Construction 
costs modest due to topography.
     3-- Plains: Low areas of the Earth which have been eroded nearly 
level or formed of flat lying sediments. Surface areas generally 
favorable for site preparation, construction and grounds maintenance. 
Construction costs relatively low due to the topography.
     2-- Hill: An isolated elevation in the land, usually no more than 
30 meters from base to peak. Access, ease of construction and 
maintenance of the site depends largely upon the degree of hillside 
slopes. Construction costs can be significant due to topography.
     1-- No dominate landform: An individual site may include a mixture 
of landforms, for example, partially alluvial plain with low hills 
intermixed, bordering on a valley area. Construction costs most 
significant due to topography.
       Figure 4.1.6--Cemetery Site Ranking Procedure--Aesthetics
    Criteria: Aesthetics
Ranking Position:
     5-- Site has immediate visual appeal. Topography and surrounding 
land use is suitable for cemetery development. High hills or mountains 
covered with trees and other natural vegetation form a back drop with 
gentle slopes to lower ground. Free from distracting visual or noise 
pollutants. An excellent location.
     4-- Site consists of generally level ground with no abrupt 
landforms and a natural drainage slope. Topography and surrounding land 
use is compatible with cemetery development. Background consists of 
tree lines or low hills covered with natural vegetation. Normally free 
from noise pollutants but low flying aircraft or nearby military or 
civilian activities may create temporary distractions. A very good 
location.
     3-- Site consists of generally flat terrain interspersed with 
moderate to steep slopes where erosion or man-made damage has occurred. 
Both the topography and surrounding land use is compatible with 
cemetery development. Noise from low flying aircraft or nearby military 
or civilian activities can occur regularly. A suitable location.
     2-- Site consists of low rolling landforms with natural drainage. 
Overall, the topography and the surrounding land use is compatible with 
cemetery development. Natural vegetation is typical of Great Plains 
ranchlands. Noise or visual pollutants may be factors. A marginally 
suitable location from an aesthetics perspective.
     1-- Site consists of generally flat terrain with no distinguishing 
features. The topography is compatible with cemetery development. 
Natural vegetation consists primarily of low grass or brush and 
scattered pinion pine, juniper and/or scrub oak trees. Noise from 
nearby military or civilian activities may occur periodically. A poor 
location from an aesthetics perspective.
                       Figure 4.1.7--Feasibility
    Criteria: Feasibility
Ranking Position
    5-- Site has excellent support.
    4-- Site has good support.
    3-- Site has moderate support.
    2-- Site has fair support.
    1-- Site has poor support.
4.2 Cheyenne Mountain State Park (Site 1)
    Location: The site is located in the Cheyenne Mountain State Park. 
Access is from State Highway 115.
    Water: Available on-site in quantity required by the DVA but the 
dependability of supply has not been confirmed.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Acreage: Exact acreage available for the cemetery must be 
determined but it is estimated that 400+ acres could be made available 
for the cemetery.
    Property Owned By: Cheyenne Mountain State Park, State of Colorado.
    Aesthetics: Former ranch land which has been developed into a state 
park. Cheyenne Mountain provides a majestic backdrop.
    Feasibility: Approval of a national cemetery site within the park 
site will require action at the state level. A factor which should be 
considered in locating a cemetery within the park is the pending 
construction of a military museum on the Fort Carson reservation in the 
vicinity of Gate 1. The three facilities, a veterans' cemetery, a state 
park and a military museum in close proximity would serve as a strong 
magnet and a synergistic cultural amenity to all three facilities.
    Comments: The location of the property shown on the map is an 
approximation. A survey will be required to determine an exact location 
for the cemetery site.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


      Figure 4.2--Proposed Site # 1, Cheyenne Mountain State Park

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Access to                                   Land
                     Water supply                           site         Acreage     Topography     ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    4                                                             5             4             4             5             5             5            32
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.3 Nixon Power Plant, East Side of I-25 (Site 2)
    Location: The site is located on property in the vicinity of the 
R.D. Nixon power plant, on the east side of I-25, on property owned by 
the Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). Access is from Interstate 25.
    Water: Water is available from wells owned by CSU.
    Acreage: The area under consideration contains sufficient space to 
create a cemetery of 200-250+ acres. The exact location has not been 
established.
    Topography: Suitable for a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: Colorado Springs Utilities.
    Aesthetics: The preferred location is on generally level ground 
which is part of the Clear Spring Ranch site. Overall, the site 
presents a pleasant appearance.
    Feasibility: The property is owned by and under the control of CSU. 
Use of the property for a veterans cemetery must be determined by that 
organization.
    Comments: The location of the site shown on the map represents only 
the general area. The exact location must be determined during the 
detailed site evaluation and selection process.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


