Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sunken and Terrestrial Military Craft: Comment Period Opens on Navy's Proposed Rule

The Department of the Navy has proposed new administrative rules covering vessels under the jurisdiction of the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA). The SMCA is a federal law adopted ten years ago that codified what federal courts had already confirmed by case law, namely that the United States maintains sovereign authority its military craft and can protect its vessels and their graves, wherever located, from being disturbed.

The proposed regulations seek to amend the permitting process that authorizes the controlled research and study of sunken and terrestrial military craft.

The Navy favors a policy "to preserve these sites in situ unless site disturbance, removal, or injury is necessary for their protection or justified for research and educational purposes," which is why research conducted on naval vessels must first be approved through a permitting process.

The Navy summarizes its newly proposed rule in the January 6, 2014 Federal Register:
This proposed rule serves as a revision of the current 32 CFR part 767 and incorporates existing regulations together with the expanded authority provided to the Secretary of the Navy by the SMCA (Pub. L. 108-37510 U.S.C. 113 Note and 118 Stat. 2094-2098) in regards to permitting activities directed at sunken military craft that are otherwise prohibited by the SMCA (10 U.S.C. 1402(a)-1402(b)). The proposed rule replaces the current regulations and establishes a single permitting process for members of the public wishing to engage in activities that disturb, remove, or injure DoN sunken and terrestrial military craft for archaeological, historical, or educational purposes. 
Interested parties may submit comments on the proposed rule before March 7, 2014 at

Photo credit: Jim O'Dell.

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