Oklahoma City DLA Strategic Material pilot program partnership proves successful

By Brianne M. Bender DLA Distribution Public Affairs

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Approximately two years ago, DLA Distribution Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, located at Tinker Air Force Base, joined forces with DLA Disposition Services to take on a new mission.  The mission assisting DLA Strategic Materials in sorting, recovering and reclaiming rare materials critical to national defense and national security for reuse in military applications, and enables the United States to not rely on other countries to replace the materials that have been identified as a shortfall’s within the National Defense Stock Piling Act.

The official program name is Strategic Materials Recycle and Reuse Program, also known as SMRRP. The contract that was put in place was to accumulate 344,000 pounds of gross weight. Out of that, the program has so far collected and recovered 225,000 pounds of raw nickel cobalt-based alloy material.

“By beginning this recycling program and collecting these materials, it provides us with an effective way to keep the material domestically within the U.S. instead of going out to foreign soil and acquiring these materials,” explained Joe Murrillo, a commodity logistics specialist with DLA Strategic Materials based out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

According to Murrillo, citizens may not realize the United States runs off the National Defense Stock Piling Act and many of the materials that are being purchased overseas are materials that can be acquired within U.S. boarders.

Murrillo explains the program outlined in the annual strategic and critical material report identifies U.S shortfalls in nickel cobalt-based alloy material. “By us using the recycling program or establishing the recycling program, it allows us to recover this material within the U.S. and have it available for DOD aerospace programs and things of that nature.”

By implementing the program, DLA has been able to obtain raw materials to avoid potential shortfalls of rare metals for inclusion in the National Defense Stockpile. Critical materials in condemned or obsolete parts released by the services are being recovered, and the super alloys are used in jet turbine engines, such as the F-16 engine.

During maintenance, the hot sections of turbine engines, blades, nozzles and combustor components - made of nickel-based alloys containing rare metals such as rhenium, tantalum and tungsten - are inspected and often replaced at installations such as Tinker Air Force Base’s Air Logistics Center.

Prior practice had been to demilitarize and dispose of these alloy parts using public auction services such as Government Liquidators.  Parts would be purchased in bulk, often processed for recovery of precious metal coatings, and then often sold for use in stainless steel alloys based on their nickel content.  As DLA became aware of the loss of strategic materials, hot engine parts were held back and began accumulating in the DLA warehouse at Tinker Air Force Base for DLA Strategic Materials to recover.

“We look for super-alloys high in nickel and some of the rare earth and other materials that go into super-alloys. By using an x-ray fluorescent gauge that checks the percentage of all the different constituents in the metals, we are able to recover them,” John Derenzis, a quality assurance specialist with DLA Strategic Materials explained.

Derenzis continued “We identify the material we feel has the best value and discard the non-value added materials. So we’re pretty much going through the materials and segregating it so, this way, we can return the value-added materials to the National Defense Stockpile for potential reuse in military applications.”

Once recovered, the material will leave DLA Distribution Oklahoma City and head to the DLA Strategic Materials Hammond Depot in Hammond, Indiana, for storage and possibly further assessment and potential processing.

“One important fact is that there have been many recycling programs. This is not an ordinary recycling program. The purpose of this is not to just recycle the materials or to get money back by reselling the materials. It’s for our national security and national defense for reuse and through the years,” Derenzis summarizes. “Alot of these materials have been lost as scrap and were pretty much discarded. So in this case, with our mission, the purpose is really to ensure that the material goes back into the stream for use directly into our military applications in a case of a national emergency or a time of conflict.”