More than 40% of service members who moved in 2018 received their shipments at least five days late because of "scheduling and equipment problems," according to a Defense Department Inspector General report released Wednesday.
The IG reviewed four joint shipping offices for fiscal 2018. In addition to the tardy delivery of $33.1 million in household goods, it found that the U.S. Transportation Command did not consistently send out warnings to companies that missed delivery dates.
During the IG review period, it found the joint shipping offices issued 25 warnings, but there were 124 late shipments.
Currently, these warning letters are not a factor when calculating a company's best value score, which helps rank a moving company within the Defense Personal Property System.
The IG recommended issuing warnings or 30-day suspensions within 14 days to moving companies when delivery dates are missed.
"DoD members and families did not receive their shipments timely and incurred additional costs for lodging, food, and rental or purchase of household necessities," IG staff wrote in the report, adding that troops can be compensated for those costs by filing an inconvenience claim.
In one case, a soldier had a shipment costing nearly $3,000 scheduled for delivery by Dec. 29, 2017. But the moving company delivered the wrong household goods and paid the service member $400 for their out-of-pocket expenses until the shipment arrived 13 days later.
A sailor had a $4,360 shipment with a delivery date of March 9, 2018. However, the company split the shipment and delivered only half on the expected date. After claiming it was lost, the shipping company finally found the rest of the shipment in a warehouse and delivered it 13 days later.
All parts of a split shipment are required to arrive by the delivery date, according to the IG report.
Maj. Gen. Deborah Kotulich, chief of staff for Transcom, said issuing additional warnings, even if tied to best value determinations, would not result in improved service, the report added.
Instead, Kotulich said improved survey return rates would be a more "feasible, immediate avenue" to ensure that the best value determinations reward quality providers, rather than including warnings into the calculation.
The IG reported that service members complete their moving surveys 30 to 35 percent of the time. Currently, the department's computer program automatically sends a survey reminder email seven days after shipments are delivered; additional reminders are sent 14 and 21 days after the delivery if they haven't responded yet. The joint shipping offices do not follow up with the employee, according to the report.
The IG recommended that Transcom contact troops within one month after a move if they have not completed a customer satisfaction survey.
Those surveys were not sent on time to any troops who moved over 2019’s peak moving season, thanks to a system glitch that went unnoticed for more than six months, Transcom officials told Military.com in December. The problem impacted about 46% of all military moves over the year.
The Defense Department's damaged or loss rate is consistent with the civilian moving industry's rate of about 20%, the report found.
While almost 90% of the 40,265 damage claims were under $5,000, the report detailed one that stood out: A service member filed a claim totaling $22 million for 22 items, including $1 million for a trash can. That request was denied.
The IG also recommended that Transcom help troops file inconvenience claims within 14 days of a missed delivery date and suggested updating its computer program and review all household-goods claims more than 60 days old.
-- Dorothy Mills-Gregg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.