NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A court ruling is expected in October on the $6.2 billion global household goods contract protest, but if the contract does move forward, it won’t be fully implemented until peak moving season of 2024, said the Air Force general in charge of the program that moves service members’ belongings.
“We do expect an answer in October. If it’s a favorable response, which I do expect, we aren’t going to implement in next year’s peak season,” said Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference Tuesday. Peak moving season is generally May through September, and officials know from experience it’s not wise to implement a new system all at once during the already-stressed peak season.
If the U.S. Court of Federal Claims rules in TRANSCOM’s favor and allows the contract to go forward, Van Ovost expects to start rolling it out gradually in October 2023, starting with about 25% of the moves. First to transition would be moves in the continental U.S., then Hawaii, Alaska and Guam, before the system would include all international moves. The full-fledged new Global Household Goods contract, which includes economic price adjustments, would be in place by peak moving season 2024.
That’s five years after TRANSCOM began the process of overhauling the system that moves household goods for service members, Coast Guard members, Defense Department personnel, and some other federal employees.
The new contract is the Defense Department’s effort to fix many of the long-standing problems plaguing service members when their household goods are moved, such as delays in pickups and deliveries, lost and broken belongings, difficulties filing claims and other issues. TRANSCOM began the effort in 2018 after a particularly brutal moving season for troops and their families. Labor shortages and supply chain issues have also affected moves.
The Global Household Goods contract would essentially outsource the management of the household goods moving process, although U.S. Transportation Command would oversee the program. The winning bidder will pull together a network of moving companies from across the industry and coordinate military moves and warehouse services, integrating functions that are currently performed by more than 900 commercial movers. The contractor will be fully responsible for these moves, bringing accountability to the program.
In November 2021, TRANSCOM awarded the contract to HomeSafe Alliance LLC, of Houston, a joint venture of KBR Services LLC and Tier One Relocation LLC. The two unsuccessful bidders — Connected Global and American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. — filed protests with the Government Accountability Office. GAO denied both protests March 3.
Connected Global then filed a protest March 14 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the next option for unsuccessful bidders. American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. also filed a protest with the court.
Oral arguments were heard in August in the combined case.
In the meantime, Van Ovost said, TRANSCOM isn’t waiting for the global household goods contract before making improvements. They’ve been working to ease the claims process, by allowing troops to submit claims through their phone with mobile digital signatures, and to provide more transparency by giving troops more visibility over where their household goods are in transit.
Officials have also sought feedback from military spouses on needed improvements and are getting their feedback on policy changes to make those improvements.
Problems with their household goods moves have plagued service members for decades. More than 10 years ago defense officials “reengineered” the household goods system, but problems persisted.
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.