Demilitarization 101: The Why, How and When

Inside the Hawthorne Army Depot, located in a remote area of western Nevada, munitions sit in storage—some of them waiting to be destroyed. The depot is the largest of its kind, covering 226 square miles. Ammunition and munitions are stored there either while awaiting to be demilitarized or to be stored away from potential threats.

Demilitarization, in simplest terms, refers to the process of making munitions, ammunition, or weapons mission-unusable. And yet it’s a process most are unfamiliar with. Defense Acquisition University defines demilitarization as “eliminates functional capabilities and inherent military design features” of the equipment in question. This may include mutilating, melting, burning, detonating, cutting, or altering the equipment so it cannot be used as initially intended.

When and why is demilitarization required? In some cases, demilitarization is necessary simply because functionally a weapon or munition is obsolete, no longer serviceable, or no longer able to perform as designed. Demilitarization is also important so that munitions and technology don’t fall into the wrong hands. Every weapon or munition the military has—including mortars, projectiles, torpedoes, bombs, and their components —has a way to be demilitarized. As a simple example, demilitarizing a gun might entail breaking the stock and cutting the barrel so it never can be used again. A more complex example may include removing the explosive component using heat, or by mechanical means, and then destroying it by controlled detonation.

At the Hawthorne Army Depot, demilitarization is a highly controlled “industrial” process. In fact, most of the munition components at Hawthorne get recycled, not destroyed. Bullets, for instance, can be heated in such a way that the black powder inside burns up, and only the brass and steel remain. For certain projectiles, the grenades might be removed, while the steel is recycled. The explosives may be removed from bombs and torpedoes by melting them or applying steam and then recovering components for commercial use.

Broadly speaking, Acuity’s demilitarization experience has a long history. Before the current contract with Hawthorne, Acuity was part of demilitarization efforts in Iraq, during which captured enemy ammunition was demilitarized using controlled detonation on a massive scale – a very different environment than Hawthorne. The program included removing unexploded ordnance and ammunition located both on the surface and in the subsurface of numerous U.S.-occupied ammunition supply points, at abandoned explosive ordnance stockpiles, and in ammunition and weapons caches.

No matter the setting or situation, safety is always paramount during the demilitarization process. The reality is that demilitarization entails applying physical forces (heating, cutting) and/or disassembling munitions that were designed to explode with deadly force. Additionally, the munitions being demilitarized may not be in pristine condition, elevating the danger and complexity of processing the materials.

To ensure safety, every aspect of a demilitarization process is done following a very strict standard operating procedure (SOP). Those SOPs are developed, written, approved, reviewed, and tested on inert items before demilitarization begins.

Finally, machines and robots are making it so some demilitarization operations can be completed unattended. Demilitarization takes place in a variety of settings, on a variety of wartime technologies with the same end goal: safely disable the item, making it unable to achieve its original mission objective and recycle as many of the components as possible.


Mike Reynolds, President Global Mission Solutions Acuity InternationalCheck out our Munitions and Environmental Remediation solutions and connect with Mike Reynolds, Acuity’s President of Global Mission Solutions (GMS) at michael.reynolds@acuityinternational.com.

 

Acuity International Tapped to Support Hawthorne Army Depot Operations and Maintenance Services Contract

Acuity International, a leading provider of process and technology-based critical services to global government and commercial enterprises, today announced the award of a subcontract by Amentum in support of the Department of the Army, Army Materiel Command (AMC) Joint Munitions Command (JMC) for the operation and maintenance of the Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD) located in Hawthorne, NV.

Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD) stores conventional munitions, demilitarizes, and disposes of unserviceable, obsolete and surplus munitions; and maintains serviceability through inspection and renovation to ensure munitions readiness. Acuity will be responsible for demilitarizing and disposing of unserviceable, obsolete, and surplus and dispose of conventional ammunition, missiles and other related munitions and components.

“We are proud to support the U.S. Army in this complex and highly specialized operation,” said Mike Reynolds, President Global Mission Solutions. “Our team brings well-tested and adaptable methods, agility and deep domain expertise to support the Army’s mission.”

The Army initially awarded the contract to DynCorp International, which Amentum acquired in November 2020.

About Acuity International
Acuity International, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, provides process and technology-based critical services to global government and commercial enterprises. With expertise in a range of engineering and consulting, software solutions, medical care, occupational health, global mission, environmental remediation, and secure and complex construction management services, augmented by deep expertise in cybersecurity and cloud solutions, Acuity International is positioned to assist its customers in their critical missions anywhere in the world with the latest technology and repeatable processes. With 7,000+ employees in more than 30 countries, Acuity International is comprised of three business practices: Advanced Technology Solutions, Advanced Medical Solutions, and Global Mission Solutions. For more information, visit: https://acuityinternational.com/

 

Janus Global Operations, an Acuity International company, Awarded Seat on $240 Million Contract to Support U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Janus Global Operations, an Acuity International company, has been awarded one of nine contracts under the Multiple Award Military Munitions Services (MAMMS III) contract through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Baltimore District.  The multiple award task order will have a shared capacity of $240 Million.

Under MAMMS III, Janus Global Operations teams will help USACE mitigate potentially hazardous munitions found at and near current and formally used defense sites and other federally controlled/owned sites. The Department of Defense estimates this contract to be completed by 2028.

“We are honored to be selected to perform on this contract,” said David Bell, Acuity’s Vice President of Munitions and Environmental. “We look forward to supporting USACE and the Military Munitions Response Program.”

As one of the largest commercial munitions management companies in the world, Acuity provides government and commercial clients with solutions that address munitions and explosives management, unexploded ordnance and explosive remnants of war detection and remediation, improvised explosive device defeat, and a range of demining services and training.

Employees provide responsive medical care around the world, often to areas challenged by conflict, geography and geopolitics. Advanced healthcare services include managing and staffing on-site health clinics and hospitals and are customized to meet the unique needs of U.S. government and military personnel, contractors, third-country nationals, local civilians, and coalition forces.

“As we work toward growing into Acuity this fall, the company is planning further corporate social responsibility initiatives to make real differences globally,” Stalick said. “We welcome partnering with other companies that align with our values of service in the areas of global missions, advanced technology and advanced medical.”