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Gen. Stephen Lyons, commander, United States Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, is hosting a series of events with the commercial moving industry for discussions on planned changes aimed at improving the move experience for service members relocating to new duty stations.
Lyons met recently with CEOs from some of the country’s top companies that move America’s military families.
On March 14, Lyons met with representatives of major moving industry trade associations representing transportation service providers around the world. Hundreds more moving and storage professionals will gather this week outside St. Louis for the semi-annual Personal Property Forum to prepare for this summer’s military moving season.
Such roundtable discussions and forums are part of ongoing engagement between Department of Defense and industry leaders devoted to sharing concerns and partnering to develop solutions to improve the relocation process for service members and DOD employees.
A perennial concern is the program’s ability to support the surge in personnel relocations during the months of May through August-commonly referred to as “Peak Season” — which strains industry’s capacity as currently structured. DOD is working to issue relocation orders to service members months earlier than they currently receive them in order to give industry more time to schedule packing crews and truck drivers.
DOD has also committed to industry to evaluate moving more personnel outside of the Peak Season, but recognize limits to this approach. DOD training cycles and the need to accommodate school schedules for families drive the assignments cycle.
“We need to recognize the market we’re in,” explained Lyons. “Just as package carriers scale capacity to manage holiday demand, we need to build a program that can scale quality capacity to move our families. Our current program simply can’t get there.”
As it stands, the DOD currently engages with more than 950 Transportation Service Providers to support military moves on a shipment-by-shipment basis. This transactional approach hinders industry’s ability to conduct long-term planning and, with no meaningful forecast of what they can expect to move, offers no basis to invest in relationships with agents or assets to respond to DOD’s predictable demand.
Industry and DOD leaders agree the existing model no longer makes sense.
On behalf of the Department, USTRANSCOM is pursuing a contract to restructure DOD’s relationship with industry to improve quality, capacity, and accountability. USTRANSCOM seeks to do this by aligning transportation and storage processes under a single commercial move manager.
Entering into a multi-year relationship provides industry with both the confidence and rationale to invest in capacity and strategic relationships with trusted suppliers to meet peak demand. This restructuring also presents an opportunity to streamline business rules and attract capacity that has historically seen DOD as simply too hard to do business with.
DOD business constitutes 20 percent of the domestic household goods market. DOD pays competitive rates, but companies unaffiliated with the program cite existing business rules as a deterrent to participation. The single move manager will be able to access significant untapped capacity.
Numerous studies over the last several decades highlighted issues with the existing program and recommended this approach.
“There are a lot of great moving companies out there, doing great things for our Service men and women, and it’s time we built a household goods system that delivers the level of accountability and quality they expect,” said Lyons.
Many industry leaders expressed concerns for what this proposal means for small businesses. Lyons said he hopes small businesses-and associations that represent them-see this as a growth opportunity.
“The majority of today’s capacity comes from small business — it’s the agents, packers, and truckers that interact with military families and literally do the heavy lifting in this program,” Lyons said. “This capacity will remain critical under the new construct, and we need more movers in the program than we have now.”
All leaders agreed on the fundamental purpose and goal of these efforts.
“This is all about improving the curbside service for military families,” said Lyons. “That is our north star, and is the only reason we are doing this.”
For more information, contact USTRANSCOM Public Affairs at 618-220-4999 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ustranscom.mil.