A new agreement between the University of Nebraska System and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will expand collaborative efforts to identify U.S. service members missing or unaccounted for from the country’s past conflicts.
NU President Ted Carter and DPAA Director Kelly McKeague signed a Memorandum of Understanding during a recent ceremony attended by Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, Adjutant General of the Nebraska National Guard, and other DPAA and university leaders.
Under the agreement, the DPAA will be able to draw on faculty and student expertise, resources and facilities across the NU System to advance its mission to account for the 81,000-plus U.S. service members who remain missing and provide closure to their families. Simultaneously, university faculty and students will have opportunities to work with experienced forensic scientists engaged in a mission of high national importance.
“I am so pleased to sign this agreement with the DPAA and be part of the mission to provide answers to families whose loved ones gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Carter said. “This work speaks to our values as a university and as Nebraskans. We look forward to this collaboration and the opportunities it will provide our faculty and students to engage in meaningful work alongside some of our nation’s leading forensic scientists.”
Director McKeague said: “Having been established in the Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, and Nebraska communities for the last 10 years and achieving a number of successes, signing this agreement with the University of Nebraska System is a next logical step to both enhance DPAA’s noble mission as well as to contribute to the partnership with the University System to enhance scientific disciplines.”
The DPAA’s original skeletal human forensic laboratory is located in Hawaii; a second lab was established at Offutt to help expand capacity. That lab’s proximity to NU campuses has allowed for successful collaborations in recent years. For example, University of Nebraska at Omaha faculty and students launched a software system to speed the process of identifying human remains; what once took weeks of work on Excel spreadsheets can now be done in hours or days. And a certificate in forensic anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln includes opportunities for students to train and intern at the DPAA. A DPAA research partner fellow is also based in UNL’s Department of History.
The new agreement between NU and the DPAA will build on that work, engaging all four campuses in the university system. Archaeology, dentistry, information science and technology, anthropology and other disciplines will be involved.
Others attending the signing ceremony included University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor and NU Executive Vice President and Provost Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.; UNO Chancellor Joanne Li, Ph.D., CFA; Col. Matt Brennan, DPAA deputy director of operations; State Sen. Rita Sanders; and Randy Norwood, military liaison for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.