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By Misha King
The Defense Contract Management Agency donated nearly 800 out-of-warranty laptops to a local nonprofit organization that provides services to under-resourced veterans nationwide Nov. 30.
After removing hard drives and memory cards, DCMA donated this equipment to Tech for Troops, T4T for short, through the Computers for Veterans and Students Act of 2022, or COVS. The law allows certified, nonprofit refurbishing companies to directly obtain, refurbish, and distribute surplus government computers to veterans and others in need of a device.
Jeff Beaudoin, director of DCMA’s Information Technology Directorate Digital Services Center, was instrumental in coordinating the effort between T4T, DCMA’s headquarters Field Services Team and the agency’s IT asset manager. He saw an opportunity for DCMA to avoid travel costs and a chance to support T4T’s mission with technology resources.
“We started preparing for this donation during our IT symposium in the spring of 2023,” said Beaudoin, a T4T’s volunteer since September 2021. “Disposing of our IT assets is already a huge effort when travel funds are available and the government isn’t operating under a continuing resolution. The Field Services team usually feels the brunt of the impact due to their limits on storage space, so this donation was a win-win for everyone involved.”
Sonya Ebright, DCMA’s deputy director and Navy veteran, said these types of donations save DCMA time and money with the added benefit of taking care of veterans.
“I was very pleased to see our IT leadership were actively looking for ways for DCMA to continue supporting our vets,” she said. “The agency also avoids having to spend funds on both transportation and refurbishing the computers because T4T handles that on top of providing support to our veterans. They have a waiting list, and I’m glad DCMA can help work down that backlog.”
Beaudoin, a DCMA team member since 2010, said with this relationship established and despite still operating under a continuing resolution, he was also able to coordinate T4T’s support with the agency’s asset disposition needs at two locations in Georgia and North Carolina.
“Multiple IT teams are working with T4T to plan a very large hardware pickup after the new year, which will avoid travel and rental costs for DCMA, reduce the storage burden on the local offices and further enable T4T’s mission at the same time,” he said.
According to Mark Casper, T4T’s president and CEO, the donations will have a significant impact on the local veteran community.
“I can say with certainty there be over 500 veterans who will ‘bridge the technology divide’ because of this support,” he said, adding that not all donated laptops can be refurbished. “Along with a computer, T4T provides veterans with free access to thousands of in-person and online training classes on essential computer skills, personal cyber security, interview techniques, resume writing, financial literacy and social media foundations. This is the impact of the donated computers.”
Beaudoin served in the Army himself and said supporting his fellow veterans is already an awesome thing, but what he discovered during the last week of coordinating the donation made it even more special.
“I learned that T4T helped a member of our field services team start his path toward a federal civil service career and, ultimately, to DCMA,” he said. “He has an inspiring story of serving and giving back.”
Bob Fisher is the DCMA team member who benefited from T4T’s services. After retiring from the Army as a weapons maintenance technician in 2019, he enrolled in a cybersecurity training course at a computer learning center in Richmond, Virginia, but almost immediately encountered a roadblock.
“The computer I had was very slow and made it difficult to keep up with the class,” said Fisher. “The learning center connected me with T4T to receive a free laptop, and it helped jump-start my career in the IT field.”
Fisher not only benefits from these services, but he also enjoys volunteering at T4T to pay it forward.
“The staff is very welcoming and genuinely care about the people they serve,” he said. “I felt like a member of the team from the first day I started volunteering there. And now my son is a member of the team, too! T4T recently hired him to help refurbish and configure the donated systems.”
Ebright said she was glad Beaudoin led the donation effort and asked her to attend the equipment hand-off at headquarters.
“It’s always great to give back to our community, and our DCMA team makes that possible by seizing opportunities,” she said. “I’m grateful to the people who made this happen, and I’m sure the veterans who will benefit from the equipment and services will too.”
U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents Virginia’s 7th District, introduced COVS in July 2020 and again in May 2021 before President Joe Biden signed it into law in December 2022. According to Spanberger’s website, COVS was established to address discrepancies in the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, which allows the transfer of nonessential federal property to authorized state agencies for distribution to local government, businesses, nonprofits and other eligible recipients. Some of this property — including computers and other technology equipment — is not immediately usable, and the federal government does not have the authority to transfer this repairable equipment to third-party computer refurbishers. COVS bridges the gap by allowing certified, nonprofit refurbishing companies to directly obtain, refurbish and distribute surplus government computers to veterans and students in need.