     Figure 4.3--Proposed Site #2, Nixon Power Plant, East of I-25

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




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                                                          Access to                                   Land
                     Water supply                           site         Acreage     Topography     ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5                                                             3             4             3             4             4             4            27
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.4 Nixon Power Plant, West Side of I-25 (Site 3)
    Location: The location for the site is in the vicinity but south of 
the R.D. Nixon power plant, on the west side of I-25. Access to the 
site is from Interstate 25.
    Water: Water in the quantity required is available. Dependability 
of the supply has been confirmed.
    Acreage: The area under consideration contains a sufficient amount 
of space to create a cemetery of 200-250 acres. The exact location must 
await the results of an on-site survey.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU).
    Aesthetics: The site is located on generally level ground with a 
gentle upward slope on the south and southwest sides; however, it may 
prove to be located downwind from a planned sewage treat plant.
    Feasibility: The property containing the site belongs to CSU and 
will be available dependant upon the Utility's willingness to sell.
    Comments: The site location shown on the map represents only the 
general area. The precise site location cannot be determined until a 
specific site survey has been completed.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


     Figure 4.4--Proposed Site #3, Nixon Power Plant, West of I-25

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




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                                                          Access to                                   Land
                     Water supply                           site         Acreage     Topography     ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5                                                             4             4             3             3             1             2            22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.5 East Boundary of Fort Carson (Site 4)
    Location: The site is located along the east boundary of Fort 
Carson and west of I-25. It is identified on some maps as the Frontier 
Village. Access is from I-25; however, the road into the area is 
unimproved.
    Water: The availability of an adequate supply of water and the 
source must be determined.
    Acreage: The area has a sufficient amount of land to provide 300+ 
acres but an exact location has not been established.
    Topography: Suitable for use as a cemetery but construction costs 
could be significant.
    Property Owned By: Private ownership.
    Aesthetics: Generally flat, hill-top land. No distinguishing 
characteristics.
    Feasibility: The site is located on private land. Converting it to 
use as a DVA cemetery must await negotiations with the current owner or 
owners.
    Comments: The area depicted on the aerial photograph of the site 
shows only the very general location. The precise area must be 
determined during the site evaluation and selection process.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


       Figure 4.5--Proposed Site #4, East Boundary of Fort Carson

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




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                                                          Access to                                   Land
                     Water supply                           site         Acreage     Topography     ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1                                                             1             4             1             2             1             3            13
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.6 Entrance to Turkey Creek Recreation Area (Site 5)
    Location: The site is located in the vicinity of the entrance to 
Fort Carson's Turkey Creek Recreation Area. Access to the site is from 
State Highway 115.
    Water: Water is available in an adequate amount but the 
dependability of the supply had not been confirmed when this report was 
prepared.
    Acreage: There is a sufficient amount of land in the area to 
provide 400+ acres for the cemetery.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: U.S. Government, Fort Carson.
    Aesthetics: Location is on a military reservation. The overall 
appearance is of a rural setting, in a broad valley, with higher tree-
covered ground to the northwest and southwest.
    Feasibility: It is considered possible for the site to be acquired 
through an intergovernmental transfer of property.
    Comments: The aerial photograph shows an approximation of the space 
available for the site. The exact site location must be determined.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


 Figure 4.6--Proposed Site #5, Entrance to Turkey Creek Recreation Area

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




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                                                          Access to                                   Land
                     Water supply                           site         Acreage     Topography     ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    4                                                             5             4             5             4             4             4            30
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4.7 RMK Ranch (Site 6)
    Location: The ranch is located in El Paso County, southwest of 
Schreiver AFB. Access is via a gravel road from a state highway.
    Water: There are three working wells on the property.
    Acreage: The ranch consists of 300 (+/-) acres.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: Privately owned by an Army veteran.
    Aesthetics: Gently rolling terrain on the eastern plains of El Paso 
County.
    Feasibility: If the property is to be used as a veterans' cemetery 
the owner would be willing to sell it for a reasonable price.
    Comments: The location shown on the map is an estimate. Facilities 
on the property include a house, four outbuildings, a large generator 
and a small cemetery. Land forms shown in the picture are typical of 
those on the ranch.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


                Figure 4.7--Proposed Site #6, RMK Ranch

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                                                          Access to                                   Land
                     Water supply                           site         Acreage     Topography     ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5                                                             1             3             4             2             3             3            21
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4.8 Pueblo Chemical Depot (Site 7)
    Location: The depot is approximately 12 miles east of the City of 
Pueblo. Access to the depot is from U.S. Highway 50.
    Water: Available on-site and dependability of supply has been 
confirmed.
    Acreage: The depot can provide up to 800 acres for the cemetery.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: U.S. Government, Department of the Army.
    Aesthetics: Appropriate for the region.
    Feasibility: An area for the cemetery can be provided on the 
reservation and outside the secure area.
    Comments: The location of the site as depicted on the map of the 
depot is only an approximation.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


          Figure 4.8--Proposed Site #7, Pueblo Chemical Depot

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                                                          Access to
                     Water source                           site         Acreage     Topography     Ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5                                                             3             5             5             5             3             3            29
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.9 Kane Ranch (Site 8)
    Location: The site is located in the City of Fountain at the 
intersection of Link Road and C&S Road. Access can be from either of 
these two roads.
    Water: Water is available from on-site wells but dependability has 
not been confirmed.
    Acreage: The ranch consists of 400 acres, as reported, which can be 
used for a cemetery.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: Property was donated to El Paso County for use 
as a national cemetery.
    Aesthetics: Site consists of generally level ground and a natural 
drainage slope with a potential for a background of trees and natural 
vegetation. The surrounding land use is compatible with cemetery 
development.
    Feasibility: Ranch may be acquired as a gift from the county for 
use as a national cemetery.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


                Figure 4.9--Proposed Site #8, Kane Ranch

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Access to
                     Water source                           site         Acreage     Topography     Ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    4                                                             4             4             5             5             4             5            31
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.10 BLM Land (Site 9)
    Location: Site is north of the Town of Penrose on the high ground 
on the west side of Beaver Creek. Access to the property is off of 
Colorado 115
    Water: Not currently available on-site. Whether an adequate supply 
can be provided from an off-site source must be determined.
    Acreage: 100-150 acres are available.
    Topography: Marginally suitable for construction of a cemetery as 
the subsurface consists of fractured shale deepening to semi-solid 
rock.
    Property Owned By: U.S. Government, Bureau of Land Management.
    Aesthetics: Site consists of generally flat terrain with no 
distinguishing features. Natural vegetation consists of low grass or 
brush and scattered pinion, juniper and scrub oak trees.
    Feasibility: Site is located on U.S. Government property. A 
transfer of property between the DVA and BLM may be possible.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


                Figure 4.10--Proposed Site #9, BLM Land

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Access to
                     Water source                           site         Acreage     Topography     Ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1                                                             3             1             1             5             1             3            15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.11 Brush Hollow Reservoir (Site 10)
    Location: Site is located on the north-northwest end of the Brush 
Hollow Reservoir which is located northwest of the Town of Penrose. 
Access is off of Colorado 115 onto County Road 123 and County Road F42.
    Water: Water is available on-site.
    Acreage: 250 acres will be made available for a national cemetery.
    Topography: Suitable for construction of a cemetery.
    Property Owned By: Privately owned.
    Aesthetics: Site is on generally level and well drained ground with 
low hills forming a background. Natural vegetation consists of pinion, 
juniper and scrub oak trees.
    Feasibility: Land to be donated if used for a national cemetery.


[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]

    
         Figure 4.11--Proposed Site #10, Brush Hollow Reservoir

[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                          Access to
                     Water source                           site         Acreage     Topography     Ownership    Aesthetics    Feasibility   Total Score
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5                                                             2             5             4             4             4             2            26
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


4.12 Summary
    The purpose in this section was to present the results of the 
Committee's work in identifying potential sites for a veterans' 
cemetery and the concurrent collection of essential information related 
to each site. There was no attempt at this point to establish an order 
of priority of the various sites when considering recommendations to 
Members of Congress or to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
    The preliminary information is considered to be sufficient for 
conducting further research into the suitability of each site. 
Refinement of the list of potential sites must be an ongoing effort so 
that credible information can be presented to the U.S. Government and 
local authorities as well as to the general public.
                               Section 5
                    CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.1 General
    The need, as well as the desirability, for a national cemetery in 
the Pikes Peak Region has been recognized for a number of years with 
some action in that direction in the early 1990s. In the late 1990s 
members of the Colorado congressional delegation introduced bills in 
Congress seeking a national veterans cemetery for the region. The bills 
did not receive favorable consideration when the Veterans 
Administration announced that six cemeteries were to be constructed 
across the country--all with a higher priority than the Pikes Peak 
Region.
5.2 The Department of Veterans Affairs' Position
    As a general observation, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) 
has not given favorable consideration to locating a national cemetery 
in the Pikes Peak Region, and within the immediate area of Colorado 
Springs in particular, for the following reasons.

