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ALCL 136


The total period of time beginning with the date of manufacture, cure, assembly, or pack (subsistence only), that an item may remain in the combined wholesale (including manufacturer's) and retail storage systems, and still remain usable for issue and/or consumption by the end user.

General Information

Acquisition and Procurement Considerations  

Shelf-life is important to the DoD and our warfighters. It begins with the acquisition and procurement of assets. There are items managed by the DoD and the federal supply system that require special handling, because over time, these items begin to deteriorate. In order for these items to be properly maintained and DoD readiness retained, the storage timeline or shelf-life is monitored.

An item with deteriorative characteristics that may not perform as intended after a set period of time in storage will be assigned a shelf-life code. Some shelf-life items are recognized for their sensitivity to light, temperature, moisture, or handling. Packaging deterioration and improper storage or preservation can also adversely affect shelf-life. The type of item determines whether you use the manufacture, cure, pack, package, assembly, expiration or inspect/test date.

Shelf-Life Codes (SLC) 

Shelf-life of items is considered during the materiel acquisition and procurement process. All assets with a National Stock Number (NSN) are assigned an SLC. The code identifies the shelf-life period in months.

If an item is considered non-deteriorative, it is assigned a SLC of zero.  There are some special commodities where the NSNs have a blank SLC; these commodities manage the shelf-life in accordance with specific regulations and are not part of the DoD Shelf-Life Program.

The materiel manager assigns SLCs. The materiel manager must consider many factors prior to assigning a SLC to an NSN.  Once the Primary Inventory Control Activity (PICA) assumes responsibility of the NSN, they assume responsibility of the SLC and updating the SLC, if necessary. If a component, assembly, set, kit and outfit (CASKO) or item is repaired or overhauled, a new SLC may need to be established.

Why is Shelf-life important? 

Using the shelf-life code ensures items are properly monitored while in storage and are usable as intended when needed. Without proper monitoring, shelf-life items may be prematurely disposed, unusable upon issue, or deteriorate while in storage. The ultimate outcome could result in adverse health or safety situations.

Some Shelf- Life items can be inspected, tested, and in some cases restored, to make sure the products are safe and reliable. Items that pass inspection and testing may continue to be stored. This saves the cost of replacement as well as the cost of disposal, and keeps perfectly good products from prematurely entering the waste stream.

Shelf-life 85 % Rule 

Acquisition or procurement documentation will specify that there will not be less than 85% of the materiel's shelf-life remaining when the Government first takes receipt of it. Sites receiving the asset after first receipt may receive the asset with less than 85% of its shelf­life remaining, but will have shelf- life remaining in accordance with the supply condition code classification. However, the materiel manager may adjust or modify the 85% remaining shelf-life if the materiel in support of imminent use or consumption. Materiel managers are required to submit any modifications for approval to their DoD Shelf-Life Types Board representative if the modification affects other Service or Agency. 

Shelf-life Types

Type I 

A Type I shelf-life item cannot be extended beyond its expiration date. When its expiration date is reached, it must be disposed of properly.  However, with authorization, an expired shelf-life item may be used for a purpose other than originally intended if in a non-critical, non-tactical application. An example would be using expired aircraft paint to mark boxes and crates.

Type I items are sometimes critical end-use items, the failure of which could endanger human life or cause major systems (such as an aircraft) to fail.

Examples of Type I shelf-life items include 0-rings, gaskets, packaged foods, heat-dissipating coatings, and some adhesives and sealing compounds.

Shelf-life items will have the expiration date along with either the manufacture date, cure date, assembly date or pack date.

For FSC 6505 shelf-life items (drugs and biologicals), only the expiration date is required.

Type II 

Type II shelf-life items are extendible. Some Type II items may be extended based upon visual inspection only. Visual inspection may include  verifying the packaging is intact and labels are legible, checking for leaks or evaporation, looking for  condensation, or seeing if the i tem has any discoloration or foreign material.

Some Type II items must be tested at a laboratory in order to extend the shelf- life. These items that require laboratory testing must first pass visual inspection before samples can be sent to a laboratory. If the materiel passes visual inspection, is submitted to a laboratory and passes testing, the shelf-life can be extended.

The shelf-life can be extended on some Type II items through restoration. These items can be restored to near original or an acceptable and improved condition by performing specific actions.

Type II Shelf-Life items will have the inspect/test date and either the manufacture date, cure date, assembly date or pack date.

Shelf-life Cure Date 

Shelf-life items having a cure date will have their shelf-life period end on the last day of the month or quarter of the cure date. Cure date is required on all units, intermediate and exterior packs or unpacked items.

Shelf-life Expiration 

The shelf-life ends on some items by a predetermined expiration date. For other items, the shelf-life item inspect/test date may be extended by planned visual inspections, laboratory testing, and in some cases, restorative actions. 

Shelf- Life Extension System (SLES)

The Shelf-Life Extension System (SLES) provides two types of data:

  • Extension criteria for Type II extendible shelf-life NSNs.
  • Test results for Type II items that require lab testing and have been sent to a certified lab for shelf­ life extension testing. 

Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Overseas Regulations on Shelf-life 

Extensions of shelf-life items follow the same criteria and procedures as for domestic assets.  The Security Assistance or International Program Offices have responsibility for FMS and may access the SLES for application data and extension test results.