Previously owned test and measurement equipment has been purchased for over 50 years by the United States military, agencies of the Federal gov- ernment, and prime contractors that support these organizations. Yet, despite the significant amount of previously owned equipment purchased regularly, there are very few guidelines (either official or understood) for the research and procurement of this equipment.

There are many reasons why an engineer or organization may choose to procure previously owned test equipment assets; however, they are generally one or all of the following:

  • Need to save money.
  • Need to save time over delivery of a new asset.
  • Need to replace with an exact model/configuration that is no longer available as new.

Electronic Test Equipment — commonly referred to in the military as TMDE (Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment) or GPETE (General Purpose Electronic Test Equipment) — has been a key component in the lifecycle management of electronic systems since the earliest communication systems were deployed in field, air, and shipboard programs. Today, this equipment continues to play a valuable role in maintaining operational readiness for our military services.

In many cases, when a new system is being deployed or repair is required to an existing one, the engineer and/or procurement official will have the option of purchasing new test equipment or previously owned. The availability of previously owned equipment in these cases is usually correlated to the degree in which the equipment is new, cuttingedge technology usually found in design work. The vast majority of federal and military projects, however, typically involve manufacturing, maintenance, or production that relies on “proven” previously deployed and tested technology. Hence, there is usually adequate supply of previously owned equipment.

If this is the case, the decision to purchase new or used may be influenced by budget or urgency. Purchasing previously owned equipment may end up costing less than 50% of the list price of the new asset, and may be delivered more quickly. However, there are factors that would-be purchasers of previously owned equipment should keep in mind:

  1. Search for the model within one’s own company/organization.
  2. If it is not available inside the department or organization and you choose to procure previously owned equipment, always know your source. Specifically, who is guaranteeing quality, warranty, and right of return? The best way to procure this asset is through an informal bidding process where only bona fide test equipment dealers are invited to compete.
  3. Do not allow substitutions unless it is clearly understood that the asset will work as configured.
  4. If delivery is the main issue, make sure the asset is definitely available from the dealer and that the manufacturer/distributor is unable to expedite delivery.
  5. Avoid buying from end users directly, as there are hidden costs that make this an unacceptable choice for anyone other than organizations with complete evaluation, calibration, and repair facilities.

Because military systems evolve and, in many cases, have their operational life extended, the original test systems must still be available and maintainable. Today, two factors combine to make system support more difficult. First, the lifespan of military systems is being extended as the government struggles with the dual budget pressures of being squeezed by rising personnel costs and being hit by massive increases in the acquisition cost of new systems. Therefore, in many cases, the procedures to test older systems are based on test equipment that, if removed, must be replaced with product that is a form, fit, and function substitution, or proper system functionality will be at serious risk, requiring a software rewrite and a complete system re-validation.