GSA Shelf Life Management Program

Shelf life items are products that are effective, useful or suitable for consumption for a limited time period. They are expected to deteriorate or become unstable to the degree that a storage period must be assigned to assure that the material will perform satisfactorily in service. In short, the item spoils or will not perform its intended function for the customer after long-term, or even short-term, storage. All of these shelf life items are recognized for their sensitivity to light, temperature, moisture or handling. Packaging deterioration and improper storage or preservation can also adversely affect shelf life.

The "Program Objectives" under 41CFR 101-27.203 cite the need to identify those items having a limited serviceable life. In order to assure maximum customer use of shelf life items, each of these items must be identified, including newly procured items having limited serviceability. Expired shelf life items no longer support the customer's mission, and incur additional costs for disposal. DoD customers maintain stocks of shelf life products to support their mission. GSA is sensitive to their needs concerning these items.

Shelf Life is defined by the Department of Defense (DoD) Shelf Life Management Manual (DoD 4140.27-M/May 5, 2003) as:

"The total period of time beginning with the date of manufacture, date of cure (for elastomeric and rubber products only), date of assembly, or date of pack (subsistence only), and terminated by the date by which an item must be used (expiration date) or subjected to inspection, test, restoration, or disposal action; or after inspection/laboratory test/restorative action that an item may remain in the combined wholesale (including manufacture's) and retail storage systems and still be suitable for issue or use by the end user."

Within the federal supply system, appropriate Shelf Life Codes are designated for each National Stock Number (NSN). These codes are contained in DoD Shelf Life Management Manual 4140.27-M [pdf], Appendix E. Shelf Life Codes designate items as either Type I (alpha character, except X) or Type II (numeric character and alpha character X). Type I items expire at expiration date, when material is unfit for use. Type II items can be extended by either visual inspection or laboratory test, as required by the applicable management activity storage standards. All NSNs or National Item Identification Numbers (NIINs) deemed "non-deteriorative", are identified by Shelf Life Code 0 (zero).

The GSA Shelf Life Management Procedures are outlined in Federal Standard 793B, Depot Storage Standards. In addition, GSA fully supports DoD shelf life policies contained in DoD 4140.27-M, Shelf Life Management Manual.

Guidance and Direction for Shelf Life Material

The Department of Defense maintains a website with multiple reference documents regarding shelf life topics. If you select on "Policy" in the left column at this site, you will see documents including:

GSA Shelf Life Management Policy

GSA closely coordinates its shelf life program with DoD and others in the federal community, as described in DoD Regulation 4140-R, DoD Supply Chain Material Management Regulation.

FED-STD-793, Depot Storage Standards

FED-STD-793 provides guidance on how the depots determine shelf life extensions for products currently stored in their facility. GSA’s Acquisition Centers establish initial shelf life requirements and inspection criteria, based on manufacturer recommendations and commodity specialist oversight.

Minimum Shelf Life Criteria

In accordance with DoD 4140.27-M, Section 2-12 (A),“Acquisition/procurement documentation shall specify that shelf life items/materiel will have not less than 85 percent (allowing for rounding to whole months) of shelf life remaining at time of receipt by the first government activity." Any direct delivery from a GSA supplier to our customer, not having at least 85 percent shelf life remaining, will normally be considered non-conforming.

DoD Material Quality Control Storage Standards (MQCSS) and the DoD Quality Status List (QSL)

DoD’s MQCSS outlines storage standards for deteriorative items. The QSL displays current results of shelf life extension tests, by NSN, Manufacturer, Lot and Batch Number. Users of the DoD Shelf Life website can request Shelf Life Extension System (SLES) account access to view MQCSS and QSL data online.Access is limited to users from a “.mil” or “.gov” host.

DoD Inventory Control Points

The role of each DoD Inventory Control Point (ICP) is to determine storage standards for deteriorative items that they manage, and to arrange for laboratory shelf life extension tests when their Installation Supply Activities request such tests. Storage standards (including length of shelf life and whether an item requires only a visual inspection or a full laboratory test in order to extend shelf life) are recorded in the on-line Material Quality Control Storage Standards (MQCSS). Each ICP has update rights to this system. The type of test required on each item (visual inspection or laboratory testing) is determined by the managing ICP.

DoD Installation Responsibility

If an installation finds that shelf life extension information is not available in the QSL for one of its items, staff can contact their service ICP for further instructions on possible extensions. Laboratory test requests are only allowed when there has not already been a shelf life test for that NSN, Manufacturer, Lot and Batch, and when the quantities of material in question warrant the expense of laboratory testing. When these tests are accomplished, test results and extension data are entered into the QSL.

Other Related Hyperlinks:

Questions regarding GSA products and shelf life should be directed to GSA's National Customer Service Center at 800-488-3111 or emailed to:

For more information or questions, contact Jawad Abdeljawad at or 703-605-2566.

Last Reviewed: 2022-11-29