No faith in unproven approach
I am an ORISE fellow with Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, but this letter reflects only my personal views and not those of the Department of Defense or JPAC. The Dec. 4 article “Ex-investigator, critics say JPAC ignoring clues, technology that could bring unknowns home” states that “[former deputy chief of JPAC’s World War II Research and Investigation Branch Rick] Stone used a police technique called ‘random incident statistical correlations’ ” in his effort to identify “103 sets of remains recovered from the Battle of Tarawa.”
Things that sound too good to be true often are. Federal law requires the JPAC Central Identification Laboratory to use validated forensic anthropology techniques that comply with the Daubert standard. Stone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
The RISC system, which is not science of any known kind, fails to meet the Daubert standard, and has never been tested, peer reviewed or published. The RISC system has not been accepted, as required by federal law, in “the relevant scientific community.” (The combination of “random” and “correlation” in the title is a huge hint that this “system” is not the work of a competent statistician.)
By law, the identification of the remains of missing U.S. servicemembers must be based on techniques that have been validated and tested by the relevant scientific community, in this case forensic anthropology. Stone’s so-called “system,” which meets none of these basic standards, is neither a system nor is it science.
When one person with neither training nor credibility suddenly discovers an untested miracle scientific breakthrough, the press has an obligation to look into the person’s background and assess the claims. Stars and Stripes relies on a deeply flawed source to criticize the JPAC Central Identification Laboratory’s scientific integrity, just as CBS relied on a single, flawed source for the recent “60 Minutes” Benghazi story.
Stone has done a tremendous disservice to the families of the missing — and Stars and Stripes has compounded that disservice by publishing his demonstrably dubious claims as if they were fact.
Paul M. Cole
Joint Base Pearl-Hickam, Hawaii
Stripes invaluable downrange
I want to add my voice to the calls for the reconsideration of any proposed Defense Media Activity budget cuts. Just as Stars and Stripes ombudsman Ernie Gates put it so eloquently (“As Hagel made his rounds, let’s hope he noticed how Stripes matters to GIs,” column, Dec. 11), Stripes has served generations of military personnel around the world and it continues to do so today. Sequestration calls for stringent measures to help benefit all, but cutting Defense Media Activity’s budget would have detrimental and demoralizing effects on the troops. One only has to visit a dining facility at any forward operating base to understand how valuable Stripes is to the men and women the nation has sent abroad to serve their country.
In a typical FOB, the sources of news are the television sets mounted at the dining facilities and Stripes. With these two main sources of information for the troops, the TV option at the DFAC only serves as a fleeting source because soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors working in a FOB or deployed environment do not have the luxury of sitting down for a long time to “check out” the news. They are in the dining hall or facility to eat and leave. That is it.
They catch the glimpses of what is on the TV without actually knowing what is going on. Stripes in this instance becomes the only viable alternative for the troops to catch up on all they have missed back home.
On a personal level, I am on my second tour of duty in the Middle East and the joy of having to see and pick up Stripes at the DFAC is one of my motivations to go for breakfast every day. A couple of months ago I was stationed in a small post here in the Middle East. We did not get Stripes. However, we were lucky enough to get American Forces Network radio and TV. Those were the times when sequestration began and, therefore, the AFN networks went off the air. We were very depressed because in an area where we did not get Stripes, and AFN was off the air, we were left with unreliable Internet services. And this was when the NFL season had just begun.
To many troops tucked away in isolated and remote places around the world, Stripes is the only source of news and information on which they can rely. Thus I believe any attempt to arbitrarily cut Defense Media Activity services — to include stamping out Stripes as if it is a budgetary cockroach — could be a very sad episode in the lives of the troops serving in remote areas of the world.
I pray many other voices are raised to help spare Stripes from all the budget-cutting pandemonium that is going around.
Sgt. Richard Ansah
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait