Navy IT SNAFUs Cause Order Cancellation Notices, Travel Claim Backlog

U.S. Navy photo
Military.com | By Hope Hodge Seck

The Navy is working to right the ship after unconnected database and IT problems resulted in the sending of nearly 5,000 notices that sailors' orders had been canceled, and a backlog of 7,500 travel claims at the service's permanent change of station processing center in Memphis.

The service announced both issues separately Wednesday, with apologies and promises to fix the problems.

"While we are sorry for any concern that this has raised for our sailors, I want to make clear that no orders were actually canceled. My team is reaching out to those sailors who received the erroneous notifications to assure them that their orders remain on track," Rear Adm. John Meier, director of the career management department at Naval Personnel Command, said in a statement.

"We are dedicated to providing our sailors the best customer service possible and remain committed to ensuring system errors such as this do not occur in the future as we bring our new personnel management processes online as part of our overall personnel transformation initiatives," he continued.

The Navy announced last June that it would begin issuing letters of intent ahead of sailors' PCS moves to assist them with proactively coordinating required paperwork, screenings and household good shipments.

According to an announcement from Naval Personnel Command, a Feb. 3 upload of corrupted data during software updates prompted an error that caused a number of job listings within the Career Management System to be listed as canceled.

In all, 4,850 notices were sent out to sailors informing them that their letters of intent had been canceled. NPC officials said the sailors began to receive notifications Wednesday.

However, officials said, no assignments have been changed, and the problem, discovered internally Monday, has been fixed and the system restored.

A second glitch affecting PCSing sailors may take longer to fix.

Officials said multiple IT system failures, as well as increased travel volume, recent natural disaster evacuations, and base closures due to bad weather resulted in a backlog of 7,500 travel claims, with an average processing time of more than double the 30 days required by regulation.

"This is not the kind of customer service that we want to provide our sailors. We appreciate your patience as we work to improve this situation, and expedite processing your travel claims," Rear Adm. John Nowell, commander of Navy Personnel Command, said in a statement.

"Ultimately, we are working toward improving our personnel processes and systems through our transformation efforts, and these lessons learned will help us shape our future customer service practices," he said.

The bottom line is that the change-of-station processing center is currently working on claims from Mid-November.

Officials plan to return to the normal 30-day processing timeline by mid-March, thanks to a surge in military and civilian personnel. A second shift has been added, and "tiger teams" have been activated at Great Lakes, Ill., and Ballston Spa, N.Y., to deal with the pile of claims, officials said.

The director for the pay and personnel department at NPC, Ann Stewart, said in a statement that the Navy plans to open a call center this fall that will help prevent or mitigate claims backlogs in the future.

"We understand how stressful it is for families in transition and how important it is to get travel claims settled and money back in sailors' hands," Stewart said. "We are committed to getting this fixed quickly."

Travel claims specialists from Personnel Support Detachments across the Navy rotated through TPC Memphis from August to December 2017 assisting in processing claims.

Tiger teams are on station in Ballston Spa and Great Lakes, and some work has been shared across other PSDs. The Navy has surged additional military and civilian personnel to resolve this backlog, including standing up a second shift to assist with the backlog until processing times are within standards.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.