Switch to Single-Contractor PCS System Is Long Overdue

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Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens is chief of public affairs for U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees military moves.

Regarding the articles "Lawmakers Seek to Slow DoD's Efforts to Slash Medical Billets, Outsource Moves" and "The Pentagon Is Rushing to Outsource Military Moves, and Moving Companies Aren't Happy," U.S. Transportation Command would like to clarify our position on this issue as it evolves.

As you're aware, on behalf of the Defense Department, USTRANSCOM is pursuing a contract to consolidate transportation and storage processes under a single commercial move manager. This construct does not "privatize" or "outsource" household goods shipment and storage. All military moves are already performed by commercial movers.

Under the new construct, 100% of military moves will continue to be performed by commercial movers. Rather, the single move manager will integrate the activities currently performed by commercial providers. To be clear, the DoD will never relinquish responsibility for oversight to private industry. Comparisons to "Privatized Housing" are intended to appeal to emotions in order to maintain the status quo, which doesn't benefit our military families who have rightly demanded better moves. This effort instills the rigor and oversight that is currently lacking.

Our study of the issue and history have shown building long-term relationships with industry partners that incentivizes investments has the potential to improve commercial capacity. 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.

Centralizing demand planning with a single entity improves utilization of available capacity in a way the DoD cannot do. Conservative industry projections estimate a 10% improvement in capacity using available optimization processes. This issue has been studied extensively for 40 years, with the same root causes observed and recommendations made. Marginal improvements have been incorporated over the years, but the sweeping changes required have not been enacted. A 2012 Business Case Analysis recommended restructuring our relationship with industry in this manner. It is time to get this done.

Under the new construct, the DoD will have a single company to engage to ensure accountability. In turn, that company will have the latitude to partner with the companies it believes add value to the program on the terms and conditions those companies believe make sense (versus being bound by the DoD's overly complicated rule set). Rather than trying to manage more than 900 transportation service providers through 42 offices, the DoD will have a single company to deal with and a single agency ultimately responsible for oversight, which also provides the transparency families demand.

We're aware of the language you noted in the draft appropriation bill, and we've communicated our concerns to the relevant committees. We'll be talking with them over the coming days to ensure our initiative to improve the family relocation experience for military service members and their families keeps moving forward. Improving moves for our military families is our North Star and the sole reason we are determined to make these changes without undue delay.

Our military families deserve nothing less.

-- The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

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