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Disposal and Disposition of Military Systems

ALCL 031


1. The second effort of the Operations and Support (O&S) phase. At the end of its useful life, a system will be demilitarized and disposed of in accordance with all legal and regulatory requirements and policy relating to safety (including explosives safety), security, and the environment, in accordance with the Product Support Strategy. Disposal planning will include consideration of retirement, disposition, and reclamation. ​2. The act of getting rid of excess, surplus, scrap, or salvage property under proper authority. Disposal may be accomplished by, but not limited to, transfer, donation, sale, declaration, abandonment, or destruction.

General Information

Disposal of DoD systems has different definitions, considerations and situations depending upon your role and where you are in the acquisition process. Disposal is not as simple as just recycling, reutilizing, redistributing or getting rid of DoD assets. For example:

  • The Product Support Manager (PSM) in support of the Program Manager (PM) should identify disposal considerations during the early design phases of the system. The estimated service life of the system, timing of the approval to dispose, safety concerns, both to the environment and personnel, the estimated cost to dispose of the system, timing of the disposal of the old system and the implementation of the replacement system are other important considerations.
  • The PSM and the team of logisticians want to know when, where, and how to get rid of the system and the Integrated Product Support (IPS) Elements attached to it. They need to know how much of the legacy system, if any, will need continued support. They also want to know how to coordinate the fielding of the replacement system.
  • Over time, laws and regulations change in the demilitarization (e.g. DEMIL) coding world; therefore, prior to disposition, the PSM in support of the PM should lead a top down review of a weapons system to determine if the DEMIL requirements are still valid.
  • Inventory controls should be put in place based on the assigned Controlled Inventory Item Code (CIIC) for DoD personal property with DEMIL requirements during all of the acquisition life-cycle.
  • The Warfighter/operator wants to know where to turn the system in and get rid of it.

The definition of "disposal" is easily confused and not always clear within DoD. The terms deactivation, disposition, demilitarization, and disposal, are often used interchangeably but may not necessarily mean the same thing.

The following definitions are provided for clarity and simplification:

  • Deactivation
    • Decision to remove an older weapon system from the active inventory.
  • Disposition
    • Transferring, donating, selling, demilitarization, destroying or other end life cycle actions
  • Demilitarization
    • Destroying the military offensive or defensive advantages
  • Disposal
    • Getting rid of excess, surplus, scrap, or salvage property

As a key part of the acquisition process, PMs and PSMs should ensure that DEMIL and disposal requirements are incorporated in system design to minimize DoD’s liabilities, reduce costs and protect critical program information and technology. This includes integrating DEMIL and disposal into the technical reviews and risk assessments, starting with the allocated baseline approved at the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and refining DEMIL and disposal requirements in the initial product baseline at the Critical Design Review (CDR). DEMIL and disposal requirements are included in the program’s Systems Engineering Plan (SEP), Life-Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP) and contract(s). For munitions programs, DEMIL and disposal documentation need to be in place before the start of Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT&E).

The PM should begin identifying and addressing disposal considerations early in the design, at the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction (TMRR) Phase. Identification of disposal options at this phase could provide valuable input to system design. As the program matures, disposal planning efforts and activities should be updated in the SEP and LCSP.  Going forward, the program should review and update the disposal planning information throughout the remaining system life cycle phases, as required , and approximately 7 years prior to projected disposal and upon disposal decision. Reviews and updates are appropriate for the following:

  • Design changes
  • Logistic support shanges
  • Joint or Service-specific system changes
  • Change to end item via modifications, enhancement, upgrades, etc.
  • Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) regulation changes
  • New disposal method alternatives (e.g., exchange of assets, Foreign Military Sales (FMS), etc.)
  • Demilitarization and disposal cost estimates

The PM should conduct a detailed review of the disposal planning information 6 to 8 years prior to the end of service life, or 3-5 years for a short lifecycle program (i.e. under 8 years). At this point the PM will be able to plan and budget for necessary funding requirements and begin the process of obtaining the service specific approval authorities approval to deactivate the system. For short lifecycle programs the PM should identify and plan for required disposal funding prior to fielding the system. Upon receiving the deactivation decision from the service specific approval authority the plan should be again reviewed and updated for execution. For example:

  • Is the plan still executable?
  • Is the system being replaced by another system?
  • Are there new disposition opportunities available? (e.g., Foreign Military Sales (FMS), exchange of assets, recycling etc.)
  • Are there new Environmental, Safety, Occupational or Hazardous (ESOH) considerations for disposal?
  • Are there new security considerations?
  • Has the plan been updated to reflect the current configuration?
  • Do the estimated demilitarization or disposal costs need to be updated?

Organizations such as the International Programs Office (IPO), program-specifc safety offices and Logistics Commands can assist with the review and validation of the disposal planning information. If the system is being replaced, coordination with the PM of the replacement system is important.

The Program Manager (PM) executes the Disposal Plan once the decision to dispose of the system has been approved.

Once the deactivation decision has been made by Service-specific approval authority, the PM must validate the disposition of the system. It may be mothballed, sold, donated, redistributed, etc. In some cases the system must be demilitarized. Finally, disposal marks the end of a system’s life within DoD. The system may be sold for scrap, sold to a foreign country or other buyer, or otherwise destroyed.

There is a prohibition on modifying weapons within five years of planned disposal contained in 10 U.S.C. 2244a “Equipment Scheduled for Retirement or Disposal: Limitation on Expenditures for Modifications” which reads:

"(a) Prohibition.- Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Secretary of a military department may not carry out a modification of an aircraft, weapon, vessel, or other item of equipment that the Secretary plans to retire or otherwise dispose of within five years after the date on which the modification, if carried out, would be completed.

(b) Exceptions.-

  1. Exception for below-threshold modifications.-The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a modification for which the cost is less than $100,000.
  2. Exception for transfer of reusable items of value.-The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a modification in a case in which-
    1. the reusable items of value, as determined by the Secretary, installed on the item of equipment as part of such modification will, upon the retirement or disposal of the item to be modified, be removed from such item of equipment, refurbished, and installed on another item of equipment; and
    2. the cost of such modification (including the cost of the removal and refurbishment of reusable items of value under subparagraph (A)) is less than $1,000,000.
  3. Exception for safety modifications.-The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply to a safety modification."