News | Oct. 19, 2021

Repurposed military tech helps autistic students learn

By Jake Joy DLA Disposition Services

Used device collections have become a chronicle of modern American life. It’s the laundry room basket, basement storage tub, or garage shelf where the nation’s banished iPods, dusty Gateway desktop towers, and countless Razr flip phones and digital cameras opine for the glory days from the dank and darkness of their shared mausoleum.

With military property disposal points dotting the planet, Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services serves as the primary used technology collection point for the armed forces. But – unlike a drawer full of iPhones forever mummified in rice bags – its inhabitants are often resurrected to lead shiny new lives.

For example, a New York school recently took hold of 150 free iPads originally worth $80,000 from the New York Air National Guard through a donation effort administered by DLA.

Among myriad federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profits and partner nations authorized to screen and request unwanted military property, special authorities on property reuse exist that favor education organizations seeking free excess computers. The special rules are commonly referred to as Computers For Learning, and in the fiscal year that ended in September, DLA doled out roughly 3,300 technology items worth $2.5 million to participating schools.

As the military adopts increasingly complex systems to improve interconnectedness between commanders, support units and warfighters, the obsolescence of computing devices and peripheral equipment that may have met mission requirements just a few years before occurs more rapidly now. Desktops, laptops, and tablets may still be in near perfect working order but no longer adhere to the ever-stringent requirements of a robust national defense.

Property disposal specialists regularly share stories of how budget-challenged communities nab new or lightly used computers that no longer meet military needs but still allow for school districts to update computer labs previously relying on decade-old technology. A 2021 donation to the Anderson Center for Autism provides a perfect example of how CFL extends the useful life of taxpayer-purchased equipment for the nation’s students.

Since 1924, the Anderson Center has tried to optimize quality of life for children and adults on the spectrum and their families. Today, about 140 youth live at the center’s Staatsburg campus or commute from nearby Hudson River Valley communities while another 125 adult program learners also receive support services there. Among current students is the child of Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Patrick Reimann, a communications superintendent with the 109th Mission Support Group of the NYANG.   

Students sit around a table using touchscreen devices.
Participating schools and non-profit agencies received $2.5 million in donated computers and peripheral equipment through DLA’s Computers For Learning in fiscal 2021. The Anderson Center for Autism, in Staatsburg, New York, received 150 iPads originally worth $80,000 when they were turned in by a nearby Air National Guard unit.
Students sit around a table using touchscreen devices.
Participating schools and non-profit agencies received $2.5 million in donated computers and peripheral equipment through DLA’s Computers For Learning in fiscal 2021. The Anderson Center for Autism, in Staatsburg, New York, received 150 iPads originally worth $80,000 when they were turned in by a nearby Air National Guard unit.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 210411-D-D0441-4321

Reimann’s Mission Support Group handles logistics for the entire 109th Airlift Wing, allowing its airmen to support domestic emergencies, deploy to support overseas contingencies, and provide year-round heavy lift capability for National Science Foundation research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic.

In the past decade, the wing began using Apple iPad tablets to increase data portability, according to Jordan Kinder, a civilian logistician for the 109th. He said the devices rotate through on a 4-year lifecycle and are used for pilot maps, charts, regulation guidance – “everything that used to be on paper.”

When the time came for the 109th to switch to new tablets, Reimann dug into property disposal rules and discovered that units could easily hand off non-classified computers to schools just by getting them to sign up with DLA Disposition Services for access to CFL equipment.

“I have seen the great work [Anderson] has done and I know they live off donations,” Reimann said. “For me, it’s a personal thing. I can’t say enough about Anderson and what they’ve done for kids and parents.”

Soon, DLA Property Disposal Specialist Corey Dotson visited with the wing to evaluate and inventory the property prior to donation. He characterized all 150 units as in either very good or excellent condition and praised the wing on its preparation of the items.

“They were adamant that they wanted the iPads to be in good condition, which was nice of them,” Dotson said. “They even charged them all up and everything.”

Dotson worked with Kinder and Anderson’s Program Development Manager Christine Wolcott to finalize the donation.

“I thought it was awesome,” Kinder said. “They were pretty much in mint condition. It felt great to be able to donate them to someone able to use them.”

Wolcott said the center will use the iPads still supported by Apple for online educational purposes and autism-specific tools for teachers to access and input data on metrics like academic achievement, behavior, and medical and health records. The units no longer supported will serve as offline devices for student “electronic reinforcing games and learning activities.”

“We hope and expect this in-kind donation of technology will both allow our staff to be more effective and efficient in their jobs of instructing students and collecting data for reporting purposes and for program improvements,” Wolcott said. “This donation allows us to use our limited resources more effectively to carry out our mission.”

Wolcott thanked Air National Guard personnel and DLA reuse experts for their assistance in navigating equipment request rules.

“The donation was definitely worth the effort,” Wolcott said. “The process was not extremely difficult, but we needed someone with an understanding of how to access the DLA websites and forms necessary.”

Information on how a school or non-profit organization can sign up for Computers For Learning can be found at the DLA website, along with contact information for CFL administrators.