National Parks Bills: S 2561







July 30, 2008

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 2561. This bill would require that the Secretary of the Interior conduct a theme study to identify sites and resources associated with the Cold War and to recommend ways to commemorate and interpret that period of our nation's history.

The Department supports this legislation as we believe that it is wholly appropriate for the National Park Service to undertake a study that will help ensure that the history of the Cold War era is preserved for future generations of Americans. In the 108th Congress, the Department testified in support of similar legislation, S. 452; however there was no other action taken on the bill.

S. 2561 would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a National Historic Landmark theme study to identify sites and resources in the United States that are significant to the Cold War. The bill specifically provides that the study consider the inventory of Cold War resources that has been compiled by the Department of Defense and other historical studies and research on various types of military resources. It also requires the study to include recommendations for commemorating these resources and for establishing cooperative arrangements with other entities.

We want to note that the study would not cover every resource that may be significant to the history of the Cold War as it affected our nation, since it would not include sites outside the United States such as U.S. installations in Germany or South Korea. It is necessary to limit the scope of the study to sites and resources within the United States, as S. 2561 does, because we do not have the authority to identify resources that are beyond our borders for potential National Historic Landmark status.

In addition to authorizing the theme study, S. 2561 would require the Secretary to prepare and publish an interpretive handbook on the Cold War and to disseminate information gathered through the study in other ways. S. 2561 would authorize appropriations of $500,000to carry out the legislation.

National Historic Landmark theme studies are funded from a variety of sources including, in some cases, the special resource study budget, which is about $935,000 in FY 2008. There are 37 studies previously authorized by Congress that are being funded from the special resource study budget, nearly half of which will have at least some funding needs beyond Fiscal Year 2008. Our highest priority is to complete pending studies, though we expect to start newly authorized studies as soon as funds are made available.

The National Historic Landmarks program was established by the Act of August 21, 1935, commonly known as the Historic Sites Act (16 U.S.C. 461 et. seq.) and is implemented according to 36 CFR Part 65. The program's mission is to identify those places that best illustrate the themes, events, or persons that are nationally significant to the history of the United States and that retain a high degree of integrity. Potential national historic landmarks are often identified through theme studies such as the one that would be authorized by this legislation.

Theme studies are not the same as special resource studies, which assess the suitability and feasibility of adding a site to the National Park System. Theme studies may identify sites that may be appropriate candidates for special resource studies, but these studies themselves do not evaluate sites for possible addition to the National Park System. Therefore, theme studies do not have the potential to lead directly to new operation, maintenance or other costs for the National Park Service.

For example, in 2008, the National Park Service completed and transmitted to Congress a National Landmark Theme Study on the World War II Home Front. Through a partnership with the Organization of American Historians (OAH), NPS focused on themes that saw transformation during this period: civil rights with regard to an integrated work force, migration and resettlement to support mobilization, changes in gender roles as women entered the work force, labor relations as unions flexed new-found powers, economic mobilization and government cooperation with the private sector to support the war effort, technological advances, popular culture, and architectural change. The National Park Service is also conducting several other theme studies, including one on American Civil Rights, one related to the history of the labor movement, another on the earliest inhabitants of Eastern North America, and another on sites associated with Japanese Americans during World War II.

At the moment, the history of the Cold War has some presence in the National Park System and on the two lists of historic sites maintained by the National Park Service. The National Park System includes one unit related to the Cold War, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, which Congress established in 1999 to preserve and interpret the role of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles in our nation's defense system.

Out of 2,444 designated national historic landmarks, at least five recognize civilian or military aspects of Cold War history; and out of approximately 76,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, at least 17 (including the five landmarks) are related to the Cold War. The relatively small number of recognized sites is due in large part to the fact that the Cold War has only recently been viewed as historically important. With or without a theme study, these numbers would likely increase over time, and the Department of Defense could take steps on its own to identify these sites under their jurisdiction.

National Historic Landmark program regulations require consultation with Federal, state, and local governments; national and statewide associations; and a variety of other interested parties. Through partnering with a national historical organization, using a peer-review process, and consulting with appropriate subject experts as well as the general public, the National Park Service would ensure that the broadest historical perspectives are represented in any study it undertakes.

In addition, we have been informed by the Department of Justice that the provisions of the bill that would require the Secretary of the Interior to make recommendations to Congress concerning federal protection for Cold War sites raise concerns with regard to the Recommendations Clause of the Constitution, which reserves to the President the power to decide whether it is necessary or expedient for the Executive Branch to make legislative policy recommendations to the Congress. The Administration would be pleased to provide language to resolve these constitutional concerns.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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