Transcript

U.S. Transcom Leaders Discuss Global Household Goods Contract and Moving in a COVID-19 Environment

May 6, 2020
Rick Marsh, Director of Defense Personal Property Program, U.S. Transportation Command; Ken Brennan, Director, Acquisition, U.S. Transportation Command; Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Jason L. France, Senior Enlisted Leader, U.S. Transportation Command

STAFF: I'd like to introduce the United States Transportation Command officials who have joined us on the phone from TRANSCOM headquarters at Scott Air [Force] Base in Illinois. Each of them will provide a few opening comments.

And so first up is Mr. Rick Marsh. He's the director of the Defense Personal Property Program, also known as DP3.

And good afternoon, sir.

DIRECTOR RICK MARSH: Hey, good afternoon.

So first, all the reporters on the line, thanks for your time today. I appreciate the opportunity to share what we're doing, not only to protect the force this summer, but also to improve the relocation experience for DOD families. And I look forward to taking your questions.

As Secretary Esper briefed yesterday, DOD leaders have determined that some service members and families will proceed with permanent change of station moves under exceptions to the COVID-19 stop movement order.

While USTRANSCOM doesn't play a role in deciding which personnel move, we are responsible for the program that moves their personal property between duty assignments once they've received direction to move.

In an effort to protect the force and deliver a safe moving experience to DOD families, DOD has directed a series of health protection measures for personnel moving during this stop-movement period.

I wanted to take a few minutes of my -- of my opening comments to walk through the plan. Because the relocation process is intrusive with moving personnel and working inside homes along DOD personnel and their families, DOD has directed that industry personnel adhere to Center for Disease Control health protection protocols. Measures include wearing face coverings, minimizing the crew size to enable social distancing, routinely -- routinely cleaning frequently-touched surfaces and simply practicing good hand hygiene on the job site.

When a moving crew arrives at the curb for a pack-out or delivery, moving companies will present written verification that members of the crew have been screened for illness and will be properly-equipped to adhere to these protocols.

So two quick points on -- on the -- on this element of the plan. The -- the first is that families are also responsible for complying with CDC protocols and installation guidelines during the movement process to protect themselves and -- and -- moving personnel. We -- we've also asked DOD personnel that if -- to reschedule their move if -- if they are ill, if anyone in the residence is ill or if they've been directed to self-quarantine.

The second point is that industry has been a superb partner in this. They recognize this is about people and are just as interested in protecting their own personnel as they are DOD personnel.

We're also working hard to ensure DOD personnel know their decision authority. This is also important. Families are empowered to decide who enters their residence. They're empowered to question moving personnel and their adherence to these protocols, and they're empowered to say “stop” at any point in the process. If families aren't comfortable, they should stop work and reschedule their move, period.

And while families are empowered to make decisions, they're not alone. A DOD representative will contact every DOD member during every move, in person or virtually, to ensure protocols are being followed. And if something's not right, local transportation offices in the personnel's chain of command will get involved to make it right.

Leaders across DOD are focused on protecting the force during the relocation process and are similarly committed to driving broader reform across the personal property program. The award of the Global Household Goods Contract is an important milestone of the -- of a broader reform effort and fundamentally restructures DOD's relationship with industry to address long-standing pain points DOD families have highlighted for years.

I appreciate your time today, and I'm happy to take your questions on these topics.

STAFF: Okay, thank you, sir. And now we go over to Mr. Ken Brennan, who is the director of acquisition. Good afternoon, sir.

DIRECTOR KEN BRENNAN: Good afternoon. I'm going to talk today exclusively about Global Household Goods Contract.

After over a year of requirements development, market research, acquisition strategy development and proposal evaluations, USTRANSCOM Acquisition Directorate awarded the Global Household Goods Contract, also known as GHC, on Thursday, 30 April. American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier Group, Incorporated, which I'll use the shorthand, ARC, of Parsippany, New Jersey, was competitively awarded GHC, which provides relocation services, including door-to-door moving services for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardmen and DOD civilians and their families during permanent change of station, or PCS, moves.

After evaluating all seven competing proposals submitted for GHC consideration, USTRANSCOM selected ARC because their proposal provided the best service for the best value for our service members, DOD civilians and their families, beating out all other six competing proposals. With the award last Thursday of the three-year base contract, valued at approximately $7.2 billion, ARC has begun work on information technology integration and the preparations to begin the first phase of domestic moves in February of 2021, and is set to achieve full domestic and international execution of the approximately 400,000 moves annually by 2022.

