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Facebook post shakes up US military household goods contract

Mar 20, 2019
The US Department of Defense (DOD) has put out a Request for Information (RFI) on the feasibility of outsourcing the US Military household goods contract to a single company.

Facebook post shakes up US military household goods contract
The US Department of Defense (DOD) has put out a Request for Information (RFI) on the feasibility of outsourcing the US Military household goods contract to a single company.This extraordinary development owes its origin to a post on social media only six months ago.

It all began with a Facebook post on 24 August, 2018 under the name of Military Spouse Chronicles in which the writer complained of poor service by household goods movers during military relocations. The writer claimed that the average insurance claim was $10,000 with the average pay out being close to 50%.  The allegation also included poor packing, rough handling, an uncaring attitude and missing items, and challenged the authorities to “hold these companies accountable”.

Following positive comments on Facebook the writer launched a petition on which, to date, has collected almost 105,000 signatures.  US Senator Jon Tester picked up the story and, on 27 September, 2018 sent a letter to US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), signed by him and Senators Tim Kaine, Lisa Murkowski and James Lankford making a bi-partisan effort to address the concerns.

The letter related to the Transport Service Providers’ (TSPs) mismanagement and inefficiency regarding the movement of household goods for military personnel. It said that TSPs performance was “subpar and getting worse”.  While acknowledging that TSPs faced challenges such as an inadequate pool of staff and a high summer season that could see as many as 12,000 moves a day during peak times, the Senators said that the increasing negligence is “very alarming”.

The letter said that service members deserved better transparency from TSPs and asked USTRANSCOM what prohibited the tracking of household goods from origin to destination, whether it collected and analysed data on claims and what actions it took, what was the criteria for assigning contracts, how are TSPs held accountable and what additional resources would be needed to improve the process. The Senators said that it was critical that USTRANSCOM conducted a review of the TSPs management and accounting practices to determine what actions are needed.

As a result of the review it appears that USTRANSCOM are looking at moving more of their military families during the off-peak season when possible and plans to hire more quality assurance inspectors.  In a further change that directly impacts the moving industry the DOD has recently put out a Request for Information (RFI) asking for feedback from interested parties on the feasibility of outsourcing the military household goods program to a single contractor. According to Chuck White, President of IAM (International Association of Movers) they received 22 responses, some from parties in the industry but also from some large US defence contractors not normally involved in household goods.  They have indicated that they received enough information to believe they can move forward. “We have learned that DOD now has a timeline in place to contract the entire DOD household goods programme (appoximately 400,000 moves) to a single contractor,” he confirmed.

Although this is undoubtedly a major development in this crucial sector of the moving industry, in practice it is likely that the successful contractor will be using a network of suppliers to perform the moves in the same way that USTRANSCOM did.  Quite how it will all shake out remains to be seen.

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