DoD Testing Household Goods Shipment Program
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 7, 2001 Uprooting a family and moving is one of those challenging life transitions that cause emotional strain, drain one's energy and create all kinds of highs and lows.
In its quest to ease the pain, DoD is testing the Full Service Move Project at 23 military installations across the country. It's all about bettering the quality of life of service members and their families by finding ways to improve household goods shipments and to minimize stress, DoD officials said.
"I think this program is going to do a lot of good for our service members and their families," said project manager Cullen Hutchinson. "Moving is very stressful. I've seen situations which bring tears to my eyes when I talk about how some service members have been treated during their move.
"We're the industry's largest customer and we should get a high-quality move. We should be treated as their very best customer," he noted. "Our relationship with industry used to be very adversarial, but I think we've developed a very good relationship in the last couple of years. We've worked together and I think they're willing to work with us to get that level of service. But it will not be easy or cheap."
DoD and the rest of government used to vie for the cheapest bids for services, but that has changed over the years, Hutchinson said. "Cost is not our only consideration. Now, we talk 'best value,'" he said. That means performance counts.
The Military Traffic Management Command moves more than 613,000 shipments each year at a cost of about $1.7 billion. But it does so using a 40-something-year-old process that's burdened by excessive regulation, poor performance, and complicated, time-consuming processes, Hutchinson said.
Nearly 35 percent of shipments suffer loss or damage at a cost of about $100 million. Only $60 million is recouped.
DoD's Full Service Move Project is a partnership of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the military services, Coast Guard, U.S. Transportation Command, Army Communication and Electronics Command Acquisition Center and the household goods moving, freight forwarding and relocation management industries.
FSMP incorporates many of the lessons learned from two other tests, the ongoing Military Traffic Management Command's Re-engineered Personal Property Program and the recently ended Navy Service Member Arranged Move, or SAM.
The DoD project also adapted the lessons of a two-year test at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., that ended in January 2001 when FSMP absorbed it. The Georgia test moved more than 3,500 shipments, including all outbound moves of household goods from Hunter to worldwide destinations.
In the Hunter personal property pilot, one company, Cendant Mobility Corp., was responsible for all aspects of the move. The company offered a toll-free telephone contact, in-transit visibility, full replacement value coverage, direct claims settlement by the move manager and on-time performance provisions.
"We've incorporated much of that into the Full Service Move Project," Hutchinson said.
The reason for the various pilots is to allow DoD to test different ways of handling household goods and relocation services to see which is best for everyone. Integrating best commercial practices is one of the main objectives of all the pilots, Hutchinson said.
The U.S. Transportation Command is tasked with reviewing and analyzing the three pilot programs. Upon completion of the analysis the command and the military services will coordinate recommendations to the secretary of defense on actions needed to improve DoD personal property moves.
Hutchinson said FSMP launched Jan. 8 at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and will impact only a small portion of the DoD population -- about 45,000 shipments, or 8 percent of the DoD moving volume. The other 22 sites added since are in the Washington National Capital Region, including the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; and all DoD locations in Georgia except Warner-Robins Air Force Base. All the military services, including the Coast Guard, are represented.
The project handles all outbound shipments from the 23 sites. "We have a few exceptions to our program," Hutchinson noted. "We don't do nonpermanent storage, local moves or moves to certain areas overseas."
FSMP provides service members with a single point of contact throughout their move. That manager assesses the customer's household goods needs and coordinates and arranges those requirements with a mover. The move manager assists in the claims process if property is damaged or missing.
Other key features of the project include:
- Full replacement value protection rather than depreciated value for lost or damaged household goods up to a maximum of $75,000.
- Claim settled and check in hand within 45 days.
- Quick claims settlement option for claims under $500.
- Direct claims processing.
- Guaranteed arrival within a two-hour window for packing, pickup and delivery.
- Binding estimates for excess costs.
- A toll-free telephone number to contact move managers.
- Voluntary, optional relocation services, such as referrals for home selling and buying.
- Carriers are selected by a process emphasizing best value rather than lowest cost.
The MTMC pilot program moves half of all outbound shipments from the Carolinas and Florida. "They, too, have some exceptions," Hutchinson noted. "They don't do nonpermanent storage, local moves and don't handle civilian moves."
Saying the price tag proved too high, the Navy recently pulled the plug on its SAM test. A kind of do-it-yourself move, it allowed sailors to select their mover from a list provided by their transportation office. SAM was available in Norfolk, Va.; Groton, Conn.; Puget Sound-Whidbey Island, Wash.; and San Diego to anywhere else in the continental United States.