Terms + Definitions

U.S. Department of Defense guidance with respect to protection of cultural resources is as follows:

  • (1) Protection of the cultural and natural heritage is an inherent task for every operation US forces may conduct within its Area of Responsibility (AOR).
  • (2) When conducting operations or undertakings, US personnel will take every reasonable precaution, consistent with the demands of mission requirements and the rules of engagement, to minimize damage to the physical artifacts and natural heritage that comprise the cultural patrimony of the peoples with its AOR.
  • (3) While the physical artifacts of a people’s cultural and natural heritage may be irreplaceable, no artifact is worth a human life. At no time will the protection of these artifacts take precedence over the inherent and essential right of collective or individual self-defense, or the requirement to keep people from avoidable risk.

Both within the U.S. and overseas, it is DoD policy to:

    • (4) Conduct operations and undertakings in accordance with the requirements of applicable US, Host Nation (HN) and international laws and agreements;
    • (5) Manage and maintain cultural resources under DoD 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 stewards.
    • (6) Be an international and national leader in the stewardship of cultural resources by promoting and interpreting the cultural resources it manages to inspire DoD personnel and to encourage and maintain U.S. public support for its military.
    • (7) Consult in good faith with internal and external stakeholders and promote partnerships to manage and maintain cultural resources by developing and fostering positive partnerships with Federal, tribal, State, and local government agencies; professional and advocacy organizations; and the general public.

To implement this policy, US Forces should:

    • (8) Avoid conducting activities that may result in adverse impacts to recognized resources except where such activities are justified by military necessity;
    • (9) Take such actions as may be reasonable and prudent to safeguard recognized resources under US control from harm; and
    • (10) Rapidly transfer control of recognized resources to applicable responsible parties.

To assist US Forces in implementing this policy, DoD will:

    • (11) Provide US forces with the knowledge necessary to incorporate appropriate measures in operations plans to minimize the potential of unauthorized or inadvertent harm occurring to recognized cultural, historic, and/or natural resources; and
    • (12) Ensure Commanders have visibility on recognized resources within their area of operations and the ability to make informed decisions on courses of action that minimize the potential for adverse impacts to those resources.


Click to view DoD Cultural Resources Policy Instructions inside the United States.


Click to view DoD Cultural Resources Policy Instructions outside the United States. 

Read the latest issue of “DoD Cultural Resources UPDATE,” a quarterly newsletter sponsored by the Department of Defense Cultural Resources Program.

Cultural Resources Policy Instructions Inside the United States

DoD policy on cultural resources management for operations, undertakings and installations inside the Continental United States (CONUS) is contained in DoD Instruction 4715.16 (dated September 18, 2008).

DoD Instruction 4715.16 establishes policy and assigns responsibilities under the authority of DoD Directive (DoDD) 5134.01 [Reference (a)] and in accordance with DoDD 4715.1E [Reference (b)] 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.

DoD Instruction 4715.16 applies to:

  • (a) The OSD;
  • (b) the Military Departments (including their Reserve Components);
  • (c) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Staff, the Combatant Commands, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, the Defense Agencies, the DoD Field Activities;
  • (d) all DoD Components; and
  • (e) all DoD operations, activities, and real property within the United States, including public lands withdrawn from all forms of appropriation under public land laws and reserved for use by the Department of Defense.


Click to view the cultural resources management policy contained in DoD Instruction 4715.16 (dated September 18, 2008).

Cultural Resources Policy Instructions Outside the United States

DoD operations and undertakings outside the US follow the policy and guidance set forth in DoD Instruction (DoDI) 4715.05 (dated November 1, 2013), DoD 4715.05-G (“Overseas Environmental Baseline Guidance Document” (dated May 1, 2007) [References (c) and (d)], and DODI 4715.03 (“Natural Resources Conservation Program”) (dated March 18, 2011). For more information about DoD 4715.05-G, see this page.

US Army Regulation 200-1 (“Environmental Protection and Enhancement”) is featured below.


Click to view DoD Instruction 4715.05 (dated November 1, 2013).


Click to view DoD Instruction 4715.05-G (the Overseas Environmental Baseline Guidance Document) (dated May 1, 2007). Instructions for managing historical and cultural resources are contained in Chapter 12, pages 110-112.


Cultural Resource Policy Instructions also exist for individual DoD Service Branches. Click to view US Air Force Instruction 32-7065 (dated November 19, 2014).

DoD policy mandates that cultural resources preservation requirements be incorporated into mission activities. Accordingly, individual Combatant Commands have developed environmental regulations that include protection of cultural property within the Combatant Command’s AOR. For example, see USCENTCOM Regulation R-200-2.

Joint Forces that support Combatant Commands outside the United States (OCONUS) have also developed environmental regulations and guidelines for cultural resource preservation. A best-in-class example was created by US Army Africa (USARAF). See the revised 42-page USARAF Pamphlet 200-4 “Environmental Quality: Historical, Cultural and Natural Resource Protection during African Operations (dated September 18, 2012).

For bases and installations within the continental United States (CONUS), DoD is required by Federal laws and its own regulations to provide appropriate management of the cultural resources that are present on the installation or base. These Federal laws include requirements for the preservation of historic properties and archaeological sites, requirements that Native American remains and sacred artifacts are treated in a manner agreeable to native tribes, and preservation of the rights of Native Americans to exercise traditional religious practices, which includes allowing access to sacred places located on Federal property, pursuant to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (25 USC 3001-3013), commonly known as NAGPRA.

Accordingly, Joint Forces have also established regulations for protection and enhancement of the environment, including cultural resources, on military lands in the United States. For example, the environmental regulation adopted by the Department of the Army — Chapter 6 of the AR 200-1 (“Environmental Protection and Enhancement”) — establishes policies for the incorporation of cultural resources management into mission activities.

Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan (ICRMP)

AR 200-1 directs each installation to prepare an Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan (ICRMP), which is used to ensure installation compliance with Federal laws for cultural resources. For a best-in-class example, see the 2012-2017 ICRIMP developed for the US Marines base at Camp Lejeune.


Click to view and download Chapter 6 [“Historical and Cultural Preservation”] of the USCENTCOM Contingency Environmental Guidance: Environmental Regulation (R 200-2).


Click to view the 2012-2017 ICRIMP prepared for the US Marines base at Camp Lejeune.


Click to view the USARAF Pamphlet 200-4 “Environmental Quality: Historical, Cultural and Natural Resource Protection during African Operations (dated September 18, 2012).


Click to view the full text of Army Regulation 200-1 (“Environmental Protection and Enhancement”).

The purpose of the ICRMP is to provide sufficient information for cultural resources management to make informed decisions with background information and guidance regarding cultural resources, including historical context, laws, and regulations.

The ICRMP provides a management plan that reflects goals and objectives for the installation cultural resources program. The ICRMP should be an integral part of any base or installation; therefore, cost-effective, integrated strategies for mission support are required.

The ICRMP should integrate the entirety of the installations cultural resources program with ongoing mission activities, allow for the ready identification of potential conflicts between the installation‟s mission and the cultural resources management program, and identify Federal compliance actions necessary to maintain the mission-essential installation properties and acreage.

A properly prepared ICRMP will help ensure that the legal requirements for historic preservation are identified and addressed during the planning and implementation of military operations, construction and other mission-essential activities.