Troops and their families may finally be on track to have a private company manage their shipments of personal belongings during permanent change-of-duty station moves instead of the military -- a major overhaul designed to improve the troubled system.
For more than two years, the shift to private management has been snared in legal fights. But U.S. Transportation Command said Thursday it is restarting the handover of the household goods shipment system to a Texas-based company, HomeSafe Alliance LLC, after a federal claims court batted down the latest challenge to the $20 billion contract.
The company is now expected to take over the system by the summer peak season of 2024, according to Transportation Command, with the hope that HomeSafe Alliance can provide better service to troops who are often frustrated by delays, poor customer service, lost or broken belongings, and other problems.
"Our families deserve a safe and quality moving experience and with this ruling, we move closer to that goal," Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, who leads the command, said in a released statement.
Each year, more than 300,000 service members and dependents -- most often in the summer months -- make the grueling trek to a new assignment with permanent change of station, or PCS, orders in hand. The stressful moves entail shipping household goods around the globe, so troops have to undergo packouts with moving companies and delivery of their belongings at a new home on the other side weeks or months later.
About 950 private companies are involved in moving the shipments, but for now, the entire system is managed by Transportation Command. Under military management, the system has long generated dissatisfaction and frustration during the busy summer months, and that was amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic and the worker shortages it caused for moving companies.
The contract with HomeSafe gives the company responsibility for "complete door-to-door global household goods relocation transportation and warehouse services worldwide" for the military community, the command said. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied protests of the contract award this week in the latest legal development, what appears to be the end of a series of legal gambits by companies that lost out on the deal to make the military reconsider its decision.
With all potential contract extensions, the company could be handling troop moves for nine years. The plan is to begin a phased-in approach, with HomeSafe handling domestic shipments after next summer. Transportation Command said the soonest the company will fully take over is summer 2024.
"HomeSafe is committed to providing incredible customer service and resources to our service members, civilians, and their families. Combining our HomeSafe Connect advanced digital solution and global program management expertise, we will make the relocation process smoother for our military families," Alan Thompson, the company's CEO, said in a released statement following the court ruling.
Thompson said the company plans to reward quality performance by companies in the vast moving system and will help transform the moving industry. "The organization is dedicated to providing fast, easy, efficient relocation experiences using cutting-edge technology," the company said in the release.
That will include 24-hour customer service, an electronic dashboard to track shipments, and digital inventories of all household items, it said.
The $20 billion contract represents about 15% of domestic personal property moving and storage -- a massive slice of the industry pie -- and was originally awarded to another company, based in New Jersey, in April 2020. But the first award set off a protracted legal battle, eventually giving HomeSafe the advantage.
Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, also rejected challenges to the contract lobbed by other competing companies over what is known as the Global Household Goods contract.
"The favorable decisions from both the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims validate the integrity of the [Global Household Goods] program and award," Brig. Gen. Joel Safranek, director of the Defense Personal Property Management Office, said in a statement. "We're excited to resume the transition toward this vital reform effort to the household goods relocation program."
-- Travis Tritten can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.