      The national cemetery at Fort Logan is within 75 miles of 
Colorado Springs which meets one of the DVA guidelines for providing 
burial service for veterans a well as other eligible individuals.
      The veteran population within the Pikes Peak Region is 
not at the level that justifies a national cemetery. Namely, the 
official Year 2000 census revealed a population of just over 155,000 
veterans in the 35-county region. This is below the 170,000 veteran 
population figure required under the DVA guidelines.
      Previously, the Congress had mandated construction of new 
national cemeteries in other areas of the country which had a higher 
priority than did Colorado Springs. This Congressional action has, in 
effect, tied the DVA's hands.

    Another unspoken reason for not locating a national cemetery in the 
Pikes Peak Region was, and may still be the lack of any ground-swell of 
public opinion for such a cemetery within the region.
5.3 Counter Arguments to the DVA Guidelines
    In view of concerns expressed by members of the Committee to the 
Colorado congressional delegation regarding the DVA position on a 
national cemetery for the Pikes Peak Region, Senator Salazar provided 
his reasons in letters to the DVA questioning that agency's previous 
objections to establishment of a regional cemetery as well as its 
guidelines for locating national cemeteries.
    Senator Salazar cited a number of unique factors in his 
correspondence to the Department that should be addressed by VA 
guidelines. These unique factors, as they pertain to the Pikes Peak 
Region, include:

      Growth: The current VA guideline sets a threshold 
population of 170,000 veterans in a region to create a new cemetery. 
This guideline does not account for the future growth, which should 
include projected troop increases at Fort Carson, which is likely to 
grow larger in coming years. Growth projections create a different 
picture of the military and veterans' presence in the Pikes Peak Region 
than does VA's most recent evaluation.
      Travel Time vs. Travel Distance: Colorado Springs is 
within 75 miles of Denver (straight line distance) but due to traffic 
it can take more than two hours to travel between the two cities. VA 
guidelines should reflect such considerations.
      Cultural Realities of Colorado: Even though Denver and 
Colorado Springs are relatively close geographically the community of 
Colorado Springs is the ``center of gravity'' for military and veterans 
affairs within the state and represents the people and communities of 
southern and southeastern parts of Colorado together with counties in 
the San Luis Valley, the Arkansas River Region and the Eastern Plains.

5.4 Grass Roots Level Actions
    Faced with the realities of the DVA position regarding a regional 
cemetery but also building upon the support provided by the Colorado 
congressional delegation, the Committee has initiated an active program 
to obtain a national cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region whether working 
within or around existing guidelines.
    The principal areas in which the Committee has focused its efforts 
were addressed in section III of this report, specifically:

      The Committee has created awareness in the public sector 
and at the state and national levels of the need for a national 
cemetery.
      It has been persuasive in convincing the Colorado 
congressional delegation to initiate the bills necessary for obtaining 
funding for the project.
      Potential sites for a cemetery have been explored and 
surveyed with the results showing that at least ten locations within 
the region meet the criteria in DVA instructions for a national 
cemetery.

    The Committee's work, as it has been discussed up to this point, is 
ongoing with refinement of specific projects where so indicated; 
however, a logical question that can be asked is, ``What now--what 
avenues are open to the Committee in its efforts to secure a national 
cemetery?''
    The foregoing question is particularly acute when one considers the 
fact that the Committee must rely upon its persuasive ability to 
accomplish its objects since it has no authority to make binding 
commitments under the umbrella of a legally constituted organization. 
Secondly, the DVA position, with its guidelines for the creation of 
national cemeteries, can become an excuse for doing nothing when viewed 
as other than just guidance and not as rules that are ``. . . chiseled 
in stone.''
    The conclusions and recommendations in the paragraphs below provide 
a vehicle for responding to the foregoing questions and observations.
5.5 Conclusions
    These conclusions pertain specifically to the Pikes Peak Veterans 
Cemetery Committee, its activities in promoting the need for a national 
cemetery in the Pikes Peak Region and its efforts to secure such a 
cemetery following the procedures established by the Department of 
Veterans Affairs (Note: The order in which the conclusions are listed 
is not indicative of the relative importance of one over the other).

    A.  The program or campaign undertaken by the Committee members, 
collectively and individually, to create awareness within the 35-county 
regional community of the need for a national cemetery has been 
successful as evidenced by the organizations that have provided 
endorsements of the idea.
    B.  The perceived reluctance on the part of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs may be attributable, at least in part, to the absence 
of a ground-swell of public opinion for a regional national cemetery 
better suited to the needs of the community than the Fort Logan and 
Fort Lyons cemeteries.
    C.  The Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines regarding the 
170,000 veteran population thresholds and the 75-mile separation 
distance between national cemeteries do not take conditions into 
consideration that are peculiar to are unique to a specific area or 
region.
    D.  The 170,000 veteran population threshold and the 75-mile 
separation between national cemeteries guidelines have impacted 
adversely upon previous efforts to secure a national cemetery in the 
Pikes Peak Region.
    E.  In addition to the veteran population threshold and the 75-mile 
guideline, other conditions may prevail within an area or region which 
should receive favorable consideration by the Department of Veterans 
Affairs when judging the merits of requests for national cemeteries; 
e.g., travel time to reach a cemetery, future growth potential by the 
population concerned and cultural issues which could, conceivably, 
determine the extent to which a particular cemetery will be used.
    F.  The fact that previous actions by the Colorado congressional 
delegation have not been successful in obtaining funding for a regional 
cemetery should not be viewed as justification for inaction in the 
future.

5.6 Recommendations
    The recommendations that follow provide a starting point in 
response to the question, ``What do we do now?'' while, concurrently, 
offering a direction of effort to the Committee for future programs.

    A.  Consider affiliation with a legally organized body with similar 
objectives as a means for giving more visibility and possibly 
credibility to the Committee's work to secure a national cemetery in 
the Pikes Peak Region.
    B.  Continue to explore and take advantage of opportunities to 
involve the public in the need for a regional national cemetery.
    C.  Refine the list of potential cemetery sites in order to give 
more attention to those with the best characteristics while 
simultaneously eliminating the sites with the least potential. 
Acceptance of this recommendation may serve to enhance the 
organization's credibility when detailed analyses of the selected sites 
are provided.
    D.  Provide copies of this report to: the Colorado congressional 
delegation; to individuals within the Department of Veterans Affairs 
who influence the selection of national cemetery locations; and to 
those other organizations and individuals at the state, county and 
local levels that have an interest in providing this particular service 
for the veterans not only within the Pikes Peak Region but also to the 
veterans in all of southern Colorado.
                     ``It's all for the Veterans''
                               __________
                               Appendix A
Extract from Census 2000 Veteran Data, Colorado: Veteran Population by 
                         Age, by Sex, by County

                                              COLORADO: Veteran Population by Period of Service, by County
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                           August 1990 or later (including Persian Gulf War)              No Vietnam Era Service
                                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
        State or County Name              Total                                                  Total serving
                                                       Served In Vietnam    No Vietnam Era      August 1990 or     Served September     Served prior to
                                                              Era               service              later        1980 or later only    September 1980
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colorado                                    446,385               8,607              58,577              67,184              52,626               5,951
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adams County                                 34,426                 315               4,241               4,556               3,981                 260
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alamosa County                                1,280                  14                 138                 152                 122                  16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arapahoe County                              50,669               1,271               7,235               8,506               6,481                 754
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Archuleta County                              1,205                   4                  39                  43                  34                   5
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Baca County                                     462                   0                   3                   3                   0                   3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bent County                                     808                  21                  74                  95                  65                   9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Boulder County                               22,437                 126               2,198               2,324               2,097                 101
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chaffee County                                2,238                  25                 135                 160                 119                  16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cheyenne County                                 191                   0                  11                  11                  11                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Clear Creek County                            1,093                  15                  66                  81                  59                   7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Conejos County                                  750                   1                  35                  36                  35                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Costilla County                                 394                   4                  16                  20                  16                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Crowley County                                  758                   2                  96                  98                  96                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Custer County                                   594                   7                  15                  22                  15                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Delta County                                  3,832                  26                 149                 175                 133                  16
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Denver County                                48,558                 277               5,760               6,037               5,511                 249
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dolores County                                  217                   4                   8                  12                   8                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Douglas County                               14,712                 366               2,239               2,605               2,079                 160
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eagle County                                  2,380                  29                 277                 306                 274                   3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Elbert County                                 2,249                  18                 215                 233                 182                  33
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
El Paso County                               74,992               4,102              18,259              22,361              14,971               3,288
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fremont County                                7,788                  68                 809                 877                 780                  29
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Garfield County                               4,040                  30                 356                 386                 330                  26
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gilpin County                                   617                   8                  66                  74                  66                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand County                                  1,343                  14                 103                 117                  93                  10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Gunnison County                               1,150                   6                 141                 147                 133                   8
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hinsdale County                                  78                   0                   5                   5                   0                   5
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Huerfano County                               1,176                  15                 102                 117                  95                   7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jackson County                                  194                   2                  13                  15                  13                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jefferson County                             54,875                 597               4,950               5,547               4,664                 286
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kiowa County                                    159                   5                  10                  15                  10                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kit Carson County                               817                   3                  26                  29                  22                   4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lake County                                     704                   0                  88                  88                  71                  17
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
La Plata County                               4,290                  18                 402                 420                 397                   5
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Larimer County                               23,269                 266               2,536               2,802               2,452                  84
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Las Animas County                             1,844                  33                 122                 155                  99                  23
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lincoln County                                  736                   9                  75                  84                  64                  11
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Logan County                                  2,093                  24                 173                 197                 163                  10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mesa County                                  14,908                 104               1,385               1,489               1,316                  69
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mineral County                                  115                   0                   0                   0                   0                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Moffat County                                 1,514                  19                 123                 142                 123                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Montezuma County                              2,775                  15                 238                 253                 238                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Montrose County                               3,936                  46                 347                 393                 325                  22
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Morgan County                                 2,260                  18                 200                 218                 200                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Otero County                                  2,339                  52                 218                 270                 210                   8
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ouray County                                    471                   6                   7                  13                   5                   2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Park County                                   2,126                  78                 244                 322                 229                  15
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Phillips County                                 416                   6                  17                  23                  15                   2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pitkin County                                 1,113                   0                  57                  57                  57                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Prowers County                                1,037                  13                  96                 109                  96                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pueblo County                                17,600                 182               1,718               1,900               1,577                 141
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rio Blanco County                               673                   0                  59                  59                  57                   2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rio Grande County                             1,361                  14                 124                 138                 104                  20
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Routt County                                  1,555                   8                 187                 195                 178                   9
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Saguache County                                 550                   3                  34                  37                  34                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
San Juan County                                  88                   0                   4                   4                   2                   2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
San Miguel County                               478                   0                  20                  20                  18                   2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sedgwick County                                 346                   1                  20                  21                  20                   0
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Summit County                                 1,686                  30                 267                 297                 256                  11
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Teller County                                 3,014                 102                 372                 474                 319                  53
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Washington County                               561                   3                  24                  27                  22                   2
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Weld County                                  15,156                 175               1,564               1,739               1,428                 136
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Yuma County                                     889                   7                  66                  73                  56                  10
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


