Troops at 14 bases to begin testing new approach to military moves

by Vern Evans

Troops at 14 installations will soon try out a new system for shipping their belongings to their next home, under a program launched Monday to fix longstanding problems with military moves.

About 200 service members will move their household goods over the next four months under a new contract that centralizes shipping under a single manager, said Andy Dawson, director of the Defense Personal Property Management Office at U.S. Transportation Command.

The initiative will begin with up to 50 shipments a month, from April through July, in five areas: Norfolk, Va.; Jacksonville, N.C.; Seattle/Tacoma, Wash.; Camp Pendleton, Calif. and San Diego, Calif.

“We’re just excited to get the transformation underway,” Dawson told Military Times in an interview Tuesday. “It’s very exciting to be part of something this significant that will ultimately impact the quality of life of every single service member, the Coast Guard personnel, and family member, since moving is such an integral part of the military way of life.”

The rollout will be slow and deliberate to ensure the technology and processes work smoothly, and to avoid creating problems for the other 99% of service members who will continue moving under the usual system. Officials have tested the new system at the participating locations and held trainings to familiarize people with the new way of doing business, among other work to prepare troops, government workers and the moving industry for the changes.

Troops may qualify to take part in the first moves if the ZIP codes of their current and new locations are within 50 miles of each other. Those local moves usually occur when someone separates or retires from military service; when they move into or out of quarters, barracks or dorms on base; or under other special circumstances.

The new process essentially outsources the management of household goods shipping, with TRANSCOM’s oversight. It consolidates all of those moves under a $6.2 billion contract awarded to HomeSafe Alliance, a consortium of companies that will act as the sole manager of household goods moves.

Installations involved in the initial phase are:

  • Naval Station Norfolk, Va.
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
  • Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
  • Naval Base Kitsap, Wash.
  • Naval Station Everett, Wash.
  • Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Seattle, Wash.
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
  • Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.
  • Naval Base San Diego, Calif.
  • Naval Base Ventura County – Port Hueneme, Calif.
  • Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • U.S. Coast Guard Base Portsmouth (will be included before May)

TRANSCOM began the effort to improve the moving experience for service members and their families in 2018 after a particularly brutal moving season. Nearly six years later, Dawson said he expects TRANSCOM will begin awarding those shipments to HomeSafe by the end of the week.

“We expect the first packing or first move to occur in mid- to late April,” Dawson said.

If all goes according to plan, officials will start scaling up the number of moves in August and September, with 250 moves in August, or 2% of the month’s moves; and 500 in September, about 4% of moves that month. They’ll first ramp up shipping at the initial slate of bases before expanding to interstate moves and other locations across the United States.

From there, DOD and HomeSafe will continue growing the number of domestic shipments handled under the new system into 2025, until the domestic phase-in is complete. International shipments under the contract will start no earlier than September 2025 by gradually phasing in moves.

How it works

Service members won’t need to ask for access to the new system. The legacy portal will automatically refer them to a new system if they might qualify to participate in the first moves.

All service members will use the Defense Personal Property System portal, which asks for information about where the move starts and ends. From there, those who may be eligible to move under the new contract will be routed to the Defense Department’s new MilMove site, where they can upload permanent change of station orders, share contact information and request their move.

The local military personal property office will provide more information and move counseling to the service member, and assign the shipment to HomeSafe. Service members will be referred to HomeSafe Connect to manage and track their belongings, and communicate with the contractor, throughout the move.

Once someone logs in and creates an account, they can access their information on mobile devices. The more modern technologies of MilMove and HomeSafe Connect are more user-friendly than the Pentagon’s previous site, Dawson said.

Under the legacy system, whether someone’s move goes smoothly depends on the caliber of the moving company they are assigned. But DOD’s current system has no centralized accountability for the moves that are conducted by hundreds of companies — and that can lead to trouble.

“Now the shipment is awarded to HomeSafe. [HomeSafe Connect] is a fully automated system they’ve developed and all their subcontractors are mandated to use the system,” Dawson said. “You’ll see standardization driven across the department … which I think will help with the expectations from service members as they relocate over time.”

HomeSafe Alliance’s contract aims to solve longstanding problems for service members and families whose belongings are too often lost or damaged during moves.

HomeSafe will be fully responsible for the shipments, bringing accountability to the program from the time a moving company is assigned, through packing, hauling and unloading, to handling any loss or damage claims.

The Global Household Goods Contract is potentially worth up to $17.9 billion over nine years. HomeSafe Alliance is a joint venture of KBR Services and Tier One Relocation. Among the consortium of companies is Sirva, which includes North American Van Lines and Allied Van Lines.

TRANSCOM began to shift away from its longtime piecemeal approach in early 2023, after protests of HomeSafe’s win had subsided.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families.” She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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