Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Cultural Resources Education in the Department of Defense: Recognizing the Need for a Heightened Awareness 

12-09-2015 17:35

The Department of Defense (DOD) boasts a rich and varied inventory of historic and archaeological resources, one of the largest collections of National Register properties in America. The inventory includes tens of thousands of historic buildings, many of them situated in extensive historic districts. They are interesting for their variety, as well as for their number. Some of today`s military families still live in simple eighteenthcentury farmhouses that the DOD inherited from civilian predecessors. A few live in ornate Victorians. Most, however, are living in mid-twentieth-century tract housing--of historical significance in its own right because it provided prototypes for mass-produced housing later introduced into our civilian suburbs. The daily workplace for thousands of military and civilian workers on military bases offers unself-conscious examples of preservation by means of adaptive use: nineteenth-century stables and factories transformed for twentieth-century functions. The DOD also enjoys some breathtaking historic planned communities: Ernest Flagg`s Beaux-Arts Naval Academy in Annapolis, for example.

Archaeological sites also abound on military reservations. They span a startling 15,000-year period of time. You might say that the DOD has been an inadvertent preservationist, saving from development the hundreds of thousands of acres of buffer zones and training areas that might have been dug up and destroyed except for the DOD`s passive use and careful stewardship.

The DOD is also responsible for historic ships and shipwrecks, historic aircraft, space vehicle launch-pads, and historic sites and artifacts from every era in the nation`s history and from the continent`s prehistoric eras as well.

Many of these resources are used daily in the military mission. These are the buildings in which DOD personnel work, the land and water areas in which the DOD operates, the shipwrecks that speak of tragic chapters in our nautical history. More than 40,000 people reside in historic military housing; many children grow up never experiencing anything else as "home." These cultural resources are not separate and apart from daily life on military bases; they are as pervasive and unavoidable as any other part of the daily environment. This means that a wide range of people throughout the department come in contact with the DOD`s cultural resources, performing tasks that may affect the resources, directly or indirectly, all the time. A successful cultural-resources awareness and training program has to reach out to all of these people and be tailored to suit their diversity.

Who are these people, and what are their cultural-resources training needs? Consider some key examples:

  • Commanding officers at the local installation level always play the crucial decision making role, given the decentralized nature of military organizational structures. Their decisions inevitably affect all cultural resources under local control. Commanding officers have no need for detailed cultural-resources training, but they are prime candidates for general awareness efforts. The aim is to sensitize them to the existence of cultural resources on lands they control, persuade them of the significance that society attaches to these resources, and inform them about the cultural resources laws that their oath of office binds them to uphold.
  • Public-works personnel have hands-on responsibilities for cultural resources on military bases. They handle routine repairs and maintenance, land-use planning, construction, and such natural-resources activities as forestry that may affect cultural resources. Installations have cultural resources that specialists on staff often assign to the public works department. These people range in background from fully trained archaeologists to environmental generalists or natural-resources professionals who know little about cultural resources, which they handle on a part-time, collateral basis only. This is when the most formal, intensive, and detailed cultural-resources training is appropriately directed.
  • The Army and the Marine Corps use large land areas for training exercises that directly affect cultural resources, both on the land and beneath the surface. The officers who lead these operations may be unaware of the existence or significance of cultural resources in the vicinity of their operations, nor do they know how to recognize them or to deal with them if encountered. Military and civilian personnel who manage test and evaluation ranges may be similarly described. The challenge here is to train them to recognize the existence and the high value of the resources they may come in contact with, and to motivate them and provide options for avoiding damage. All of this has to be packaged in an attractive fashion that stresses compatibility with required military operations.
  • Most installations have dependents, employees, and others who use cultural resources on a daily basis. These are the residents who live in historic military family housing and who enjoy recreation in the vicinity of archaeological resources prehistoric burials, or traditional sacred sites. They are the military and civilian personnel who work in historic buildings or whose work takes them out to culturally rich locations in the field. How do you make casual users knowledgeable and sympathetic to good stewardship?
  • Comptroller and budget managers at all levels of command pose a peculiar educational challenge to the cultural-resources community. They are accorded great respect within the DOD and are sometimes asked to make program recommendations beyond the scope of their expertise. They tend to hold to the notion that preservation is an unnecessary, high cost frill, and they commonly question preservation projects and recommend against funding them. Like commanding officers they need sensitization training and general cultural-resources information. They also need to be provided with data-based corrective information about reasonable and necessary preservation costs, the wasteful and excessive costs that faulty stewardship practices impose, and cost savings that "smart" techniques and timely preservation have to offer.

