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DoD Reform Promises Easier Travel, Better Moves

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 1997 – Service members can expect to see easier travel rules and a better system for moving household goods as DoD revamps the way it does business, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre said at the Pentagon Nov. 8.

The head of DoD's Task Force on Defense Reform said he's heard service members complain about the travel system at every installation he's visited, and he doesn't blame them. "There are countless steps," he said. "It takes hours to go through it. No one trusts you, so you have to produce all this paper."

Last year, DoD processed 370 million pieces of backup paper documentation for travel, Hamre said. "All those little receipts stapled together, photocopied, submitted in quintuplicate -- five copies. The average travel reimbursement was only $250. For every dollar we spent on travel, we were spending an extra 30 cents on a system to manage travel, which is really crazy."

DoD has fielded a prototype travel system at 25 sites around the country. Customer satisfaction improved 75 to 150 percent and costs dropped 65 percent, Hamre said. "We're going to save about $200 million a year from this, and from the average service member's perspective, they're going to get dramatically improved service."

Hamre said he's also heard many complaints about the military's transportation system for household goods. Most service members have either had their household goods damaged or know of someone who did, he said. About 25 percent of DoD's 800,000 moves a year result in damage claims, compared to the private industry average of only 10 percent, he said.

"We had a system that only looked at one small part of the household goods process -- the cost of the carrier to move it from Point A to Point B," he said. "We ignored the transaction cost associated with managing that move, taking care of the damage claims, etc. And because we've gone with the lowest cost supplier, we tended to get lower quality."

DoD plans to change the present system by adopting the modern procedures business has developed -- relocation services, member-arranged moves. "Let the member decide what they want in services and buy it themselves. We'll give them the money, and they can manage the move if they want."

In the past, DoD made do-it-yourself moves painful instead of easy, Hamre said. It was "a humiliating process," he said. Service members had to rent a truck, weigh it empty, load their goods, go back to the weighing station to weigh it full, certify the documents at the old location and the new, and in the end, the finance office reimbursed only 80 cents on the dollar.

"So what's the incentive for somebody who wants to move themselves with that kind of a system?" Hamre asked. "We've got to clean that up. And that's one of the things we'll be doing in this change of business practices."

The new plan will give service members more flexibility, Hamre said. "If a service member wants us to arrange their move, we will do that. But if they want to have the freedom to move themselves and not be bound by a lot of rules and regulations on how to do that, we're going to let them. If them want to arrange their own move and not be stuck with the moving company we give them, we're going to let them do that."

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