Even with a soon-to-be-completed expansion, known as the Millennium Project, which will add 27 acres and about 28,000 burial sites starting this summer, Arlington National Cemetery is set to reach capacity two decades from now, in the 2040s.
This, as well as the fact that features of the hallowed ground “need all sorts of attention” — according to Katharine Kelley, one of the cemetery’s superintendents, brought a group of lawmakers and officials to the lands surrounding the northern Virginia site Wednesday.
United States Army Colonel and Arlington National Cemetery Director of Engineering Michael Peloquin, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) congregated at the Air Force Memorial just down the road where more than 400,000 Americans have been laid to rest.
“Envision this hillside in white headstones,” said Peloquin, via Stars and Stripes. “We want to replicate the look and the feel in this new space.”
The proposed expansion, which still faces many obstacles (including over a quarter of a billion dollars for construction) would add another 40,000 to 60,000 sites and push back the capacity timeline more than a decade.
The current legislation that keeps the lights turned on is due to expire April 28. To avoid a shutdown, representatives must put together a resolution in the coming weeks.
An Army spokesperson also noted that the cemetery has a maintenance backlog approaching $115 million.
“The Army recognizes that the nation is at a critical point in the cemetery’s history,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, director of Army National Military Cemeteries.