The GHC contract is an important component of improving service members' experiences during the relocation process, and fundamentally restructures DOD's relationship with the household goods industry in order to improve access to and management of quality capacity to meet peak demand and enable the department to affix the accountability and responsibility lacking in today's program.

I too am happy to take any questions about the contract award after our opening statements. Thank you.

STAFF: Okay, thank you, sir.

And, lastly, I would like to introduce U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Jason France, who is the TRANSCOM senior enlisted leader.

Good afternoon, Chief.

CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT JASON L. FRANCE: Good afternoon, and I would also like to say thanks for all the reporters on the line, for allowing us this opportunity to talk about these two very important topics.

Now, specific to the award of the global household goods contract, this is an absolute win for our service members, Department of Defense employees and our families. This puts us on the right path to fixing issues that have plagued the Defense Personal Property Program for years.

I've moved 15 times in my 30-year career, nine of those moves with a family. I fully understand the stresses and frustrations associated with military moves, and I am absolutely confident that we will now be able to deliver the quality service that our people and our families deserve, going into the future.

There has been an incredible amount of teamwork to get us here. From the service members and families, who shared their experiences and recommendations with us, to leaders across the department, including all of the services who are all committed to improving the moving process and taking care of our people and our families. And that is what this effort has been all about from the start: taking care of our people and our families.

I'm also happy to take your questions. Thank you.

STAFF: Okay. So with that, we'll go straight to the phones. Jeff, you're up first.

Q: Hi, thank you.

Can you say how many families you expect to be able to make the PCS moves under the exceptions outlined by DOD?

Thank you.

MR. MARSH: Hey, Jeff, this is Rick Marsh. Thanks for the question.

So right now, there are -- there are over 30,000 families with booking requests in the queue who are seeking an exception to the policy.

Q: Thank you.

And they're all going to be moved this summer, is that what you're saying?

MR. MARSH: Those are the families who have been -- who have been approved or authorized to move and, if conditions allow, will proceed with their PCS.

STAFF: Okay. We're going to move on now to Karen.

Q: Hi. Thanks for taking the question.

Just as a follow-up on Jeff's question, are you considering extending moves through the end of the year possibly because of the situation?

MR. MARSH: Hey, Karen, this is Rick Marsh again.

Absolutely. The 30,000 I mentioned to Jeff was -- is what we have, you know, in the system now that's been approved. The services, the personnel communities are working to, you know, identify their projections for the rest of the year.

And the demand will be significant, so I absolutely anticipate, you know, moves, you know, going well into the fall and early winter. I think this year the -- you know, the notion of the typical peak season as we know it historically.

Q: Okay. Am I allowed to ask another question or do you need to go on to the next person?

STAFF: No, go ahead, you can do a follow-up.

Q: Okay. In terms of the new contract, how will this new program improve the capacity in the system? And how will it improve the quality of moves for service members?

MR. MARSH: Hey, Karen, this is Rick Marsh again.

So I think there's -- there's a couple components to that. So the first is understanding our business model currently, where it is -- it is transactional in nature, we don't have an enduring contract, an enduring relationship with any of the providers in the program.

So first, entering into multiyear relationships provides industry with the confidence and rationale to invest in capacity and strategic relationships with their own network to meet our peak demand.

The second aspect of it is capacity management. By centralizing our demand planning with a single entity, we will be able to improve utilization of available capacity in a way we can't do under the current model, again, where we have, you know, dozens of -- dozens of DOD offices awarding traffic on a shipment-by-shipment basis with no -- you know, again, with no planning or forecast for industry to work off of.

And then lastly, and most importantly, the accountability piece. You know, before the Global Household Goods Contract, we did not have a formal contract with household good providers and could not hold them accountable in any meaningful way.

Q: Okay, thanks.

STAFF: Okay. Moving on, we'll go to Kris. And tell us who you work for, Kris.

Q: Kris Anderson, AWPS News.

So I'm curious about the accountability piece. How will that work? Because I know that one of the most difficult things about a move is your treasured things arrive, but maybe they don't all arrive or maybe they aren't in the same condition that you -- as when you packed them. So how will that work? Because this has -- this has been an issue for a lot of families, I think.

Thank you.

MR. MARSH: This is Rick again.

And you're exactly right. You know, claims due to loss and damage are, you know, the top issue in the current program. So there's a couple of pieces to that. So the first goes back to the business model, right?

Under our transactional approach, you know, there is -- where you have, you know, again, no -- you know, no rationale to invest in -- in quality suppliers and invest in your network, you can't forecast the work that you're going to perform. Our current model leads to, you know, using day laborers and other folks that maybe aren't as well trained as moving professionals should be.

So, again, by centralizing our demand, we're sending a very clear signal to industry of what our demand is, you know, what they can expect to move. And they can hire and invest in, you know, very highly -- highly trained employees to come in to service members' homes to handle their -- handle their pack-out or delivery.

On the accountability side, you know, we have our -- we have a global network today of personal property offices, over 300 personal property offices at the installation office level, and another 42 shipping offices around the globe who are all going to be, you know, through Mr. Brennan's office on the acquisition side, you know, formally appointed contracting officers and quality assurance evaluators.

Who are going to be working off of a centralized quality assurance surveillance plan to ensure we have accurate, rigorous oversight over the contract.

And then when it comes to, you know, for the family, when an issue does arrive, you know, most of -- I would say most of the issues that we have in the current program revolve around communication. So we're going to be able to bring tools to the table that, you know, we simply can't deliver today under the current program, to be able to put families in touch with representatives from industry faster to make the claims process much cleaner, much simpler, and for them to, you know, to have it settled and to be -- to be made whole -- to be made whole much faster than they are today.

STAFF: Okay, Kris, you have a follow-up?

Q: So I'm wondering about the claims -- claims process. Could you talk a little bit more about that? It's going to be cleaner and faster. Will this mean that folks will have -- ahead of time, understand how to access and use the communication system for that purpose?

Thank you.

MR. MARSH: So -- so I -- I -- I think your question was about the -- the -- a -- a new system that would be -- a -- a new -- a new system that would be fielded. Is -- do I have that right?

Q: I'm -- I'm wondering how -- how will it work if -- if part of the quality of services based on the ability of families to follow up on claims when things don't go well, or as they anticipated? You know, if something is missing, you know, where is my furniture? Or something arrives and it's not in the condition that it was packed. Um, all of those things, knowing ahead of time what you can do, whether there's one person to contact or whether there's a -- a specific dedicated contact system, and how to use that might ease some of that stress of moving, and so that's what I'm curious about, you know. Is that changing and improving? You know, if you could speak to that a little bit, that would be great.

Thank you.

MR. MARSH: No, thank -- thanks for the clarification.

So that -- that is absolutely one of the things we're looking at changing, and one -- one of the complaints in the current program is that you have, you know, four or five or six people calling you and telling you. If there's a, you know, there's a single point of contact, they have different company names, and it's -- it's confusing. It's even worse when the -- when the I.T. that -- that we use or that our -- our partners use it -- it's not up to the level that DOD families, you know, certainly demand in their personal life, and certainly not up to the level that they deserve for -- for something as important as a PCS.

So, yes, one of the -- one of the requirements that we have is that a -- is that Team ARC, the contractor, provides a single point of contact to a family that is the point of contact for the duration of the move, from the moment they receive orders and potentially receive counseling through claims settlement.

STAFF: Okay, thank you. Now, we're going to go on to Marcus.

Q: Hi. Thanks for doing this.

I've kind of got a tangential question. When General Lyons spoke to us about a month or so ago he talked about the health of the commercial carriers that you guys use to move passengers and cargo -- air carriers, that is. I was wondering if you've lost any carriers. I know Miami Air filed for bankruptcy, and with the commercial airlines being way -- well down in their demand right now, have you brought on any new ones, or do you look to expand?

Thanks.

MR. BRENNAN: Yeah, this is Ken Brennan, director of acquisition.

A little bit different than the GHC, but it is something that we are work -- looking at daily. We have been engaged with industry on a daily basis, and actually have regular biweekly segment discussions that the air -- the surface -- surface and the shipping entities. And we have been working with them to track their COVID response and ensure that the business base is capable and continues to be capable throughout the COVID and recovery.

STAFF: Marcus, you have a follow-up?

Q: Yes, I did. Can you say if you've lost any carriers?

MR. BRENNAN: I'm sorry. Can you repeat the question for me? I didn't hear it.

Q: Yeah, sure. Have you lost any carriers? Have any carriers gone out of business or just unable to operate just due to the lack of their other typical business that they have, that declined?

MR. BRENNAN: No, we have not seen any declination, and as part of that, we are actually one of the more active customer sectors still around in providing demand signal, although we see that rebounding a little bit with the worldwide recovery. But we have not lost anyone individually.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Okay, and now we go to Ellen.

Q: Hi.

I'm very interested in how the carriers will be certifying to the families the health of their crews. I mean, how do you do that? Is everybody -- are the carriers expected to positively test everybody? How is that going to work, and what evidence should the families be looking for?

MR. MARSH: Yeah, this is Rick Marsh, thanks for the question.

