WASHINGTON – As a result of close coordination with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency that promotes historic preservation and advises the president and Congress on national historic preservation policy, the U.S. Army will employ an innovative solution to some of its critical military family housing issues.
On Sept. 4, 2020, the ACHP formally adopted the Program Comment for Department of the Army Inter-War Era Historic Housing, Associated Buildings and Structures, and Landscape Features (1919-1940). A program comment is an alternate method for federal agencies to meet their obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires them to consider the effects of projects they carry out, approve or fund on historic properties.
This program comment addresses NHPA compliance requirements for more than 3,200 of the Army’s Inter-War Era (1919-1940) housing units while simultaneously balancing the Army’s obligation to the overall well-being of the Soldiers and families who live in that housing.
“The magnitude of this challenge requires that we shape our historic preservation compliance actions in new and innovative ways,” said Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment. “This program comment establishes a new paradigm for integration of historic preservation as part of the answer to Army historic housing issues.”
With more than 31,000 historic housing units, the Army is faced with the extraordinary task of managing and operating the largest inventory of historic housing in the federal government. At the same time, the Army’s commitment to military families presents unique and significant challenges. This means the Army must preserve historic housing in compliance with the NHPA as it continues to balance the requirements and obligations of its residents.
The new program comment ensures the preservation of the historic and architectural character of this housing with its agreed-upon standardized criteria, procedures and design guidelines, while directly improving the quality of life, health and safety for the thousands of Army families who live in Inter-War Era housing.
“ACHP members support the Army’s intent to more efficiently manage this historic housing so it can continue to be safely occupied by our nation’s Soldiers and their families,” ACHP Chairman Aimee Jorjani said. “The comment was the result of much discussion and cooperation and will streamline the Section 106 review process while protecting and maintaining historic properties.”
The program comment authorizes the Army to more effectively address historic building materials that present lead-based paint, asbestos and other hazards; high maintenance, repair and rehabilitation costs associated with historic housing; the need for additional bedrooms and expanded living space; and modernization of kitchens, bathrooms, heating, ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems.
Additional information on the program comment can be found at https://www.denix.osd.mil/army-pchh/home/.