Cultural Resources

Policy & Legal

DoD Policy & Instructions

The DoD cultural resources management framework is established in Department of Defense Instruction 4715.16, Cultural Resources Management (DoDI 4715.16). The Instruction directs each of the DoD Components to manage and maintain cultural resources under their control in a sustainable manner through a comprehensive program that:

  • considers the preservation of historic, archaeological, architectural, and cultural values;
  • is mission supporting; and
  • results in sound and responsible stewardship.
DoDI 4715.16: Cultural Resources Management

This Instruction establishes DoD cultural resources policy and assigns responsibilities under the authority of DoD Directive (DoDD) 5134.01 and in accordance with DoDD 4715.1E to comply with applicable Federal statutory and regulatory requirements, Executive orders, and Presidential memorandums for the integrated management of cultural resources on DoD-managed lands. In 2017, WHS made administrative updates to DoDI 4715.16, Cultural Resources Management, with a redline version called "Change 1."  These revisions included updates to legal references and some OSD and other Component reorganization name changes. WHS published the incorporation of those 2017 redline edits in an updated version of DoDI 4715.16, called "Change 2," dated August 31, 2018. 

Federal Law, Regulations, and Executive Orders

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) provides for the preservation of significant historic properties throughout the Nation. It established the National Register of Historic Places and authorized the development of its criteria for nomination. The NHPA provides for the designation and appointment of State Historic Preservation Officers and State Review Boards by State Governors to evaluate National Register nominations. The “Section 106 process” instructs Federal agencies that prior to carrying out, approving financial assistance for, or issuing a permit for any undertaking or project, the Federal agency must take into account the effect of its undertakings on historic properties. The NHPA established the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to advise the President and Congress on matters relating to historic preservation and to comment on Federal agency compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA. The NHPA also created the Historic Preservation Fund to assist States and local and tribal governments with carrying out their roles in furthering historic preservation. Additionally, the NHPA instructs the Secretary of the Interior to set forth guidelines to assist Federal agencies in meeting preservation planning requirements.

To access the NHPA statute, visit:

Office of Law Revision Counsel, United States Code

U.S. Government Publishing Office

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, as amended

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony, to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. Under NAGPRA, Federal agencies review their cultural resources collections and consult with tribes to determine cultural affiliations and repatriate as appropriate.

Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, as amended

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) protects archaeological resources and sites on public and Indian lands. The ARPA provides Federal agencies with certain authorities to protect archaeological resources and prosecute looters, while also requiring land-managing agencies to plan for and manage archaeological resources.

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) encourages productive and enjoyable harmony between humans and their environment by promoting efforts to prevent or eliminate damage to the environment, while stimulating people's health and welfare. The NEPA encourages better understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources that are important to the Nation and establishes a Council on Environmental Quality. Federal agencies must address historic and cultural resources within the following sections of the Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement: definition of effects, affected environment, and environmental consequences.

Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archeological Collections of 1990 (36 CFR Part 79)

The regulations in this part establish definitions, standards, procedures, and guidelines for Federal agencies to preserve collections of prehistoric and historic material remains and associated records recovered under the authority of the Antiquities Act, the Reservoir Salvage Act, Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act, or the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Under these regulations, Federal agencies ensure that existing archaeological collections are properly managed and preserved. Agencies maintain identification of and administrative records on the disposition of each collection and ensure that collections are made available for scientific, educational, and religious uses.

Executive Order 13287-Preserve America-March 3, 2003

This Executive Order states that it is the policy of the Federal Government to provide leadership in preserving America's heritage by actively advancing the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of the historic properties owned by the Federal Government, and by promoting intergovernmental cooperation and partnerships for the preservation and use of historic properties.

DoD Report for Section 3(c) of Executive Order (EO) 13287 - Report, 2014 pdf [410 KB]

This report satisfies the requirements of Section 3(c) of Executive Order (EO) 13287, Preserve America for the Department of Defense (DoD) for FY2011-2013. The Preserve America EO mandates that all Federal agencies with real property management responsibilities submit reports on their progress in identifying, protecting, and using historic properties in its ownership. This is a consolidated report for DoD, including information on the Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Progress Report on the Identification, Protection, and Use of Federal Historic Properties - Report, 2011 pdf [99 KB]

This report satisfies the requirements of Section 3(c) of Executive Order (EO) 13287, Preserve America for the Department of Defense (DoD) for FY2008-2010. The Preserve America EO mandates that all Federal agencies with  real property management responsibilities submit reports on their progress in identifying, protecting, and using historic properties in its ownership. This is a consolidated report for DoD, including information on the Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Improving Federal Agency Planning and Accountability: Reporting Progress on the Identification, Protection, and Use of Federal Historic Properties - 2008, DoD pdf [213 KB]

This report satisfies the requirements of Section 3(c) of Executive Order (EO) 13287, Preserve America for the Department of Defense (DoD). The Preserve America EO mandates that all Federal agencies with real property management responsibilities submit reports on their progress in identifying, protecting, and using historic properties in its ownership. This is a consolidated report for DoD, including information on the Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

DoD Response to Executive Order 13287 - Preserve America - 2004 pdf [870 KB]

This 2004 report encompasses the DoD’s response to Executive Order 13287, including information on the Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force.