Cultural Resources

International Cultural Property Protection

Safeguarding cultural property when U.S. Armed Forces are deployed abroad is a duty under the law of war. It can also play a critical role as a force multiplier because protecting cultural property can improve relationships with local populations by evidencing a respectful and professional fighting force that complies with the law of war. When our forces show consideration of and respect for a local population's cultural heritage and historic properties, the Military earns trust that can be built upon to improve relationships with host nations, increases the efficacy of military tactics, and promotes warfighter safety. Respect for and protection of cultural property is an expression of American values and supports the defense mission.

The tangible evidence and expressions of a culture’s heritage are reflected in it's traditions and cultural property — inherently valuable,and often irreplaceable resources that can include:

  • works of art such as paintings, murals, and statues;
  • historic and ancient buildings and monuments, and ruins of such structures;
  • archaeological sites and artifacts found on or beneath the land or underwater, and their associated records and materials;
  • museums, libraries, and archives, and their collections; and
  • sacred places, such as churches, mosques, temples, shrines, sanctuaries, and cemeteries.

Although particular aspects of the technical and subject matter expertise for international cultural property protection may fall to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment (OASD(EI&E)), policy relating to cultural property protection during armed conflict falls within the purview of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD) for Policy, specifically the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ODASD) for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs.  

Law & Policy

Pan American Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments, 1935, 49 Stat. 3267.

Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, 1970.

Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, 2016, Public Law 114-151, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.

Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 1983, Public Law 97-446, 96 Stat. 2329; as amended in 1987, Public Law 100-204, 101 Stat. 1331.

U.S. Department of Defense, Directive 2311.01E, Law of War Program

This directive establishes DoD policy that “(m)embers of the DoD Components comply with the law of war during all armed conflicts, however such conflicts are characterized, and in all other military operations.” This requirement includes the requirement to comply with the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and customary international law applicable to the protection of cultural property during armed conflict.

U.S. Department of Defense Law of War Manual, June 2015, Updated December 2016

This publication provides information on the law of war for DoD personnel and includes information on the law of war’s protections for cultural property.  The latest version of the DoD Law of War Manual is available here:

Report on Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, submitted in compliance with the reporting requirement contained in Section 1273 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, Public Law 113-291

This report describes DoD policy and practice in providing protection for cultural property abroad at risk of destruction due to armed conflict.

U.S. Department of Defense, Central Command, General Order 1A (GO-1A), Prohibited Activities for U.S. Department of Defense Personnel Present Within the United States Central Command AOR

U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), Regulation Number 200-2, Environmental Quality, Chapter 6: Historical and Cultural Preservation

Reports & Guidance

In-Theater Heritage Training Brief (Legacy 06-324) pdf [183 KB]

A script for In-Theater Heritage Training concerning archaeological sites and sacred places in Iraq and Afghanistan. Basic briefing appropriate for all deploying military personnel.

OCONUS Data Layer for Cultural Resources: A Feasibility Study ppt [37.63 MB]
OCONUS Data Layer for Cultural Resources: A Feasibility Study FACTSHEET pdf [197 KB]

This one page summary describes a project that developed and partially populated a cultural resources database and a GIS data layer for OCONUS regions where DoD personnel are deployed; assessed the depth, breadth, and availability of needed OCONUS culture resource information; and made recommendations concerning how to efficiently and effectively develop these OCONUS cultural resource data layers in future efforts.

Training for In-Theater Cultural Resources Protection: Training Assets Construction Specifications (Legacy 06-324) pdf [1.83 MB]

Consideration for preservation of archeological sites and cultural properties in military theaters of operation is becoming increasingly essential to the mission. The attached specifications offer quick solutions for construction of training assets that replicate a variety of cultural properties that our personnel may encounter overseas. At Fort Drum we have added these assets to the Adirondack Aerial Gunnery Range as well as to the Mobile MOUT and the Urban Sprawl Area. The trainers at Fort Drum are finding them to be valuable and are requesting more.

Training for In-Theater Cultural Resources Protection: Training Assets Construction Specifications (Legacy 06-324) doc [216 KB]

This one page summary describes the objective of this project, to provide practical training materials that are easily available to military personnel at all levels.