ARLINGTON, Va. (Nexstar) — Arlington National Cemetery is running out of space for burials.
Officials said currently 22 million veterans and servicemembers are currently eligible for burial at the historic cemetery, but limited space remains.
Officials are now proposing new rules that would tighten requirements for above and below ground burials.
It’s the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members and their families, but with 25 to 30 military burials a day, space is running low.
“Today we have less than 95,000 spaces,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, Army National Military Cemeteries Executive Director.
Karen Durham-Aguilera said there are plans to break ground on an expansion project to make more room.
“Which will give us around 60,000 more burial spaces. so it’s going to make a big difference,” Durham-Aguilera said.
But expansion alone won’t meet the demand for burial space, which is why officials say they are considering changes to burial requirements.
“It’s a hard reality, we are focusing on sacrifice, those who gave their ultimate devotion and gave their lives,” Durham-Aguilera said.
The proposed plan would reserve below ground burials to those killed in action, Purple Heart recipients and prisoners of war. But servicemembers who die on active duty, but not in combat, would no longer be eligible.
“40 percent of our members will not be eligible,” said Miles Migliara, AMVETS spokesperson.
Migliara works with AMVETS, one of the nation’s largest veteran groups. He said while some are disappointed by the proposed changes. His organization believes the cemetery should do whatever it takes to remain active.
“It has to continue to be sustainable,” he said
The proposed changes will now begin the federal rule making process which includes a public comment period. Officials said it’s an important part of planning for the future.
“We want to be available for both our current veterans and that 5-year-old that is going to raise his or her hand one day to serve this nation,” said Durham-Aguilera said.
Officials said the proposed plan could help extend burials at Arlington National Cemetery for 150 years.