                       Census 1990 vs. 2000 Veteran Population in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                                               Percent change
                  State                    1990 Veterans   2000 Veterans    +Gain/ -Loss     between 1990-2000
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alabama                                         434,787         447,397           12,610                   2.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Alaska                                           68,252          71,552            3,300                   4.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arizona                                         464,023         562,916           98,893                  21.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arkansas                                        265,055         281,714           16,659                   6.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
California                                    3,001,905       2,569,340         -432,565                 -14.4%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Colorado                                        409,932         446,385           36,453                   8.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Connecticut                                     373,933         310,069          -63,864                 -17.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Delaware                                         80,909          84,289            3,380                   4.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
District of Columbia                             57,874          44,484          -13,390                 -23.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Florida                                       1,719,129       1,875,597          156,468                   9.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Georgia                                         693,225         768,675           75,450                  10.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hawaii                                          119,256         120,587            1,331                   1.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Idaho                                           116,609         136,584           19,975                  17.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Illinois                                      1,162,158       1,003,572         -158,586                 -13.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Indiana                                         623,098         590,476          -32,622                  -5.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Iowa                                            310,122         292,020          -18,102                  -5.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kansas                                          280,806         267,452          -13,354                  -4.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kentucky                                        380,610         380,618                8                   0.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Louisiana                                       404,186         392,486          -11,700                  -2.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maine                                           159,333         154,590           -4,743                  -3.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Maryland                                        558,613         524,230          -34,383                  -6.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Massachusetts                                   656,850         558,933          -97,917                 -14.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Michigan                                      1,005,699         913,573          -92,126                  -9.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Minnesota                                       489,498         464,968          -24,530                  -5.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mississippi                                     237,977         249,431           11,454                   4.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Missouri                                        613,859         592,271          -21,588                  -3.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Montana                                         102,536         108,476            5,940                   5.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nebraska                                        177,852         173,189           -4,663                  -2.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nevada                                          182,084         238,128           56,044                  30.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New Hampshire                                   141,617         139,038           -2,579                  -1.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New Jersey                                      817,409         672,217         -145,192                 -17.8%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New Mexico                                      178,022         190,718           12,696                   7.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New York                                      1,707,476       1,361,164         -346,312                 -20.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Carolina                                  719,458         792,646           73,188                  10.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
North Dakota                                     64,772          61,365           -3,407                  -5.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ohio                                          1,259,535       1,144,007         -115,528                  -9.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Oklahoma                                        377,148         376,062           -1,086                  -0.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Oregon                                          384,189         388,990            4,801                   1.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Pennsylvania                                  1,450,037       1,280,788         -169,249                 -11.7%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Puerto Rico                                     138,150         146,001            7,851                   5.7%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rhode Island                                    118,330         102,494          -15,836                 -13.4%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
South Carolina                                  381,691         420,971           39,280                  10.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
South Dakota                                     76,923          79,370            2,447                   3.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tennessee                                       531,723         560,141           28,418                   5.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Texas                                         1,726,617       1,754,809           28,192                   1.6%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Utah                                            146,630         161,351           14,721                  10.0%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Vermont                                          64,814          62,809           -2,005                  -3.1%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Virginia                                        733,092         786,359           53,267                   7.3%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Washington                                      653,068         670,628           17,560                   2.7%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
West Virginia                                   210,941         201,701           -9,240                  -4.4%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wisconsin                                       532,936         514,213          -18,723                  -3.5%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wyoming                                          54,457          57,860            3,403                   6.2%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total U.S. & P.R.                            27,619,205      26,549,704       -1,069,501                  -3.9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Census 2000, as of 4/1/2000

