Pentagon Weighs Privatizing Military PCS Moves
Photo by Karen A. Iwamoto / Oahu Publications / U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii
This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on Military.com, the premier resource for the military and veteran community.
In a move that could completely change the way military personnel transfer from base to base, U.S. Transportation Command is considering privatizing the system that supports permanent change of station (PCS) and other personnel moves.
In November, U.S. Transportation Command, or TransCom, released a request for information seeking input from commercial personal property transport companies on the feasibility of building a private moving management system.
Should the Defense Department go through with hiring a company to oversee all household goods moves, it would take over during the peak moving season in 2021.
The potential privatization follows two years of "horrible" household goods shipments, according to military spouses attending the Family Readiness Initiatives Forum on Tuesday at the Association of the United States Army.
TransCom reported last July that one in 10 military members experienced delivery delays, excessive breakage, loss and damage to their household good during PCS moves.
And nearly 105,000 military family members filed a petition on Change.org last year calling for improvements to the system.
"Over the last 5 years, the PCS season has become more and more horrendous to deal with ... many of these companies do not understand how military bases work -- usually sending drivers or crews who have a felony background, can't access post or a truck that has an expired registration," wrote the petitioners.
TransCom hired more than six dozen new companies to help manage the 2018 moving season, but delays and problems continued to occur. Maj. Gen. John Sullivan, assistant deputy chief of staff for the Army G-4 Logistics, said at the forum that TransCom is "still working through the details" of determining whether privatization would be cost-effective and more efficient.
"If this makes sense to do it, if it improves effectiveness and improves customer service, they will let the contract in  and implement in 2021," Sullivan said. "That is all condition-based, as they go through the discovery process and working out the specifics."
Meanwhile, the command is acting now to improve the prospects of smooth PCS moves this summer, he added.
According to Sullivan, TransCom will increase the number of quality-assurance inspections it performs on moves to 50 percent, up from about 25 percent.
It also plans to up the number of continental United States household goods shipments that are placed in crates, from 6 percent to 12 percent. Currently, all overseas military household goods shipments are crated.
Crating, Sullivan said, would decrease damage, loss and breakage because most problems stem from moving goods multiple times, including in and out of storage.
TransCom also will establish an around-the-clock hotline this moving season for personnel to "get visibility on their shipments and for remediation of any issues," he said.
"Some of the frustration is because the household goods moving process is so segmented, you have to call multiple parties when your shipment is en route to get visibility and solve problems.
This is targeted specifically to help the situation over the peak season this summer," Sullivan said.
Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey urged soldiers and family members to be proactive with their moves. He encouraged personnel to submit feedback on the transportation providers and call if they want a quality-assurance inspection.
"If they want to call for an assurance inspection, call -- we will get them out there," Dailey said.
Military spouses expressed concern over the privatization and whether improvements would be made before 2021. Megan Harless, an Army veteran and spouse, wondered what the cost benefit to such a system would be.
"Has there been a study done to support spending taxpayer money on such a large-scale change?" Harless asked.
Officials said TransCom is exploring all options.
Army Secretary Mark Esper also said he is establishing a new webpage to communicate many of the new policies the Army is instituting to help spouses. The website will focus on the issues Esper says he encounters when speaking to families across the service.
"You can see issues I collect on the road, what our answers were and how we are dealing with them," he said. "That we can raise awareness of the broader Army community, our broader Army family, to tell you what we are doing, to tell you what we are taking action on and tell you what may take a little longer to implement because it involves Congress."
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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