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Defense Surplus Equipment Disposal: Background Information

Background

On September 12, 1972, the Defense Property Disposal Service (the forerunner to DRMS) was established under the Defense Supply Agency (now DLA). Defense property disposal offices were established worldwide on or near major military installations. DLA Disposition Services is responsible for property reuse (including the disposal and sale of surplus and excess defense equipment and supplies), precious metal recovery, recycling, hazardous property disposal, and the demilitarization of military equipment. During FY2008 over $2.2 billion of property was reutilized. 1

DLA Disposition Services provides support at major U.S. military installations worldwide. Headquartered in Battle Creek, MI, the DLA Disposition Services personnel serve in 16 foreign countries (including the Middle East and Southwestern Asia), 2 U.S. territories (Guam and Puerto Rico), and 41 states. DLA Disposition Services are provided in field offices in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait with teams deploying out to forward operating bases to assist combat units. With over 90 field offices, DLA Disposition Services employs about 1,500 people.

The Reutilization/Transfer/Donation Program establishes a process for inventory considered no longer needed by DOD to be redistributed among various groups.2 Property disposal means redistributing, transferring, donating, selling, demilitarizing, destroying, or other “end of life cycle” activities. Disposal is the final stage before the property leaves DOD’s control.3 In some cases, the act of demilitarization—destroying the item’s military offensive and defensive capability—accomplishes the intent of disposal.

Property is considered excess when one particular federal agency determines it is not needed for its particular use, while property is considered surplus when it is no longer needed by the federal government. Most property turned in to DLA Disposition Services by the military services is offered for use in other DOD activities and to other federal agencies.

Property considered surplus can be reused, transferred, donated, or sold; potential recipients may include law enforcement agencies, school systems, medical institutions, civic and community organizations, libraries, homeless assistance providers, state and local government agencies, and the public. During FY2008, about 56,000 military organizations and components turned in over 3.5 million items to DLA Disposition Services.4 About half of all surplus items are designated for the foreign military sales program, and about half are made available to other government agencies, eligible donees, or sold to the public. 5

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From the DLA Disposition Services website at http://www.drms.dla.mil/about.shtml. https://www.dispositionservices.dla.mil/rtd03/faq.shtml. See the Acquisition Community Connection at the Defense Acquisition University, at https://acc.dau.mil. From the DLA Disposition Services website at http://www.drms.dla.mil/about.shtml.

5 For further discussion of excess defense property, and the demilitarization and disposal of surplus military equipment, see CRS Report RL31675, Arms Sales: Congressional Review Process, by Paul K. Kerr; CRS Report RS20428, Excess Defense Articles: Grants and Sales to Allies and Friendly Countries, by Richard F. Grimmett; and CRS Report RL31686, Demilitarization of Significant Military Equipment, by Valerie Bailey Grasso. Another source for information is the Demilitarization and Disposal section of the Acquisition Community Connection at the Defense Acquisition University.

Congressional Research Service

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