                               __________
                               Appendix B
     Fact Sheet: How a VA National Cemetery is Created, Public and 
     Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
                               April 2005
               ``How A VA National Cemetery Is Created''
    The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) creates a new national 
cemetery through a six-step process. Each step requires that 
congressionally approved funds are available. The steps are: site 
selection, environmental assessment, land acquisition, master planning 
and design development, preparation of construction documents and 
construction. The development, eventual operation and maintenance of 
the cemetery are the responsibility of VA's National Cemetery 
Administration.
Site Selection
    VA identifies a geographic area with a large veteran population 
unserved by a national or state veterans cemetery. The cemetery's size 
and number of gravesites will be determined by demographic forecasts. 
VA canvases the area for sites of the size needed and evaluates their 
suitability for cemetery development.
    Criteria for site selection include: accessibility, available 
utilities and water, surrounding land use, soil, topography and shape, 
aesthetic appearance and restrictions to development, including factors 
such as the presence of endangered species, mineral rights or 
easements. Good roads should be nearby and provide minimal travel time 
from population hubs. Adequate water for irrigation is important. 
Adjacent areas should not be noisy or unsightly. Level to rolling 
terrain is best, but some slope is desirable to permit drainage.
    Two to five sites are identified and advance to the next step in 
the process.
Environmental Assessment
    To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the top sites 
are assessed to determine the impact of a cemetery on the environment. 
An environmental assessment document is prepared, identifying VA's 
preferred site. The assessment must result in a ``finding of no 
significant impact'' for the site to be considered. After receiving a 
positive finding, VA makes the results available to the public for a 
30-day comment period. After that, VA officials make a final 
recommendation to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who decides 
whether to acquire the property.
Land Acquisition
    In some instances, land is donated to VA. In other cases, federal 
and state agencies transfer property to VA at no cost. Otherwise, land 
is purchased at the fair market value established by a real-property 
appraisal. Before the final sales contract is signed, the Department of 
Justice, acting on VA's behalf, reviews all documents to ensure that 
the contract and title meet all requirements for a legal transfer of 
ownership.
Master Planning and Design Development
    Once VA takes title to the land, it solicits bids from 
architectural and engineering (A/E) firms and contracts with one to 
design the new cemetery. The A/E firm prepares a master plan for 
developing all phases of the cemetery, and follows with a more detailed 
design for the first phase of construction. The first phase usually 
includes the first active burial section and the required 
infrastructure to operate the cemetery. Later phases generally include 
new burial sections and associated infrastructure. Typically, each 
phase of construction is designed to provide burial space for 10 years.
Construction Document Preparation
    Under a second negotiated contract, the A/E firm prepares plans and 
specifications that detail all aspects of phase-one construction: 
active burial sections, administrative and maintenance buildings, 
public information center, committal shelters, roads and other 
infrastructure. These documents provide the basis for contractors to 
bid on constructing the project.
Construction Award and Completion
    Finally, VA solicits bids and awards a contract for construction of 
the new cemetery. The process takes about four months; actual 
construction of phase one takes about 24 months.
    Land purchases and construction require multiple congressional 
appropriations, over several years' budgets, to complete each phase. In 
total, site selection, environmental assessment, master planning, 
design and phase-one construction require about five years to complete.
    One of VA's goals is to provide veterans reasonable access to 
burial options. VA considers reasonable access to mean that a veteran 
or spouse can have a casketed or cremation burial in a national or 
state veterans cemetery within 75 miles of home. Experience and recent 
data show that more than 80 percent of persons interred in national 
cemeteries lived within 75 miles of the cemetery when they died.
    To achieve that goal, VA builds new national cemeteries where 
veterans do not already have access. VA also manages the State Cemetery 
Grants Program, which encourages states to build veterans cemeteries in 
unserved areas. The number of veterans within 75 miles of a national or 
state veterans cemetery with available burial space has increased from 
65 percent in 1995 to 83 percent today. In 2009, 89 percent of veterans 
will have that access.
    VA has built six new national cemeteries since 1997 and is 
currently constructing five new ones. It is also increasing the long-
term burial capacity of existing national cemeteries by acquiring 
adjacent land, building columbaria for cremated remains where feasible, 
and using designs that maximize the space available.

