WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (D-11) introduced a bill that could help establish a joint Army-Navy storage and preservation facility at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) in Carlisle, Pa.

The Joint Military Heritage Preservation Act of 2012 (H.R. 6595) would require a Department of Defense study of the feasibility of bringing a portion of the Navy's historical collections to USAHEC and creating a joint Army-Navy storage and preservation facility, Barletta announced through a press release issued Monday.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate; Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) is an original co-sponsor.

According to a report by the U.S. Naval Inspector General, the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., does not adequately store and protect historic documents and records. A January article in the Navy Times described the command as "beset with preservation problems and internal strife," stating that, "Consequently, the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy is in jeopardy."

For example, the archives are stored in a 19th-century building that is not designed for the long-term care of historical records. Many of the command's historic documents and photos are deteriorating from mold and mildew. Also, the backlog of unprocessed artifacts and papers will take an estimated 644 man-years to process.

"Based on the problems uncovered in the inspector general's report, it is very clear that we need to take quick action to save these historical treasures," Barletta said.

U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center is the U.S. Army's preeminent museum and research complex. It is dedicated to educating and preserving the legacy of the men and women who have served as soldiers.

The naval archives house artifacts going back to the days of the Continental Navy. Its 112 employees oversee an extensive collection of naval art, ship histories dating back to 1775, all 12 Navy museums throughout the country, "operational archives" of reports and orders since 1946, and a voluminous photo collection.