Performance-Oriented Packaging

by Stacy L. Umstead

When you hear "POP," do you think of the latest hit single from a trendy boy band? A carbonated beverage? One third of a trio that also includes snap and crackle?

Well, in the Department of Defense (DOD), POP stands for "performance-oriented packaging," which is packaging designed especially to transport hazardous material. POP markings are applied to packaging that has passed a series of tests that simulate the stresses of transportation. These tests, which are prescribed by the U.S. Department of Transportation in Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 49, are based on United Nations (UN) recommendations and are compatible with worldwide standards. They include drop, hydrostatic pressure, leakage, stack, and vibration tests.

POP was introduced into international packaging regulations in 1989 and was made a requirement for U.S. shipments outside the continental United States (OCONUS) on 1 January 1991. POP was phased into Federal regulations over the ensuing 5 years and, in 1996, became the law of the land for packaging of all regulated hazardous material shipped both OCONUS and in CONUS.

The Defense Logistics Agency's (DLA's) Defense Distribution Center (DDC) at New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, manages the Packaging Design and Testing Program for DOD, as well as a DOD-wide computer-based program called Packaging for United Nations Conformance-POP. The latter program consolidates the results of tests completed by the military services into one database. Once a packaging design passes POP testing, the DDC POP team enters it into the automated program, and all DOD employees responsible for packaging hazardous materials use the program to obtain tested, approved packaging configurations. The DDC designs and arranges testing for all hazardous materials except hazardous ammunition and explosives. Each military service managing class V materiel designs and tests the packaging and submits reports to the DDC for inclusion in the POP program.

POP includes a requirement to make labels compatible in size and format with UN specifications. Current participants include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, DLA, numerous Reserve component units, and the General Services Administration. The Web version of POP at is updated daily. A stand-alone, downloadable version (without the graphics features) also is available on the same Web site for use during deployments and at times of Internet nonavailability. The downloadable database is updated monthly to ensure access to the most current packaging information.

The DDC POP team offers comprehensive training for all DOD packaging personnel on how to use the POP program. The POP training curriculum includes general packaging requirements, package markings, selective testing variations, exemptions, approvals, hazardous materials identification, and the markings required by the UN and Military Standard 129, Marking for Shipment and Storage. Since 1998, the team has trained more than 750 people.

A new initiative in POP training is interactive video teletraining via satellite broadcasts on the Government Education and Training Network. Training schedules can be viewed on the Web at

Members of the POP team serve as instructors and administer the testing program for DOD personnel. They are available for consultation and technical assistance on POP issues. To schedule POP training or to have your site included in a future satellite training broadcast, call the POP team at (717) 770-8238 or (717) 770-5449 (DSN 771) or send an email to popsupport@ddc.dla.milALOG

Stacy L. Umstead is a public affairs specialist at the Defense Logistics Agency's Defense Distribution Center in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. She is a corporate etiquette and international protocol consultant and currently is enrolled in the Business Logistics Certificate Program of Pennsylvania State University.