Relatively few of these DOD training needs have been addressed in the past. The principal in-house training currently available for DOD personnel is a week-long preservation workshop offered once every two years. Participants with a range of backgrounds from all four military services come together from all over the country. The workshop aims at and draws primarily from civilian professionals and the public-works/cultural-resource specialists described above. The workshop enables them to establish networks for sharing professional experiences. It also provides knowledgeable speakers and presentations from preservation agencies and from the DOD`S senior cultural-resources managers. Topics cover substantive issues in historic preservation and archaeology, legislative trends, procedural techniques, funding and contracting issues, and insights into current professional controversies. This biannual DOD cultural-resources workshop is popular and well attended. If staffing and travel dollars were available, it would be presented more often.

For a number of years the Air Force organized an annual summer school for DOD cultural-resources personnel at the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. The emphasis was on archaeology, but some information was offered about the built environment and interagency coordination procedures. The program targeted the same audience as the biannual workshop: public-works personnel already aware of cultural resources and the legislatively mandated requirements for their protection who were looking for more detailed job-related training and networking opportunities. The course was last offered in 1987. It was dropped because evaluations indicated that the high level of archaeological detail was probably not useful for the ordinary cultural-resources manager in attendance. Most of the DOD archaeology is performed under contract and engages professionals from outside of the department. DOD personnel just need to know enough about archaeology to enable them to manage quality contracts.

The National Park Service has long been committed to cultural-resources training for personnel in other agencies. DOD personnel have always availed themselves of these excellent training opportunities. Additionally, dozens of DOD personnel have been trained by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation staff regarding compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. (Section 106 involves interagency consultation to consider the possible effects a federal project may have on cultural resources.) The Advisory Council joins with the General Services Administration to offer a popular three-day course that serves also to sensitize participants to other aspects of cultural-resources management in addition to strict compliance with Section 106.

Despite these existing training opportunities, however, most DOD personnel who come in contact with cultural resources in their work or in their play have not yet received any formal instruction in the widespread existence of cultural resources in their everyday lives nor about the resources` significance and fragility and legislation protecting them. In particular, commanding officers, everyday users of historic buildings, comptroller, and military operations personnel have not yet had any of the DOD cultural-resources training directed at them. The question, then, is how to reach all of the varied target audiences, each in a manner and to a degree appropriate to its level of involvement in cultural resources.

Military and civilian personnel at all levels need training in the basics: the nature of cultural resources, the legislation that protects them from possible damage by federal agencies, appropriate costs of compliance actions, and possibly some salutary stories about the costs of noncompliance. Decision makers and comptroller need the practical information about staff and dollar resources that is necessary for routine legal compliance and suggestions for integrating cultural-resources management with the management of other resources that they control. Others may need specialized training in consultant selection and contract management or maintenance and repair of historic buildings, or stabilization of archaeological sites on land or underwater. The legislation requires so much intricate interagency coordination that detailed procedural training in interagency coordination is appropriate for some personnel.

This diversity of training needs, targeting a large and varied audience scattered all through the organization, suggests a modular training format. Each employee should be able to select from a menu of instructional videos, classroom situations, field experiences, and printed materials to construct an individualized training program. The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) already takes this approach. The SCS has developed a set of seven fifteen-to-twenty-minute videos with accompanying student manuals. (The substance and thrust of these videos are sufficiently specific to SCS situations and operations that they do not lend themselves to adoption by the military services, although they do provide a useful model.)

A proposal for a modular training program for the DOD is under review for possible funding. The proposal envisions a set of topical video modules--in an economical voice-over slide format with accompanying printed materials--that will serve as the basis of an agency-wide awareness and training program. Consider this core video curriculum:

General Cultural-Resources Awareness Visually interesting examples from the military services` inventories. Emerging national perception of the importance of cultural resources. The notion of federal stewardship. Compatibility with military missions. Legislative history. DoD policies and programs.