So -- so what we've directed the industry to do is, you know, be -- be very familiar with CDC guidelines which -- which -- which change. Right? I mean, two weeks ago there were (inaudible). Now there's nine. The first piece of it is -- is having the TSPs -- the -- the transportation service providers be familiar, be educated on what the symptoms are. And then to -- to screen the personnel, you know, before they're sent to -- before they're sent to a home screen them for -- for those symptoms. And if there's an issue, make sure that they're not included on that crew and direct the crew member to medical -- medical attention, as necessary.

And then the -- the -- the second piece of that, to your question, was you know, so how -- how is that verified to the -- to the family? So what we've -- what we've directed industry to do is to -- is to present a form that says, "Hey, you know, I -- I certify that these folks have -- have been screened, and to the -- to the best of my ability, you know, I've -- I've -- I have, you know, (inaudible). And that -- that is left with the family so that the family's not responsible, you know, for asking those question or for, you know, driving enforcement.

CHIEF MASTER SGT. FRANCE: And hello Ellen, this is Chief France.

Also to follow up on Mr. Marsh's point, the -- the family's actually going to receive -- each family will receive an e-mail describing all of this so they know exactly what to expect of the carrier, and they know exactly what they can do if they run into one of these challenges with a carrier.

Q: Um, in a -- sorry. I forgot I was on speaker.

In following up, so the family isn't satisfied or they get bad vibes from the certification they've been handed. They say, "No, we don't want you." How fast is the carrier expected to send another crew out?

MR. MARSH: So I -- I'd say -- this is Rick again.

So I think that's -- you know, that's -- becomes situation-dependent, right? I mean, the -- the most important thing in this is that the family’s comfortable and not being put in a position that they don't want to be in. So I mean, that is the -- the, you know, the -- the -- the comfort of the personnel, the -- the -- the protection of the force, that's what matters here, not -- not a moving timeline.

That said, then the family simply needs to call the transportation office and their chain of command to work with having it rescheduled.

STAFF: Okay.

Q: But here's my question, a family might be up under a deadline, they have a week to get to the next station. They have to get their stuff put on the truck, they don't feel comfortable with the crew. But they're told by their local office that another move can't be scheduled for another three weeks. They're still in a corner.

CHIEF MASTER SGT. FRANCE: Hello Ellen, and this is Chief France again.

You know, this also comes down to that service members' engagement with their chain of command and the transportation office. So they can work together to come up with a reasonable solution on behalf of the DOD and behalf of that service provider to get that rescheduled.

Q: Hi, this is Kristina Wong from Breitbart. Is it okay if I ask a question?

STAFF: Yes, please, go ahead.

Q: I said earlier I didn't have a question.

STAFF: Okay, go ahead.

Q: Okay, thank you.

How many families in total have moved as exceptions, just you know, overall in addition to the 30,000 that's been approved to date?

MR. MARSH: Hey, this is Rick Marsh.

So since the initial stop movement order in early March, just over 12,500 shipments.

Q: Okay, 12,500 shipments. And then -- so the 30,000, can you go into a little bit more detail on exactly sort of what the timeline is? Like how quickly they should be able to move and when those moves might be completed? Is that something that could happen like in a week or like two weeks or you know, when are they expected to complete their move?

MR. MARSH: So those 30,000 are through the -- the end of the -- the current stop movement period of 30 June. So they all have -- they've -- so they've received an approval to move, they've communicated their – their, you know, preferred move date to the transportation office, and they have a date, you know, lined up in the system that aligns with their -- with their -- the week of their preferred pickup.

So all those 30,000 are in various stages of processing. Some are in the queue, some are being counseled, some have been awarded to a TSP, you know, some have had the pre-move survey done. But that 30,000 represents what we have visibility of as pickups through 30 June.

Q: Okay, and so there might actually -- might be more families having to move before then? And are they expected to complete their move before June or they're just sort of -- June 30th, or they're just in the queue? And they could move, like, say in August or something?

MR. MARSH: So -- So families could get added. I’m confident we'll see additional family shipment requests get added to the queue for movement. You know, and these are -- this is pickups between now and 30 June, not necessarily deliveries.

As you know, you know, depending on -- depending on where they're traveling will drive when they arrive, I -- you know, depending on -- you know, this is all -- this is and will remain conditions-based. You know, if conditions don't allow a shipment to happen, I could also see shipments being -- being shifted to the right, going back to the discussion on if families aren’t comfortable or if conditions change in a location. I absolutely envision shipments being rescheduled.

Q: I see. Thank you so much for doing this. Is there -- What can families do if the movers come and they don’t feel comfortable? Is there like a phone line they can call or something, or -- and then, how do you ensure the movers know how to follow protocol?

