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August 18, 2014

Why they call it service

A family friend who retired from the U.S. Air Force once told his son at the start of the son's new military life, "That's why they call it 'the service.'"

His point: You choose to serve your country and you expect to make sacrifices, whether they be great or small.

Military families may expect to make sacrifices, but how much do we expect them to shoulder? When they return from overseas duty, shouldn't they be able to recover their cars?

The story about the fumbled transition from American Auto Logistics to International Auto Logistics is bothersome, because it heralds other problems we expect to see as the military downsizes and cuts costs in the coming years. The transition came because IAL was the low bidder at $919.2 million for five years to ship cars for military members stationed overseas.

The transition was complicated by the old contractor fighting the change, so the new company took over at the height of the transfer season. That has resulted in more than 1,000 complaints.

The good news appears to be that the U.S. Transportation Command is on the problem and imposing more oversight. The bad news is that there is a cost associated with that oversight and these claims, plus the intangibles associated with aggravating our service members unnecessarily. Next up: Congressional inquiries.

On paper we saved $38.3 million by switching away from a contractor with 12 years of experience. The auditors will be busy for some time figuring out the true cost.

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