News | June 1, 2022

History of Defense Property Disposal Service: 1982-1992

By DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

Ten years after its inception, Defense Property Disposal Service continued to thrive within the Defense Logistics Agency, specifically in 1981 when reutilization exceeded $1 billion.

People waiting outside by their cars.
DRMS retail sale at Kaiserslautern site, Germany, in April 1989.
People waiting outside by their cars.
DLA Disposition Services Decade Story Series
DRMS retail sale at Kaiserslautern site, Germany, in April 1989.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 220601-D-D0441-207
The 1980s was a busy time for DPDS as it continued to expand its directorate and programs.

In 1981, DPDS assumed responsibility of properly disposing hazardous property, which led to the creation of the Directorate of Environmental Protection. Additionally, in 1983, the Deputy Secretary of Defense redefined the recycling program, resulting in the Resource Recovery and Recycling Program.

Other successes to highlight include, the activation of the Interrogation Requirements Information System, and the establishment of the Directorate of Contracting.

Present day, Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services Director of Contracting Tracy Hart started her career with DPDS Contracting Directorate, shortly after its inception. 

“I was a student aid from 1982-1984 while attending Battle Creek Central,” Hart recalled. “[I] graduated in 1981 but went on to Kellogg Community College and continued working as a student aid until graduating in December 1983.  Then I took the Civil Service Test and was hired into the newly formed Contracting Directorate as a clerk stenographer.”

The Directorate of Contracting was created at the Federal Center in Battle Creek, Michigan, for the purpose of administering hazardous waste disposal contracts, precious metals recovery contracts, and commercial activity contracts. 

“That was an exciting time as we were new and the primary focus was on growing the ever-demanding Hazardous Waste Disposal Program via support of service

Woman carrying side table with man walking next to her.
Man and woman leaving a DRMS retail sale at Mainz-Kastel site, Germany, in September 1985.
Woman carrying side table with man walking next to her.
DLA Disposition Services Decade Story Series
Man and woman leaving a DRMS retail sale at Mainz-Kastel site, Germany, in September 1985.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 220601-D-D0441-206
contracts,” Hart said. “I was with contracting from the ground up and I in some ways, grew up here as the directorate grew and our Hazardous Waste program matured.  Toward the end of that decade, I was selected for a contracting internship and the rest of my career is history.  The growth of contracting, as we ‘graduated’ from just focusing on HW disposal service contracts, to operational type contracts.”

On July 1, 1985, DPDS was renamed to Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service to better reflect its mission, and Defense Property Disposal Offices became Defense Reutilization and Marketing Offices.

“I remember the hoopla over the name change as our activity’s focus transitioned from primarily being disposal, to expanding our reutilization and marketing efforts,” Hart reminisced.

DRMS played a large role in providing aid during natural disasters through the Humanitarian Assistance Program, established in 1986. The program allows the donation of excess Defense Department property in times of crisis or need. Property can be donated to domestic programs or to foreign nations.

Shortly after its establishment, DRMS provided support to the state of California after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated California’s Central Coast. Additionally in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, a category 5 hurricane, struck the Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana. DRMS provided pickup trucks, tractors, tools, and other property to clean up Homestead Air Force Base – home to DRMO Homestead.

The DRMS mission is to support the warfighter wherever it takes them, and in 1990, as tensions arose in the middle east, DRMS opened its first temporary DRMO site in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation Desert Storm. 

Two years later, DRMS was recognized with a Joint Meritorious Unit Award for its support during Operations Desert Shield and Storm, issuing 1,600 items worth $15 million.

”The work we did to support Operations Desert Shield and Storm is what we do on a daily basis to support the warfighter around the globe,” said Hart.  “The processes may have changed but our support and commitment have not wavered.”

People waiting outside by their cars.
Jeeps at DRMS Pennsylvania site in January 1989.
People waiting outside by their cars.
DLA Disposition Services Decade Story Series
Jeeps at DRMS Pennsylvania site in January 1989.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 220601-D-D0441-205
DRMS experienced a lot of growth and changes during its first twenty years, but one element stayed consistent – its loyal workforce.

In a letter to the workforce during the 25th anniversary celebration, then DRMS Commander Col. John N. Stewart said, “Our employees are our most important asset. Through hard work and determination, we will bring DRMS into the next century as the recognized leader in the disposal business.” 

Stewart was the DRMS Commander from August 1991 to May 1993.

Today, DLA Disposition Services is the Defense Department’s reverse logistics experts. 

As we head into the next 50 years, DLA Disposition Services Director Mike Cannon echoes Stewart by stating, “I see two things that won’t change. First, is our dedication to support the warfighter wherever and whenever they need us. How we do that might change, but the core mission will remain a constant. And second, is our reliance on a dedicated and professional workforce – civilians, active military, reservist, local nationals and contractors – to execute that mission."


Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles by the Public Affairs staff to look back at the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services history by decades.