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NEWS | June 6, 2024

DOD kicks off improved household goods shipment program

By C. Todd Lopez DOD News

Stressful station-to-station moves due to poor quality service and broken or delayed household goods could soon be a thing of the past. This summer, U.S. Transportation Command kicked off implementation of its new Global Household Goods contract, or GHC, which aims to make the movement of household goods a better experience all around for service members and their families. 

During the peak season for permanent change of station moves — mid-May through Labor Day — the Defense Department began moving some service members under the new GHC contract, which was awarded to HomeSafe Alliance.

Those moves will be limited in number this summer — no more than 50 moves per month — will happen across only 15 military installations and be limited to local moves only. 

Feedback from those initial moves will be documented with an automated customer satisfaction survey process to evaluate how the moves went and to improve GHC going forward, said Andy Dawson, Defense Personal Property Management Office Director at Transcom. 

"We've spent a significant amount of time improving the customer satisfaction survey process and working with commercial industry to bring in best practices," he said. 

The existing program to move service members and their families has been around for almost two decades, Dawson said. But in recent years, DOD recognized it's no longer serving customers the way it should. Last year, for instance, only about 77% of service members reported satisfaction with their household goods move.”   

That number translates to several thousand service members who were not satisfied with their move. Dawson's team is working to significantly reduce that number.   

"Around the late [2010s], in 2018 really, was the pivot point where we started to see cracks," Dawson said. "What service members started to see was poor communication with industry, poor customer service, frustrations with how their personal property was being handled, and a general lack of accountability of industry's performance." 

There was also a lack of satisfaction with how claims were being handled after a move was completed. Lawmakers stepped in, Dawson said, and asked DOD to make changes to better serve service members and their families. 

"Congress directed the department to address service member concerns, and that happened in early 2019," he said. 

Since then, he said, Transcom has worked hard to develop a new way to conduct a military move. There have been challenges along the way, but Dawson said he believes Transcom personnel have created a solution that meets the demands set by Congress and serves military members and their families by improving the military move process and making moves less stressful. 

"Permanent change of station moves and relocations are an integral part of the military lifestyle," Dawson said. "We owe it to our service members and families to do everything we can to reduce the stress and frustrations that come with moving, which I think most studies list as one of the top ten most stressful things you do in your life." 

A big change, he said, is that under GHC there will be vastly improved communication between service members and the contractor responsible for making their move happen. 

"There's one point of contact for service members to move," he said. "The contract requires a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week response to address and help service members and families with their move." 

New information technology components within GHC — including mobile tools, DOD's MilMove software and HomeSafe Alliance's software known as HomeSafe Connect — will also make moves easier for military families. 

MilMove is a DOD system that allows service members to request a move, Dawson said. That system also supports business operations for DOD employees who are involved in processing service member moves. MilMove communicates with and transfers data to HomeSafe Connect, the contractor's software for managing a service member's move. HomeSafe Connect offers modern, digital management capabilities, which make it easier to request, track and manage shipments. 

"The moving process today that service members are going through is still very much a manual process," Dawson said. "This technology automates that, including the entire inventory process." 

The GHC contractor, HomeSafe Alliance, will manage moves for military families by developing and making use of its own network of trusted and trained moving company subcontractors. 

To ensure those moves go well — both with the initial phase-in effort this summer, and later, when the program's scope is widened — HomeSafe Alliance provides training to its network of partner moving companies to ensure that every move for every service member looks the same and provides the same quality experience, Dawson said. 

"HomeSafe has stood up their own training academy to provide the necessary training to their subcontractors to make that concept come to life," he said. "It drives some standardization, which in turn drives expectations for what a service member should expect from their moves." 

Through training of subcontractors, Dawson said, the moving experience should be standardized. And when the moving experience is standardized, service members — who may move a dozen or more times in their career — will learn what to expect from a move and can then better evaluate each move against the last. 

"Under GHC, what should happen is when you move it should be a very similar if not exactly the same experience as your last move (under GHC), " he said. 

Also under GHC, there is a more streamlined process for filing and settling claims, including easy-to-read, electronic inventories with photos of customer's belongings. 

Military moves affect both service members and their families, and more than 300,000 moves happen each year. When developing GHC, Transcom consulted with a wide array of stakeholders to understand the challenges service members and their families may have had in the past while moving to gain insight into what an ideal move should look like. 

"We established a spouse advisory panel so that we could ensure we were addressing the perspective of the spouses and families internal to the department," Dawson said. 

Also part of the effort, he said, was a cross-functional team of representatives from each military service, including the Coast Guard. 

"It's a joint program," he said. "We had to bring them all to the table and come up with a collective plan to move forward, based on what we thought was the best way to get after some of these challenges." 

The DOD has been moving military families around the globe for a long time and there is ample data collected from post-move surveys. Development of GHC also involved reviewing that data, which includes both good and bad experiences from decades of moves. And finally, Dawson said, the department consulted with industry to get their input as well. 

"We considered all the stakeholders' input," he said. 

Changes to household goods movement are only part of what Transcom has been doing, Dawson said. Other changes are underway as well, including how DOD does long-term storage of household goods, and how the department goes about shipping a personally owned vehicle.

"We're very excited about what we're doing to improve the holistic relocation process for our service members and families," he said. "The spotlight is on GHC right now, but there's a lot of work going on for all parts of the program." 

Customers at the 15 GHC-live phase-in locations will be notified in advance if they are going to be moved under the new contract. Locations where GHC is being phased in this summer include: 

  • Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia 
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Virginia 
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina 
  • Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina 
  • Naval Base Kitsap, Washington 
  • Naval Station Everett, Washington 
  • Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington 
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Seattle, Washington 
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington 
  • Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme, California 
  • Naval Air Station Lemoore, California 
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California 
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California 
  • Naval Base San Diego, California 
  • Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida (shipments starting in July 2024)