U.S. Transportation Command has long thought that the best way to improve the military’s household goods moving system is to put the entire sprawling apparatus under the management of a single contracted managed service provider.
HomeSafe Alliance won the estimated $6.2 billion contract earlier this month after having lost an earlier competition that was later overturned by a bid protest. Assuming the latest award survives any possible further legal challenges, the company could take charge of the moving system by late calendar year 2022.
In an interview for Federal News Network’s On DoD, Al Thompson, HomeSafe’s CEO, said the company believes a wide range of problems — from an insufficient supply of moving trucks, drivers and packers during the peak summer months to a cumbersome damage claims process — can be solved by bringing the moving system into the 21st Century.
“We’re going to deliver a very modern technology solution that will be much more customer-focused, with constant communication with the military service member, the DoD civilian, the customer,” he said. “At the same time, we’ll also provide a new capability to the more than 2,500 movers. Because many of them are small businesses, they are not able to invest in an information technology solution that helps them most efficiently and effectively manage their business. We’re going to provide that.”
According to a DoD inspector general review released last year, 41% of military household goods shipments arrived late, and 21% had at least some damage. The problem is most acute during the peak summer months — May through August — when the military services, the moving industry’s single largest customer, schedule the bulk of their permanent change of station orders.
Thompson said HomeSafe believes one reason the system’s capacity is so strained during those peak months is that existing fleets of long-distance moving trucks are utilized inefficiently, since the military currently contracts for moves one-by-one, without a global view of which shipments might be departing from and headed to the same metro area. The plan is to start using AI algorithms to more efficiently plan pickups and deliveries and route moving vans across the country.
“For example, between a military concentration area of Hampton Roads, Virginia, and San Diego, there’s a tremendous volume of household goods shipments. But if you were to go out on the interstates and track these moving vans, many of them are chasing each other half-full,” he said. “Through the use of our technology solution, we believe that more of those trucks are going to be full. That’s going to significantly reduce cost for the movers and increase their bottom line performance, because instead of driving half-empty vans coast to coast, they’re going to be much more close to 100% full. That leverages capacity that’s kind of hidden today. It’s out there, but we can’t get at it, because we don’t have this global system integrator.”
In a similar vein, HomeSafe — a new joint venture owned by KBR and Tier One Relocation — thinks it can help moving companies better forecast their workforce needs, helping to solve the problem of an insufficient labor force of packers during those peak months.
“It goes back to the visibility of workload. A local mover might need 100 people on Tuesday and 20 people on Thursday, but they oftentimes don’t become aware of that soon enough. So when they need to peak their workforce, they’re scrambling, and perhaps can’t get the people on board,” Thompson said. “So I think through this integrated solution, they’re going to know with appropriate lead time what their workload requirements are, and I think that’s going to really help them have the appropriate staffing on the day at the location where it’s required.”
TRANSCOM is still in the process of debriefing bidders and answering their written questions, and the command hasn’t yet told HomeSafe to begin official work on the contract. Under the Government Accountability Office’s bid protest rules, losing bidders generally have 10 days after the debriefing process to lodge a challenge.
Once any protest hurdles have been cleared, TRANSCOM officials have said their first step with HomeSafe will be to start integrating the company’s technology platform with the government’s systems.
The platform, which the company calls “HomeSafe Connect,” will extend to individual military members who are undergoing moves as well. A smartphone app by the same name will be the primary way members plan their moves, replacing the creaky and often-broken Defense Personal Property System website.
“If they’d prefer a more manual experience, we can do it that way as well. But for those that are comfortable using an app, it means that from essentially the beginning of the process through the very end, they’re going to have a very modern app-based ability to communicate with HomeSafe,” Thompson said. “That begins with the initial survey of what needs to be moved, to the actual execution of the packing and loading, to near real-time updates on location of their household goods. And in the rare cases where there’s any damage done, there will be an app-based online claim process that is going to very much speed up the claims process.”
Beyond an infusion of new technology, Thompson said his company thinks it can also improve the moving system by introducing new performance measures for individual moving companies — along with new incentives. Companies with a track record of good performance will be rewarded with more work, including guarantees of a certain baseline level of business during the off-season.
“We will be managing what we call a ‘carrier quality index,’ and the higher your evaluated score, the more workload you will get. And we’re going to couple with that, for those that aren’t meeting our standards, a very robust outreach effort to assist them getting up to our standard,” he said. “[The index] certainly has a customer satisfaction element, but it also has things like timeliness and a few other factors, so it’s not purely a survey.”