A $6.2 billion contract aimed at fixing military families’ long-standing problems with household goods shipments has been awarded to Houston-based HomeSafe Alliance, defense officials announced Thursday.
The contract outsources, for the first time, the management of relocation services now being performed by the government. While U.S. Transportation Command will oversee the program, the contractor will pull together a network of moving companies from across the moving industry, and coordinate military moves and warehouse services from start to finish. The contractor will be fully responsible for these moves, bringing accountability to the program.
U.S. Transportation Command initially awarded the contract to a different bidder in April 2020 — at a cost of $7.2 billion, $1 billion more than this contract — but it was pulled back twice during protests.
HomeSafe Alliance is a joint venture of KBR Services LLC and Tier One Relocation LLC. The contract spans more than three years, with the transition and base period beginning Dec. 1 and ending Aug. 31, 2025.
Troops and families shouldn’t expect changes to happen overnight, said Air Force Col. Joel Safranek, director of TRANSCOM’s Defense Personal Property Program, which is in charge of the moves of DoD personnel, Coast Guard members and other federal employees worldwide.
Moves under the new program won’t take place until late 2022 at the earliest, given the nature of this contract, the likelihood of protests, and the time needed for a smooth transition, Safranek said during a recent interview. From now until then, most service members will move under the current program, in which more than 900 commercial companies move about 325,000 shipments year at a cost of about $2.2 billion. Service members often have more than one shipment with their moves.
Because of the lack of quality movers, capacity has long been a problem, with shortages of truck drivers and labor for packing, loading and unloading. Service members have had trouble getting moves scheduled and having their household goods delivered on time., and the pandemic has exacerbated the delays. Damaged and lost belongings have also been a longstanding problem.
So, a key question is how this new contract could help improve capacity.
“The long-term stability and consistent business this contract presents will provide industry with the confidence and rationale to make lasting capital investments and relationships with trusted suppliers to meet DoD’s demand,” Safranek said in a press release announcing the contract award.
“It will also improve communication by delivering modern, digital management tools to customers, simplify the claims process in the event of loss, damage or inconvenience, and enable the department to fix the accountability lacking in today’s program.”
The contractor will integrate functions now being performed by the 900 or more companies in a fragmented system.
Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, who recently took command of TRANSCOM, emphasized that the government will continue to maintain ordering of services and rigorous oversight of contractor performance. Some, including lawmakers, have expressed concern that this process could go down a path similar to that of the privatized housing program, where the military’s lack of oversight over housing companies contributed to extreme problems for some military families.
“This is an opportunity to raise the standard for our families, attract quality capacity to the program, and introduce a level of accountability absent today,” Van Ovost said in the announcement. “Once implemented, this contract will positively impact thousands of service members, civilian employees and their families each year.”
This process has been in the works since early 2019, when TRANSCOM announced plans for a global household goods contract. This is the third time the contract has been awarded. It was originally awarded to American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group Inc. on April 30, 2020, at a cost of $7.2 billion for about the same base period, with a potential payout of nearly $20 billion over nine years.
Following protests from two unsuccessful bidders — including HomeSafe Alliance — the government took corrective action and then re-awarded the contract to ARC on June 29, 2020. That award was also protested by the two bidders, and the Government Accountability Office found in favor of the protesters. TRANSCOM issued a new solicitation in November 2020.
In a statement to Military Times, ARC officials said they are “disappointed” with TRANSCOM’s decision.
“We are awaiting our debriefing by TRANSCOM and are evaluating our options,” ARC officials stated.
A third bidder, Connected Global Solutions, of Jacksonville, Fla., was formed by Crowley, as the prime bidder in partnership with several other companies. Crowley is a long-time provider of logistics services to customers in the commercial and government sectors.
“Crowley and its partners have consistently earned the highest-rated performance scores in moving military household goods, officials there told Military Times.
“We are disappointed that the Crowley team was not awarded the [contract]. Crowley believes it offered outstanding value to the government, promising to provide unsurpassed service quality to the U.S. Transportation Command and the men and men of the U.S. military.
“We look forward to learning more about the basis for the award and will remain steadfast in providing top-notch support with the highest degree of integrity to U.S. TRANSCOM and other government agencies and commands that we serve.”
Meanwhile, TRANSCOM officials are moving ahead with some changes now to help service members and their families who are moving, Safranek said. They’re working to reform and standardize the move-counseling process, in hopes that better information upfront will give troops the power to take steps within their control and make decisions that will result in a smoother move.
TRANSCOM officials have also launched a new “customer-facing dashboard” that provides data about individual companies’ performance. Military families have long requested more information about companies, and this is an effort to be more transparent, Safranek said. Among other things, the dashboard includes information about corrective actions taken against companies, their customer satisfaction ratings, and the number of military moves the company has made. Service members and families can also look at overall data about which weeks are busiest for military moves, based on a three-year average, and perhaps adjust the timing of their move, if their military requirements allow for it.
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.