Officials at U.S. Transportation Command have delayed their award of a contract aimed at improving household goods moves for military members and their families.

This delay pushes back the start of the new system several months 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.

By the time this new process starts moving troops’ household goods, 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 which had been awarded in 2020. That contract, awarded April 30, 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.

Officials said earlier they planned to award a new contract in June. Now, they don’t plan to award the contract before September, said Andre Kok, a spokesman for TRANSCOM. Under the timeline previously provided in December, the implementation would have begun in peak moving season 2022, which generally starts in May; now it’s pushed to the fall of 2022. This gives TRANSCOM more time to address GAO’s recommendations, Kok said.

From the service member and family perspective, the delay is good, said Dan Bradley, director of government and military relations for the International Association of Movers. “It would, I think, be very tough to implement such a huge contract at the beginning of a peak season, making sure everything was ready to go.” During the peak season, generally May through August, more people are moving, not just in the military but in the commercial sector, and there’s more competition for trucks and packing crews.

“If it kicks off in the fall instead of the spring or summer, it gives the contractors time to meet that summer surge of the next year, by getting their processes in place and their networks set up,” Bradley said.

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. Because of the pandemic, there were fewer moves in 2020.

The planned contract is aimed at fixing military families’ long-standing problems with damaged household goods, and other frustrations with movers. Those problems came to a head in 2018. The new plan sets up a system where a single commercial move manager will oversee everything related to the day-to-day movement and temporary storage of household goods, essentially privatizing a function currently handled by TRANSCOM. Private moving companies have long handled the actual moves, but this outsources the day-to-day management of how shipments are awarded. TRANSCOM will still maintain oversight of the household goods move process.

“The revised timeline postures DoD to fully address GAO’s recommendations,” said TRANSCOM’s Kok. “Our initial estimate of a June 2021 contract re-award was made in October 2020, immediately following the release of GAO’s recommendations on the [Global Household Goods contract] protest and prior to receiving the revised proposals from interested offerors.”

TRANSCOM has also expanded the selection process. In addition to TRANSCOM staff, the team now includes members from across the military services. “The timeline accounts for the broad collaboration and rigor this acquisition requires,” Kok said.

The trucks and crews that move troops’ household goods are owned by private sector companies who are also moving other people in the civilian community, so capacity is limited at times and in certain areas, especially in peak season. The new system will provide a centralized system to manage the capacity — such as trucks and crews — that TRANSCOM say they can’t do with the current system. Instead of awarding the contracts through dozens of offices on the basis of each individual shipment, the chosen contractor will be able to use the available trucks and crews in more efficient ways, officials say.

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.

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