                                 
                                U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
                               Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs
                                                    Washington, DC.
                                                      July 11, 2008

The Honorable John T. Salazar
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Salazar:
    At the Subcommittee's May 2, 2008, field hearing on the U.S. 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Cemetery Construction Policy, you 
asked whether VA has the authority to accept, as a gift, funds for the 
construction of a national cemetery. At the hearing, I indicated that 
it would be necessary for me to consult with Counsel in order to 
provide an answer to your question.
    VA General Counsel has advised me that the Secretary has authority 
to accept funds designated for the construction of a national cemetery. 
Such authority is set forth in 38 U.S.C., section 8301, which permits 
the Secretary to ``accept, for use in carrying out all laws 
administered by the Secretary, gifts, devises, and bequests which will 
enhance the Secretary's ability to provide services or benefits.''
    A copy of the document by which the General Counsel sets forth this 
opinion is enclosed.
    A similar letter has been sent to Chairman John J. Hall and Ranking 
Republican Member Doug L. Lamborn.

            Sincerely,
                                                   William F. Tuerk
Enclosure

                               __________

    Authority to Accept Gifts of Land or Monetary Donations for the 
                  Construction of a National Cemetery
    The Secretary is authorized to accept gifts of lands for national 
cemeteries, and gift devises, or bequests made for the beautification 
or benefit of the national cemeteries. 38 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 2406, 240. 
Relative to this gift acceptance authority, the Secretary has delegated 
to the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs certain gift acceptance 
authority for donations made, in any manner, to the National Cemetery 
Administration for the beautification or benefit of national 
cemeteries, except offers of land. 38 CFR Sec. 2.6(f)(3). The Secretary 
has retained authority to accept offers of land. The Secretary's 
authority for acceptance of an offer of land may be delegated in 
writing to another official pursuant to VA Directive 0000, but there is 
no such delegation currently in force.
    Other than 38 U.S.C. Sec. 8103(a)(1) and (2), which authorized the 
Secretary to accept gifts of land for the construction of a medical 
facility, or acquisition of a facility (including the site of such 
facility) for use as a VA medical facility, we are aware of no other 
statutory provision that expressly authorizes the Secretary to accept 
land donations. The remaining gift acceptance authorities contained in 
title 38 authorize the acceptance of gifts: for recreational activities 
furthering rehabilitation of disabled veterans (38 U.S.C. Sec. 521(b)); 
of merchandise, fixtures, equipment, and supplies for the use and 
benefit of the Veterans' Canteen Service (38 U.S.C. Sec. 7802(h)); for 
the construction, acquisition, and operation of medical facilities (38 
U.S.C. Sec. 8104(e)); and for the use and benefit of veteran patients 
or members of hospitals or homes, the hospitals or homes themselves, or 
for use in carrying out all VA laws (38 U.S.C. Sec. 8301).
    The Secretary has authority to accept funds designated for the 
construction of a national cemetery. Section 8301 of title 38 permits 
the Secretary to ``accept, for use in carrying out all laws 
administered by the Secretary, gifts, devises, and bequests which will 
enhance the Secretary's ability to provide services or benefits.'' By 
memorandum dated September 10, 2005, the Secretary delegated this gift 
acceptance authority under section 8301 (second sentence) to Under 
Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and other key officials, to include 
the Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs (USMA). Subject to this 
delegation, the USMA may accept donations made expressly for the 
construction of a national cemetery. Pursuant to internal VA principles 
governing the acceptance of gifts authorized under the last sentence of 
38 U.S.C. Sec. 8301, as approved by the Secretary on September 10, 
2005, funds accepted with a commitment to use them as the donor 
specifies will be administered in fulfillment of the donor's specified 
wishes. Pursuant to 38 U.S.C. Sec. 8302, monetary funds are 
administered through the General Post Fund in accordance with its rules 
of accounting and disbursement.

                                      Office of the General Counsel
                                                 Amanda R. Blackmon
                                                     (202) 461-7665
                                                       June 5, 2008