2006 Section 3 Report

February 15, 2006
Section 3 Report 2006


Executive Summary

This is the first triennial report to the President—required under Executive Order (EO) No. 13287, “Preserve America”—addressing the state of the Federal Government’s historic properties and their contribution to local economic development. EO 13287, signed by the President on March 3, 2003, reaffirms the Federal Government’s responsibility to show 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.” The EO is part of a broader Administration initiative, “Preserve America,” to promote the preservation and productive use of the nation’s heritage assets. 

Information in this document came primarily from two kinds of reports submitted by real property managing agencies within the Executive Branch pursuant to EO 13287: the 2004 Section 3 baseline reports required by Section 3(a-b), and the 2005 progress reports required by Section 3(c).

In October 2003, the ACHP developed advisory guidelines, with the assistance of a working group of Federal real property managing agencies, to aid reporting agencies in preparing their initial Section 3 reports. Most agencies followed the ACHP’s advisory guidelines to organize their information, which simplified the task of discerning patterns and trends in how agencies manage historic properties in the 21st century.

In coordination with the Secretary of the Interior, represented by the National Park Service (NPS), the ACHP reviewed the initial Section 3 reports and the progress reports. A total of 35 agencies—the 33 Federal agencies that manage real property and 2 that do not own or manage Federal property—submitted reports by the September 30, 2004, deadline for the initial report. Two-thirds of these agencies submitted progress reports by the September 30, 2005, deadline.

The initial reports helped identify the following:

  • the status of each agency’s inventory of historic properties;
  • the general condition and management needs of such properties and steps underway to meet those defined management needs;
  • the suitability of the agency’s types of properties for contributing to community economic development initiatives, including heritage tourism; 
  • agency regulations, management policies, and operating procedures that address and comply with the requirements in Sections 110 and 111 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA); and
  • the need to revise agency regulations, management policies, and operating procedures to bring them into compliance with Sections 110 and 111 of the NHPA.

Although the reports varied in presentation and length, all responding agencies provided comprehensive information and insightful, candid assessments of their historic preservation programs and their management strategies for dealing with historic properties in their care. The reports revealed the following 10 patterns and trends:

  1. All agencies have some form of inventory of historic properties, but they do not necessarily include all potential historic property types.
  2. Agencies use differing terminology when referring to historic properties.
  3. Historic properties are evaluated to determine their eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, but this is not necessarily followed up with formal nomination to the National Register.
  4. Many agencies do not have qualified professionals that routinely monitor the general condition of historic properties.
  5. One-third of agencies have agency-specific internal procedures to implement Section 110 of the NHPA, which directs Federal agencies to establish a  comprehensive framework for programs to carry out national preservation policies related to Federal stewardship.
  6. Only five agencies have internal procedures to implement Section 111 of the NHPA, which allows the Federal Government to make historic properties available through leases, exchanges, and cooperative agreements with Federal and non-Federal entities. 
  7. Half of the Federal Preservation Officers designated by the agencies have additional duties besides historic preservation.
  8. Approximately half of the agencies involve stakeholders in planning and management decisions related to historic properties.
  9. Nineteen agencies indicate that they had security and restricted access issues that compromised the use of their properties for local economic development.
  10. Approximately two-thirds of agencies have developed partnerships with other Federal agencies and non-Federal entities to manage and operate some of their historic properties.

Progress reports, due one year after the initial reports, were to focus on recent developments made by the agency in identifying, protecting, and using historic properties in its ownership. These reports clarified or expanded on a number of issues that the ACHP and the NPS included in their comments on the initial Section 3 reports. In  general, the information submitted addressed the 10 patterns and trends from the agency’s perspective.

The reports also illustrated how agencies were supporting the Preserve America initiative. The reports described creative actions such as outleasing unneeded properties, finding uses for underutilized buildings, forming public-private partnerships, taking actions to complement and support local heritage tourism programs, and giving priority to Preserve America communities applying for Federal grants.

The state of Federal historic property management can be summarized as improving but in need of greater agency commitment and more oversight by the Administration. Many may assume that additional funding or property disposal would alleviate all of an agency’s management challenges related to historic property stewardship, but that is not the conclusion of this report. Instead, the report suggests that concurrent with efforts to improve the asset and Federal property management system, the Federal Government needs to develop an ethic that considers the preservation and use of agency historic properties from the broader perspective of public benefits. Accordingly,  the findings and recommendations outlined in the report are intended to assist agencies in taking appropriate measures to meet their stewardship obligations while  recognizing the potential for historic properties in their inventory to be a catalyst for community development.

The six major findings of the report can be summarized as follows:

  1. Real property managing agencies with large inventories need comprehensive knowledge of the historic property assets they manage.
  2. Strategic plans prepared by real property managing agencies should recognize and address historic property management needs in the development of business plans, facilities management activities, and capital improvement plans and projects.
  3. Agencies should review staffing and funding priorities for their historic preservation programs in order meet the goals of the NHPA and EO 13287.
  4. Agency-specific directives and guidance are needed to implement the Administration’s policies regarding public-private partnerships for managing Federal historic properties in ways that support agency missions and foster local economic development.
  5. Agencies need to adopt internal procedures that ensure timely consideration of alternative uses of historic properties declared excess to an agency’s mission.
  6. Greater oversight is needed to ensure that agencies fulfill their stewardship responsibilities, including assessing the suitability and availability of Federal historic properties for local economic development initiatives.

The recommendations accompanying the findings offer a range of actions by which Federal property management agencies, the ACHP, and the Administration can fulfill the goals of EO 13287 and the NHPA. The ACHP is committed to moving forward with these recommendations so that future actions proposed by the Administration and agencies recognize historic properties as important public assets that are worthy of full consideration in Federal property and asset management.