MIL-STD-129 Requirements

Don't let your improperly labeled shipment cost you hundreds of dollars in relabeling costs, delayed reimbursements, and negative supplier performance grades. This guide will build your awareness of the full scope of requirements for Mil-Std-129 including barcoding, label materials, protection, and processing. When you are finished you’ll have a better idea of whether you’re ready to begin making your own Mil-Std-129 labels with Mil-Std-129 Barcoding Software, or if you’re better off having EasySoft Pre-Print Your Military Packaging Labels for you.

Example box Labels from MIL-STD-129

Requirements In-Detail


The military has definitions of packaging that help in understanding how to mark a complete shipment. The standard defines multiple layers of packaging. It starts with the item being packed. That item’s first level of packaging is called the Unit Pack. On the other end of the spectrum, a shipment handling unit is defined as an Exterior Container. Shipments can be comprised of multiple Exterior Containers. If you are shipping Parcels, each carton with a shipping address label is considered an Exterior. If you are shipping Pallets, each pallet is considered an Exterior Container. More layer definitions exist within the standard.


There are three main label types to be considered in Mil-Std-129 – the Military Shipping Label (or MSL), the Container Markings (both HRI and MRI) and Radio Frequency Identification Tags (RFID). Mil-Std-129 by itself doesn’t mean RFID is required. There are DFARs Clause in the contract, bid-package, or master solicitation which govern whether RFID is required. All three of these labels are found on Exterior Containers. Inner containers have their own Container Markings – like the Unit Pack with its Unit PACK label. Inner containers, however, do not require RFID or MSL labels. There are variations on most label types depending on the contents of the package and terms of the contract. Lot numbers, expiration dates, shelf-life and warranty data may be required based on the contract terms. Serialization is one of the more demanding scenarios for package labeling as each layer’s package labels need to repeat the serial data for all items within. Item Unique Identification requirements add a layer of complexity to serial identification.!


Each layer of packaging in a shipment has distinct marking requirements. There are two types of marking. Human Readable Information (HRI) is comprised of text and numbers. Machine Readable Information (MRI) is data that can be read by a machine – namely barcodes.

Mil-Std-129 gets as detailed as defining how text and human readable information is formatted and ordered on the label. The standard considers the type of fonts, and how small or large the text should be.

Although barcodes may look straight forward – their construction must follow several international standards that are referenced by Mil-Std-129. When these standards are followed, the resulting barcodes will be successfully read by any barcode scanning hardware. When these standards are not followed the barcodes may not read in the field – which may result in rejected shipments. Since barcodes are produced by a system of software working with printers, blank label stocks, and contrasting inks and transfer materials any one of these system components can lead to failure.


While Mil-Std-129 provides for markings to be stenciled, the vast majority of markings will be applied via adhesive labels that have been printed. There are a wide variety of label stocks and adhesives in the marketplace, but the DoD has found the need to specify the performance criteria for Mil-Std-129 labels. These criteria are partially defined within the standard, but are more explicitly defined in Mil-Prf-61002. Paper labels are ok, but labels on Exterior Containers should be over-laminated.

Mil-Std-129 Checklist

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Before you win a contract there are opportunities to understand your obligations as they are spelled out in referenced standards, bid-packages, drawings, DFARS clauses and special process instructions. Mil-Std-129 will usually be referenced in Section B or Section D of a contract. Also understand that a master solicitation may not physically be attached to a contract or bid package. It is still in force and can be found online. Chances are, if you are dealing with a DLA or DoD contract, you'll be dealing with Mil-Std-129. GSA contracts may invoke Fed-Std-123 which is different. Increasingly though GSA contracts are referencing Mil-Std-129 so pay attention.

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There are different versions of Mil-Std-129 so understand which one is in force for the contract. Even if the contract doesn't mention Mil-Std-129, it is required when ASTMD-3951 is referenced or if Mil-Std-2073 is referenced.

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There are many scenarios where outsourcing makes sense. Many times contractors who are just starting out look to tap the expertise of third parties because they don't have trained resources or enough experience in-house. Other times, when a contractor is resource constrained, having a reliable third party makes operational sense. Finally, some contractors will outsource for some of the more complex labeling jobs such as IUID and serialization or even Kits. In addition to trained packing and shipping staff, the key factors for bringing MIl-Std-129 labeling in-house is based on volume and flexibility. If you need to find a reliable Mil-Std-129 labeling service provider, you are ready for our Pre-Printed Service!

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Make sure you have considered all aspects of Mil-Std-129 compliance when you bring it in-house. You need the right materials, software, hardware and partnerships. EasySoft would like to be your reliable partner for all of these aspects of Mil-Std-129 labeling. If you're ready become self-sufficient, take a look at our starter bundle.


What data do I need for my labels?
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Contract-specific data can be found on the contract itself and includes things like the Contract Number, the Required Delivery Date, the NSN, and your CAGE Code. Non-Contract Specific data in primarily descriptive of the shipment itself such as the Ship-Date, Weights, Cubes, Serial Numbers, and Quantities within each Packing-Level.

Will I be rejected if I do not label my shipment?
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That is like asking if you will get a ticket if you speed. Only if you get caught. And just like speeding, you'll likely feel the pain in more than one way. The shipment may be rejected and when that happens there is no payment. You may or may not hear about it in a timely fashion which means you may not be paid for a long time. You will likely have to spend considerable staff-time researching what seems to be the problem. You may be charged back by the receiving entity for them having to label (or re-label) your shipment - and it won't be cheap. We're talking hundreds of dollars. Lastly your company's Quality Performance Score with the government suffers and negatively impacts your ability to win future contracts.

I have never been rejected in the past for not labeling according to 129, why was I rejected this time?
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Since mid-2014 it has been our experience that the government is increasing the level of scrutiny to its inbound supply chain operations resulting in increased reject rates.

Do I need to overlaminate my labels?
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This is a tough one. Throughout Mil-Std-129 there are clear requirements for the use of overlaminate on exterior containers. We do recommend for it.

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