Officials hope to make military moves faster by spring

The agency responsible for moving military members' household goods will reduce delivery time and hold carriers to a higher standard by this spring, according to an official at the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC). MTMC will update its transit guide to better reflect actual delivery dates, so service members will know precisely when to expect their goods, said Lt. Col. Patty Hunt, deputy chief of staff for passenger and personal property at MTMC. The transit guide, which lists the amount of time it will take a shipment to reach its destination, has not been updated in 10 years, Hunt said. The agency, which is part of the Army and a component of the U.S. Transportation Command, also wants to require carriers to have at least five years of commercial or government experience in moving personal property. Currently, there is no minimum amount of experience required for carriers, Hunt said. "These changes go to the core of the way we conduct business," Hunt said. "These, combined with lessons learned from our pilot experience, will represent a major difference in the future program and the automation to support that program." The agency published draft rules in the Federal Register on the more stringent carrier requirements on Nov. 6, and will publish proposed rules on delivery date changes in January, Hunt said. Each year, MTMC supervises more than 500,000 service member moves, hiring low-cost carriers to perform work that costs the agency about $1.8 billion. For years, service members have complained about shoddy service, inconvenient delivery times and property that ends up either missing or stolen. "The moving process has definitely not gotten any better," said Lillie Cannon, deputy director of government relations at the National Military Family Association (NMFA). "They really need to come up with a better system of moving military members." NMFA has been a longtime advocate of reforming the system for relocating military personnel. The group is hopeful that the proposed changes will improve overall service, said Cannon, who moved this past July with the government's help. The changes in delivery times will make moves much more convenient for military members and provide a more accurate picture of the carriers' performance, Hunt said. For example, under the current transit guide, a carrier might be allotted 66 days to deliver a service member's household goods from Bolling Air Force base in Washington, D.C. to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. The service member would make arrangements to arrive in Germany in 66 days to meet the shipment, but modern transportation is really much faster, Hunt said. The shipment most likely would arrive in 44 days, but would go into storage because the service member had not yet arrived. This system is not only inconvenient for the service member, but it also costs the government more in storage fees, according to Hunt. "There are probably only a handful of places in the world where a shipment could not be delivered in under 66 days," she said. Delivering goods ahead of the schedule agreed upon is also a misleading indicator of the carriers' performance, Hunt said. "Everything in this business is driven by the required delivery date, and carriers' scores are based on when they make the deliveries," she said. Hunt said the changes are not set in stone and the specifics are still up for discussion with the moving industry and service members. "We are trying to attack this in a way that makes sense for industry and military members, but we still want to drive industry to fall in line with commercial standards." Over the years, MTMC has launched a series of pilot programs, including the Full Service Moving Project, aimed at improving the moving process for military personnel and their families. This spring, the U.S. Transportation Command will publish recommendations based on its evaluation of the various pilot programs, Hunt said.
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