MR. MARSH: So if the family's not comfortable, they should absolutely reach out to the transportation office. You know, the number's on their -- on their -- the documentation they receive from the transportation office. They should absolutely contact their chain of command and if -- they can absolutely reach out to their service headquarters or to U.S. Transportation Command for help.

As far as how the -- on the verification piece, you know, this gets back to, you know, the department's direction to make sure that we have DOD personnel, you know, touching base with every family and every move to ensure the protocols are being followed.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Okay...

CHIEF MASTER SGT. FRANCE: Yes, and this is Chief France with a follow-up on that, too. 

You know, during this process, a DOD representative is required to reach out to that family at some point. So if there ever comes a situation where a family may feel hesitant for whatever reason, to engage directly with that -- with that moving company, they will have a member of -- or a DOD representative contacting them sometime throughout the process. Those -- that's another avenue for those families to get help if they need it.

Q: Okay, great, thank you.

STAFF: All right, thank you, sir. 

We don't have any questions here in the room, so we have time on the phone for one more, last question, if anybody has one.

Going once, twice, okay. So we'll go back to the...

Q: I do...

Q: Oh, I do.

Q: ... I do.

Q: Okay, never mind, sorry.

STAFF: No, go ahead.

Q: It's Karen from Military Times...

Q: I defer to my colleague.

Q: ... and so -- so that 12,500 that have moved, what percentage of the usual volume is that? And has there been any evidence of a change in the quality of moves over this time? Have -- for example, have the customer satisfaction ratings gone up?

MR. MARSH: Hey, Karen, this is Rick Marsh.

So we're at about 30 percent of typical volumes, where we'd be, you know, at this time each year. We -- I haven't seen any -- I think it's too early to get the returns on the customer satisfaction surveys to see where that stands.

But we have gotten good feedback from families who have -- you know, who have highlighted the -- you know, TSPs following these protocols, TSP’s communicating ahead of time, you know, to describe how the move was going to happen and the things that they were going to do to keep them safe.

So as far as the formal satisfaction survey goes, I think it's too early. But we've gotten some good, you know, spot reporting, anecdotes from families, that they've been comfortable so far with what industry’s been doing.

STAFF: Okay, that's all the time we have for questions. I appreciate it. We'll go back to the gentlemen at TRANSCOM for some closing remarks.

Chief France, do you have any parting words for us?

CHIEF MASTER SGT. FRANCE: No. Again, I just appreciate the opportunity to allow us to -- to discuss this very important topic with -- represent our service members and families.

STAFF: Okay, thank you, sir.

Mr. Brennan?

MR. BRENNAN: I did have one follow-up to the last question about the experience that the people that are currently moving are receiving. This goes back a little bit to the earlier question about the industrial base. Those 12,500 moves actually represent a desirable workload for those vendors. So our current process has its own vetting already, but they're also competitive in wanting to participate in that workload.

By way of closing remarks, I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little bit about the Global Household Goods Contract and COVID. Both are going to continue to be implementation challenges in this new and challenging environment. But we think that we are set up to provide an improved capacity and capability for our warfighters, and look forward to teaming with Team ARC as we address the service members and their families' concerns regarding PCS. Thank you.

STAFF: Okay, thank you, sir.

And lastly, Mr. Marsh?

MR. MARSH: Thanks again to all that participated.

Just to -- you know, just to clarify the timeline, just to hit that home, that, you know, Chief France and Mr. Brennan made on the Global Household Goods Contract, you know, all of the moves this season, all of the moves that we're talking about now for the rest of 2020, will be under the current process, right?

As Mr. Brennan mentioned, you know, we're excited to get Global Household Goods Contract fielded, but it won't be until, you know, February of 2021. We've got a very deliberate transition period in place to make sure that we're teed up for success.

And then, you know, the earlier questions on quality, you know, what else are we doing to improve quality, how will -- how will Team ARC deliver a quality experience?

You know, a lot of that is going to be through -- you know, there are some great quality -- you know, small business, some great quality providers in the current program. There is a -- there is and will be a place for each of them under the Global Household Goods Contract. If they deliver a quality product today, their services are going to be required as long as DOD moves personnel and families around the globe.

So, again, thank you for -- thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and very grateful for your time, out here.

STAFF: Okay, thank you, sir.

And with that, we'll come to -- we'll bring this to a close. Thank you all for participating. If you have anything that you -- any follow-up questions that you think about, you can send them to the OSD Public Affairs duty officer and we'll run down the info for you.

That's all for now, out here.