The Military LAND Act was included as section 2816 of H.R 4435 Defense Authorization Bill. In effect this bill would allow federal agencies to block National Register listings and rescind National Register listings on the basis of national security.
The Military LAND Act was introduced by Darrel Issa (R- CA) House Government Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee Chairman. The bill would amend the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 to allow federal agencies to block and rescind the listing of federal properties on the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks (NHL), and on the World Heritage List for national security reasons. In addition, it creates a new requirement of Congressional review that would unfairly politicize the process of evaluating historic significance. The House of Representatives passed H.R 4435 including the Military Land Act by a vote of 325-98 and it was introduced in the Senate.
A joint agreement was reached by the House and Senate Armed Services Committee on NDAA that explicitly does not include the Military LAND Act. The agreement still needs to be approved by the full House and Senate, but this represents a huge victory for preservationists. We will keep you posted as more information becomes available.
Why Oppose the Military LAND Act?
The Department of Defense (DOD) , National Park Service (NPS), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) all believe this legislation is unnecessary. During Natural Resources Committee consideration of the Military LAND Act, Democratic members of the Committee opposed the Military LAND Act. The DOD and the NPS testified against the bill. The NPS in its testimony stated “The Department is unaware of specific cases where National Register, NHL, or World Heritage List designations have adversely affected national security.”
The Military LAND Act undermines the NHPA and has the potential to unfairly politicize the listing of historic resources the National Register. The NHPA provides the direction and tools to protect our historic resources and, importantly, sets up a clear process of consideration of our historic heritage. Federal, state, and local governments use the NHPA to identify, preserve and protect our historical, architectural, archeological and cultural resources. The National Register of Historic Places is currently comprised of more than 88,000 listings. For the reason of national security, the Military LAND Act would allow for the expedited removal of federal properties from the National Register. This includes some of most treasured public buildings.
Listing a property or determining the eligibility of a property for the National Register does not limit a federal agencies authority. Section 2816 wrongly raises alarm that designation of historic sites weakens the authority of federal agencies to protect our national security. There is nothing that imposes any legal constraint on federal agencies to protect the interests of national security. In fact there are many examples in which Military and Federal Agencies have demolished or made non-historic changes to historic properties. For example the Pensacola Naval Air Station, a NHL, demolished instead of repairing 33 historic structures after Hurricane Ivan hit 2004.