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Federal Archeology Program > Secretary's Report to Congress > SRC Background & Reports

The Secretary's Report: Background and full list of reports

The Secretary of the Interior reports to Congress about Federal programs and activities that affect the nation's archeological heritage. The report covers activities to recover, protect, and preserve archeological sites, collections, and data. The Secretary's Report to Congress on the Federal Archeology Program provides an overview of the range of activities undertaken by agencies as part of the programmatic Federal stewardship of archeological resources. A short history of national reporting about Federal Archeology was published in 1992.

Since the 1970s, Federal agencies with archeological resource stewardship responsibilities, coordinated by the Departmental Consulting Archeologist (DCA), Department of the Interior, have collected and published government-wide information about the Federal Archeology Program. In 1974, the Archeological and Historic Preservation Act (AHPA) mandated that

The Secretary shall coordinate all Federal survey and recovery activities authorized under Sections 1 to 7 of this Act (Sec. 5 (c); 16 USC 469a-3(c)).

At that time, the Secretary reported on Federal archeological activities in order to: (1) maintain adequate oversight and coordinating responsibilities; (2) identify problems, accomplishments and costs of the program; (3) assure a uniform Federal program; (4) review the efforts of agencies; and (5) provide recommendations deemed appropriate to change and improve provisions of the Act. The Secretary’s responsibilities under the 1974 Act were delegated administratively to NPS, specifically to the DCA. In 1979, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) added to the topics to be reported on:

. . . the Secretary of the Interior shall comprehensively report . . . on the activities carried out under the provisions of this Act, and he shall make such recommendations as he deems appropriate as to changes or improvements needed in the provisions of this Act (ARPA; Sec. 13, 16 U.S.C. 470ll).

Amendments to ARPA in 1988 required Federal land managing agencies to develop public education programs (Sec. 10c; 16 U.S.C. 470ii(c)); to plan and schedule archeological site inventories and to report better and more comprehensively on the looting of archeological sites (Sec. 14; 16 U.S.C. 470mm). Information about these activities also is incorporated into the Secretary's report.

The Uniform Regulations for Protection of Archaeological Resources (43 CFR 7; 36 CFR 296; 32 CFR 229; 18 CFR 1312) provide guidance across Federal agencies for administering the provisions of ARPA, including requirements for Federal agencies to report on archeological activities:

(a) Each Federal land manager, when requested by the Secretary of the Interior, will submit such information as is necessary to enable the Secretary to comply with section 13 of the Act and comprehensively report on activities carried out under provisions of the Act.
(b) The Secretary of the Interior will include in the annual comprehensive report, submitted to the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the United States House of Representatives and to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate under section 13 of the Act, information on public awareness programs submitted by each Federal land manager under Sec. 7.20(b). Such submittal will fulfill the Federal land manager's responsibility under section 10(c) of the Act to report on public awareness programs.
(c) The comprehensive report by the Secretary of the Interior also will include information on the activities carried out under section 14 of the Act. Each Federal land manager, when requested by the Secretary, will submit any available information on surveys and schedules and suspected violations in order to enable the Secretary to summarize in the comprehensive report actions taken pursuant to section 14 of the Act (43 CFR 7.19).

ARPA and the ARPA regulations specifically addressed the responsibilities of Federal agencies to report on archeological activities and assigned the coordination of reporting to Congress on these activities to the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary delegated these functions to the DCA, who is also the Chief Archeologist, NPS. Since 1985, the DCA has solicited information about archeological activities from Federal agencies on behalf of the Secretary of the Interior through an annual questionnaire. These data are the basis for periodic reports to Congress on the Federal Archeology Program.

Information collected by the SRC questionnaire contributed to the 1988 amendments of ARPA that strengthened abilities to prosecute violations of the law and increased archeological site protection. Information from the SRC questionnaire was also useful in developing the National Strategy for Federal Archeology. The strategy identifies four key components for successful stewardship of archeological resources: preservation and protection of archeological sites in place; conservation of archeological records and collections; utilization and sharing of the results of archeological research; and outreach and participation in public archeology. First proposed by the Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan, Jr. in 1991, the Strategy was updated and confirmed as official government policy in 1999. Its importance as official policy was affirmed again in 2003.

At present, the Secretary’s Report to Congress (SRC) is the only report that specifically collects data on Federal archeology activities separate from other cultural resource activities and expenditures. It is an important tool for evaluating the success of agency or department missions, addressing strategic and policy issues, and planning future activities. It provides longitudinal data to assess activities over time and standardized data to allow comparisons among agencies.

The Secretary’s Report to Congress provides information to several audiences—Congress, the archeological and historic preservation community, and the American public—about the ways that Federal agencies meet the challenges of archeological resource stewardship. While much work remains to be done, the information in these reports demonstrates that Federal agencies are making progress in locating and protecting sites, caring for collections, and initiating public involvement in these activities.

The first report on Federal archeological activities, in FY1975, developed under the 1974 AHPA included a tabulation of projects, contractors, costs, nature of investigations, and stage of project completion for Federal archeological projects.

Two reports on the FY1976 Federal Archeology Program were developed. The Interagency Archeological Services (IAS) program of the NPS published a status report about its functions and organization. The FY1976 status report to the archeological community described its scope, program implementation and effectiveness, innovations, and budget and cost effectiveness. Abstracts of archeological investigation reports available through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and a table of project costs, contractors, and research reports were appended to the report. The IAS also published a report for FY1976 on the Archeological and Historical Data Recovery Program.

The FY1977-1978 Archeological and Historical Data Recovery program report provided case studies of projects in which the IAS was involved directly, NTIS abstracts, a discussion of budget and cost effectiveness, and tables specifying projects, agencies served, costs, contractors, and final reports.

Two reports on the FY1979 Federal Archeology Program were developed. The first report, by the DOI Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, consisted of NTIS abstracts for federally supported archeological investigations across the U.S. The IAS FY1979 report on the Archeological and Historical Data Recovery Program included a description of Federal archeological activities, the collection of report information via a detailed questionnaire, a summary of IAS costs of archeological assistance to other agencies, the distribution of projects and archeological project dollars across the U.S., a list of projects and reports accepted in FY1979, and NTIS abstracts. This report was finished after the 1979 passage of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, but was directed only toward the reporting requirements of the 1974 Act.

The FY1980-1982 Archeological and Historical Data Recovery Program report was a slim administrative compilation based on information collected from 47 federal agencies. It documented 1774 projects, most of them conducted by 13 agencies, for a cost of $57 million over 3 years. It documented the significant (80%) drop in number of archeological projects from 1980 to 1981. The FY80-FY82 report listed completed Federal archeological studies, and the resulting reports.

The FY83-FY84 Annual Report to Congress on the Federal Archeology Program focused on information about contracts administered by NPS for other Federal agencies, with their costs and reports, and listed the interagency agreements in force during the reporting period. The report had a more extensive discussion of archeological activities involved in the National Register of Historic Places and the National Landmarks programs.

In mid-1985 an interdepartmental meeting of Federal archeologists and historic preservation officers resulted in an agreement to work cooperatively and expand the scope of information collection for reporting on the Federal Archeology Program. The resulting 77 item questionnaire, primarily requesting quantitative information but with some narrative questions, was sent out to 42 agencies. Since that time the Secretary’s Report to Congress has been tied to data collection through the annual questionnaire, and has been developed by the Archeology Program, NPS, working cooperatively with other agencies involved in Federal archeology.

The 1988 ARPA amendments also included reporting requirements further emphasizing the importance of the reports in facilitating communication with Congress and the public. Copies of all the reports published to date can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate title below.

MJB