Moving crews and the military families they're moving will have to wear face masks, practice social distancing and follow other coronavirus prevention guidelines during the peak season for permanent change of station moves this summer, defense officials said Wednesday.
The movers will also have to give families written verification that the crew members have been screened for COVID-19 and have the necessary gear with them to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before they start loading or unloading the trucks, said Rick Marsh, the Defense Personal Property Program director.
The crews will also have to use as few personnel as possible to get the job done, clean frequently touched surfaces and "simply practice good hand hygiene," Marsh said in a Pentagon telephone conference.
In addition, military families will have to follow CDC guidelines during the moves "to protect themselves and moving personnel," Marsh said.
He also stressed that families should reschedule the move if they're uncomfortable with how it's going.
"Families are empowered to decide who enters their residence, empowered to question moving personnel on their adherence to these [CDC] protocols, and they're empowered to say 'Stop' at any point" in the process, Marsh said.
"If families aren't comfortable, they should stop work and reschedule their move -- period," Marsh said.
The military this year has moved about 12,500 military families under exceptions to Defense Department stop movement orders. Another 30,000 are in line to move this summer, Marsh said.
Military families have often complained of a lack of oversight for the moves and difficulties in getting compensation for damaged goods. Marsh and other officials pledged a better performance this summer.
Marsh said a DoD representative would be in touch with every family, either in person or online, to check on the moves.
If something seems wrong, the local transportation office and the chain of command "will get involved to make it right," Marsh said.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jason France, the senior enlisted adviser for U.S. Transportation Command, said he expected the new procedures to make the sometimes difficult PCS moves easier for families.
He said he had moved 15 times in the course of his career and noted that various issues had "plagued the program for years. I fully understand the stresses and frustrations" involved in each PCS move, he said.
The moves this summer will be under exceptions to stop-movement orders throughout the military that Defense Secretary Mark Esper began issuing in March.
In April, Esper extended the stop-movement orders through June 30, but he has also pledged to review the restriction based on the progress in combating coronavirus.
Marsh said about 30,000 military families are "in the queue" for PCS moves. "Those are families that have been approved or authorized to move if conditions allow."
He said the demand for more exceptions was expected to be significant and would continue to the end of this year.
The officials also said that the entire PCS process was expected to improve and afford more accountability for lost or damaged goods with the signing of a three-year, $7.2 billion contract with American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group, Inc., based in Parsippany, New Jersey, to manage PCS.
Ken Brennan, director of acquisitions for TRANSCOM, said the current contracts for moves lacked accountability, and American Roll-On Roll-Off offered the "best service for the best value" over six competitors for the contract.
He said the first moves under the contract were expected to begin in February 2021.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.