BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
The Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services and its network of property disposal sites will assist the U.S. Army Museum Enterprise in culling duplicate and excess artifacts from its 580,000-item inventory during a five-year divestiture effort expected to begin in early 2021.
Stefan Rohal, the AME’s Historic Materiel Division chief, said the first-of-its-kind reform effort will include all 46 museums in the AME – from the Reed Museum in Germany to Hawaii’s Tropic Lightning Museum and every location in between.
“The Army has never performed a comprehensive review of the Army Artifact Collection before,” Rohal said, noting that AME was formed in 2016 and nearly all Army museums brought under a single command by 2019. “For years, Army museums collected artifacts without coordination, which led to duplicative assets across the AME. The current right-sizing effort will ensure that the Army only retains those artifacts that need to be cared for in perpetuity."
DLA’s property disposal personnel continuously handle expansive and complicated property turn-ins on behalf of the armed services – assuming custody of everything from Army kneepads to Navy destroyers. Its representatives provide up-front training and assistance to military customers, guiding them through the unique regulations and processes that govern the handoff of taxpayer-purchased items and equipment. If items are deemed usable, descriptions and photos are posted online for qualified reuse, transfer, and donation customers to consider for requisition. Customers asked to reuse about 2.5 million items worth $1.7 billion that were turned to DLA during the 2020 fiscal year.
"DLA has been fantastic to work with during this project, and has been very supportive,” Rohal said. “The Army Artifact Collection is full of non-standard material that is outside of what DLA usually sees come through. Museums also track and account for artifacts much differently than the Army tracks and accounts for standard property. DLA has been a great partner and teammate, and we look forward to working with them over the next several years."
To decide what items will get turned in to DLA for reuse or donation, Rohal said curators must first review their museum’s individual collection, then curator teams will review artifact density across the enterprise, selecting assets that are either over-represented or that don’t have a known history for divestiture.
“For example, if we have 200 pairs of wool service dress pants across the AME, we would divest of examples that are not associated with a particular soldier, or do not have any unique characteristics to them,” Rohal said. “If we have 10 pairs of the same set of pants from the same soldier, we would likely retain one or two that complete a uniform set and divest of the excess.”
The property turn-ins won’t be limited to historic uniform components. Rohal said every item in the inventory will be scrutinized.
"The Army Museum Enterprise is reviewing everything from tanks and howitzers to uniforms and canteens over the next five years,” he said. “Once we turn the material over to DLA, they will ensure that only qualified customers have access to the material, depending on how tightly it is controlled by law and regulation."
Rohal encouraged qualified organizations to make sure they are fully registered with their relevant federal surplus property request systems now to ensure they can request items once phased property turn-ins begin.
“Institutions can benefit by requesting transfer of material that is excess to the Army, but may enhance their exhibit and education programs," Rohal said. “Releasing surplus artifacts is a great way to help other institutions tell the Army story while allowing the Army to better care for the essential artifacts that document the history of the U.S. Army from 1775 to present. It makes us better stewards of those artifacts.”
Defense Department entities, including DOD museums, should request items directly through the Defense Logistics Agency. They can obtain access to the Reutilization, Transfer and Donation website, RTD Web.
Non-DOD entities such as the National Park Service, Smithsonian Institute, or similar organizations may request item transfers through the U.S. General Services Administration GSAXcess.gov site by contacting their National Utilization Officer.
Material not requested by a federal entity will be declared surplus and made available to museums, states and municipalities, veterans’ organizations and other eligible recipients that qualify for the GSA Federal Surplus Personal Property Donation Program under 40 U.S.C. § 549. To find out if your organization qualifies, visit the GSA's property donations website.
Organizations wishing to qualify to search for and receive property must qualify for the GSA Federal Surplus Personal Property Donation Program through their State Agency for Surplus Property. Check with the GSA to find your local SASP.