A new contract to facilitate the movement of household goods, an integral part of any move to a new duty location, is expected to make things easier for both service members and their families.
The U.S. Transportation Command awarded the contract to American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. on April 30. The first move under the new contract won't take place until February, Transcom's director of acquisition said at a news conference today.
"The ... contract is an important component of improving service members' experiences during the relocation process and fundamentally restructures DOD's relationship with the household goods industry in order to improve access to, and management of, quality capacity to meet peak demand and enable the department to fix the accountability and responsibility lacking in today's program," said Ken Brennan.
The New Jersey-based business was chosen for the contract because the proposal the company submitted provided the best service for the best value for service members, Defense Department civilians and their families, Brennan said, adding that the carrier group beat out six other competing proposals.
Rick Marsh, the director of the defense personal property program at Transcom, said the new contract will bring great benefit to service members and their families.
Right now, he said, there's no single contractor the DOD uses to move household goods. As a result, he said, no portion of the industry is motivated to spend money to enhance the service they provide to service members and their families.
"There is ... no rationale to invest in quality suppliers and invest in your network," Marsh said. "You can't forecast the work that you're going to perform. Our current model leads to using day laborers and other folks that maybe aren't as well-trained as moving professionals should be."
By centralizing the work in one company, he said, DOD lets industry know what the demand is for household goods movement, and that allows for investment.
"They can hire and invest in very highly trained employees to come into service member homes to handle pack out or delivery," he said.
As far as accountability is concerned, he said, the department has more than 300 personal property offices at installations and another 42 shipping offices around the world that will have formally-appointed contracting officers and quality assurance evaluators.
"We're going to be working off of a centralized quality assurance surveillance plan to ensure we have accurate, rigorous oversight over the contract," Marsh said.
For families who have issues with their move, he said, there will be new avenues to rectify problems.
"I would say most of the issues that we have in our current program revolve around communication," he said. "We're going to be able to bring tools to the table that we simply can't deliver today under the current program, to be able to put families in touch with representatives from industry faster — to make the claims process much cleaner, much simpler, and for them to be, to have it settled and to be made whole ... much faster than they are today."
Currently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many service members are unable to relocate as they might have expected during the summer months, while others will be allowed to move if granted an exception, Marsh said. For those who are allowed to move under such an exception, efforts will be made to protect both families and movers from COVID-19.
"In an effort to protect the force and deliver a safe moving experience to DOD families, DOD has directed a series of health protection measures for personnel moving during the stop-movement period," he said.
DOD has directed that industry personnel adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's health protection protocols, Marsh said. That includes wearing face coverings, minimizing crew sizes, cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and practicing good hand hygiene while conducting moves in family housing.
Additionally, Marsh said, moving crews will need to verify the health of their teams upon arriving at military families' homes.
"When a moving crew arrives at the curb for a pack out or delivery, moving companies will present written verification that members of the crew have been screened for illness and will be properly equipped to adhere to these protocols," Marsh said.
If a family does have concerns about the health of the team that arrives to move their household goods, Marsh said, they are also empowered to ask those movers to not come into their home.
"If families aren't comfortable, they should stop work and reschedule their move," he said. "A DOD representative will contact every DOD member during every move, in-person or virtually, to ensure protocols are being followed. And if something's not right, local transportation offices and the personnel's chain of command will get involved to make it right."