U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (Army / via AP)
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The Pentagon has named acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michael Lumpkin as the point person for efforts to bring home prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to a congressional source.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made that decision last week, a few days after putting Lumpkin in charge of reorganizing the Defense Department’s POW/MIA accounting effort.
Lumpkin, a retired Navy SEAL who previously worked as the Hagel’s top adviser on special operations, will add to his duties the search for America’s only captive POW from the Afghanistan war.
Bergdahl, an Idaho native, was taken prisoner in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. A “proof of life” video showing the 27-year-old soldier was released in January.
The move comes after weeks of news that various government agencies, including U.S. Central Command and the State Department, have been working on sometimes conflicting negotiations with Bergdahl’s captors.
Proposals include a possible deal that would exchange Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But in recent days, those efforts appear to have stalled again.
Last week, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Hagel in a series of letters to appoint a single official to better coordinate efforts to rescue Bergdahl.
“It is absolutely critical that efforts to free Bergdahl are not overcome by bureaucracy,” he wrote.
Other lawmakers offered similar concerns about the seemingly disjointed efforts. Hagel made the decision to route all work through Lumpkin’s office in an attempt to make sure overzealous agencies weren’t becoming counterproductive.
Bergdahl is the longest-held POW since the end of the Vietnam War.