Household Goods Inspector closely observes a household goods pack-out

Household Goods Inspector Faata Leafa closely observes a household goods pack-out performed by Aloha International in March. All crew members all are practicing social distancing and wearing facemasks in accordance with NAVADMIN Order 126/20.

WASHINGTON – A new contract to facilitate the packing and shipping of household goods during military moves is expected to make things easier for service members and their families.

The U.S. Transportation Command made the agreement with American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. on April 30. The first move under the new deal won’t take place until February, said TRANSCOM Director of Acquisition Ken Brennan May 7 at a news conference in the nation’s capital.

“The ... contract is an important component of improving service member experiences during the relocation process,” he announced. “(It) 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.”

The New Jersey-based business was chosen for the contract because the proposal it submitted provided the best service for the best value for service members, Defense Department Civilians and their families, Brennan said, adding the carrier group beat out six other competing companies.

Rick Marsh, director of the Defense Personal Property Program at TRANSCOM, explained how the new contract will benefit customers.

Right now, there’s no single contractor the DOD uses to move household goods, he said. As a result, no portion of the industry is motivated to spend money to enhance the service they provide.

“There is ... no rationale to invest in quality suppliers and invest in your network,” Marsh said. “You can’t forecast the work you’re going to perform. Our current model leads to using day laborers and other folks who maybe aren’t as well-trained as moving professionals should be.”

By centralizing the work in one company, he continued, DOD lets industry know what the demand is for household goods movement, and that allows for investment.

“They can hire and invest in highly trained employees to come into service member homes to handle pack out or delivery,” he said.

As far as accountability is concerned, 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, according to Marsh.

“We’re going to be working off of a centralized quality assurance surveillance plan to ensure we have accurate, rigorous oversight over the contract,” he said.

For families who have issues with their move, there will be new avenues to rectify problems.

“I would say most of the issues we have in our current program revolve around miscommunication,” Marsh said. “We’re going to be able to bring tools to the table that we simply can’t deliver today under the current program (including the ability to) put families in touch with representatives from industry faster and to make the claims process much cleaner, much simpler … (and quicker) 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 in the latter category, every effort will be made to protect them as well as those providing the service from possible infection.

“In an effort to protect the force and deliver a safe moving experience to DOD families, the department has directed a series of health risk mitigation measures for personnel PCSing 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. 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 family homes.

“When a moving crew arrives at the curb for a pack out or delivery, the team lead will present written verification that they have been screened for illness and will be properly equipped to adhere to these protocols,” Marsh said.

If a family has concerns about the health of the team that arrives to move their household goods, Marsh said they are 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 service member during every move, in-person or virtually, to ensure protocols are being followed. If something’s not right, local transportation offices and the individual’s chain of command will get involved to make it right.”