The DOD`s Archaeological Resources Nature and significance. How do you recognize archaeological resources when you`re out in the field? Regional variations. Native peoples` concerns. Underwater archaeology. Overview surveys. Excavations. Inadvertent discoveries. Where to go for help.

Archaeological Resources Protection Preservation in place preferred. Permits under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Looting, lucre, jail. Metal detectors and other taboos. The "salvage" alternative. Site stabilization. Treatment of human burials.

What Makes a Military Building "Historic"? Illustrative examples from the military services` inventories--industrial administrative, residential, etcetera. Explain/apply National Register criteria in the DOD context.

Do I Really Have to Preserve It? No. Variety of options. Finding outside professional help. Study of alternatives. Retention in use preferred. Feasibility studies. Cost analyses. Adaptive-use challenges. Last resort: demolition after recordation.

Section 106 Procedures Emphasis on correct procedures. Key players: Advisory Council, state historic preservation officers, National Park Service, and you. Public-participation requirements. Creative negotiation. Mitigation possibilities. The Memorandum of Agreement as desirable outcome. Failure to agree. Section 106 and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The DOD`s "Special" Resources Historic ships afloat and shipwrecks. Historic aircraft. Tanks and cannons. The space program. Ordnance-contaminated areas.

Running a Cultural Resources Program What does it cost? Where does the money come from? What sort of professionals do I need? The costs of preservation inaction. Issues in cultural-resources contracting. DOD applications of The Secretary of the Interior`s Standards.

This set of instructional videos cannot be expected to stand alone, however. Only a multimedia approach can begin to meet such diverse training needs. The popular biannual week-long DOD preservation workshop is planned to continue, and it may be scheduled more frequently. It could also be redesigned--possibly for a more homogeneous audience of cultural-resources neophytes. For those who already have advanced training or who have fully benefited from the beginners` workshop, the possibility of a subsequent "graduate" workshop has been discussed. Expanded participation in pertinent training courses offered by other agencies, most notably the National Park Service, is another indispensable segment of personnel training upon which proper stewardship depends.

Additionally, each military service has its own peculiar training vehicles. The army`s Civil Engineering Research Laboratory and the Waterways Experimental Station, for example, have sufficient senior in-house professional cultural-resources expertise to provide training for others. The navy`s Civil Engineer Officer School presents general environmental courses, a prospective commanding officers` course, and others that include cultural-resources awareness briefs.

The DOD school system has more than 150,000 children in attendance, constituting a ready audience for early cultural-resources awareness and stewardship training.

A multimedia approach must also include periodic newsletters, bulletins, and other mailings. An electronic bulletin board, the Cultural Resources Information System, is already in operation, maintained by the U.S. Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory and available for use by all military services.

Nothing can substitute for face-to-face meetings, however. Such meetings can provide a potent instructional vehicle. In particular, senior officers and civilian officials may have to be targeted for one-on-one consciousness raising during the early stages of the training program, while group awareness and training sessions and videotapes are still being developed.

The principal reason such a wide-reaching training program is not already in place has been a lack of funding. So where will the human and dollar resources come from to accomplish all of this? Cultural-resources projects have always had to compete for funding with weapons and base-modernization projects that have more appeal to military decision makers. In fiscal year 1991, however, Congress for the first time provided "fenced" funding for cultural resources--that is, funding that is directed by law to be used only for specific purposes. This funding established the Legacy Resource Management Program, a new program for enhanced stewardship of the cultural and natural resources under DOD jurisdiction. This program is providing the means to forge ahead with a vigorous DOD training program.

At the same time Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney has declared his commitment to enhanced environmental stewardship throughout the department. The programs under his leadership include an environmental-training initiative, and the DOD cultural resources community has joined forces with the environmental leadership to make sure that cultural resources are included in the DOD environmental-training initiative.

The future for cultural-resources training within the DOD`S shifting priorities, then, is looking bright. The secretary and Congress are consistent in their insistence that the environment, and historic preservation, holds firm as a DOD priority.

The need for a strengthened awareness and training thrust has been acknowledged and delineated. Training targets and training vehicles have been identified. A 1990s training program is taking shape that will ensure twenty-first-century preservation of that part of the nation`s heritage that is under the stewardship of the Department of Defense.

Publication Date: January/February 1992


Author(s):John Bernard Murphy