U.S. Transportation Command officials have again delayed the award of a new contract aimed at improving household goods moves for military members and their families.
The contract will be awarded “no earlier than” late October, said Andre Kok, a spokesman for TRANSCOM.
A timeline for transition and implementation will be provided after the contract is awarded, he said.
The contract was originally expected to be awarded in June, then the date was pushed to September. At that point, the contract delay was expected to push the start of the new system to the fall of 2022.
The new system will fundamentally change how TRANSCOM does business by putting the day-to-day management of household goods moves into the hands of a contractor. TRANSCOM will still oversee the management. The system is aimed at fixing military families’ long-standing problems with damaged household goods, and other frustrations with movers.
Many troops and families have experienced delays in this summer’s moving season, too, due to shortages of labor, wood and equipment, as well as other problems.
COVID-19 exacerbated the flaws that are in the current system, said Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, in her testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. She has been nominated to become commander of TRANSCOM, replacing Army Gen. Stephen Lyons.
During COVID, TRANSCOM had to reach out and coordinate with all the moving companies — which number more than 900 — and keep them up to date on different DoD policies and force health protection measures, and to ensure there was enough capacity, she said. Having a single move manager with a multi-year contract would allow the move manager to be more confident to invest in quality suppliers and digital technology, and the contractor will be pressed for the accountability that families deserve, she said.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., noted that a contract “is only as good as the military’s willingness to exercise deep and intense oversight of the contract,” referring to problems some military families have had with the condition of their housing because of lack of military oversight of some privatized housing companies.
The Defense Department has “faltered” on the mission of providing quality moving and storage services to DoD and Coast Guard personnel and their families, Van Ovost stated in her answers to advance policy questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“It’s clear that the current program is really incapable of consistently providing that quality capacity, accountability and transparency that our members and family members deserve,” she told senators Thursday.
“If confirmed, I will ensure as I assess the contract, as we move forward in letting that contract, that all the mechanisms are in place for the single move manager to be able to effectively execute and meet the standards that our members and families deserve,” said Van Ovost, whose family has moved 13 times in her career.
In the current system, DoD doesn’t have a formal contract with any of the more than 900 moving companies, so the department can’t hold them accountable for performance failures in a meaningful way, she stated in her responses to advance questions. “This fragmented approach generates the friction, frustration and opacity many military families endure during the relocation process.”
The reform efforts that have been led by TRANSCOM “will deliver credible improvements to military families,” she stated.
By the time the overhauled process for moving troops’ household goods takes effect, it will be nearly four years since TRANSCOM officials announced their plan to seek a single move manager for military moves. This new contract process follows a heavily contested contract that was awarded in 2020. That contract had a potential cost of $19.9 billion over nine years. Sources said at least one of the previous bidders had a lower bid. The Government Accountability Office ruled in favor of two unsuccessful bidders and sent TRANSCOM back to the contract process at the end of 2020.
Generally, DoD arranges for the movement and storage of about 400,000 shipments a year, and about 40 percent of those shipments happen during peak season — May through August.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.