Veterans

What happens when Arlington National Cemetery is at capacity

Perhaps the most hallowed burial ground in the United States is Arlington National Cemetery. The problem is that this cemetery is running out of room. In fact, at the current pace, it will be full in about a quarter century.


According to reports, the cemetery is now facing some hard decisions. While there are discussions with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Arlington County to purchase 37 acres adjacent to the cemetery, at the current pace, that new land would only account for about a decade more of space for this ground. So, what does the DoD do with this sacred, national icon?

President Donald Trump participates in the Memorial Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 29, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

A Feb. 1 release by Arlington National Cemetery noted that there will likely be a change in the criteria to be interred. Current standards allow entrance to military retirees and those who have served on active duty. Other options were outlined in a February 2017 report by the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery.

"Given the limited amount of land available to ANC, eligibility is the only way to address the challenge of keeping ANC open for future interments for generations to come," says Deputy Superintendent Renea Yates. The release cited results from a survey claiming that most respondents acknowledged the need to adjust eligibility criteria.

A funeral procession at Arlington National Cemetery. (Wikimedia Commons photo by EditorASC)

The new criteria could limit future interments to those who are killed in action or those who are highly-decorated for heroism in combat. One likely cutoff is said to be the Medal of Honor. Only 20 Medals of Honor have been awarded for acts taking place after the Vietnam War — nine of which were awarded posthumously.

The Advisory Committee is preparing a new survey for stakeholders that will take place this coming spring, with an eye towards developing recommendations to present to the Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. One thing is certain: Even if expansions take place, it will be tougher to be buried at Arlington in the future.