It was supposed to transform – and largely fix – the predictable, ongoing nightmare of Permanent Change of Service (PCS) moves, which historically has been one of the most challenging and stressful parts of military service, especially for family members. After a wave of complaints got the attention of high-ranking folks in the Department of Defense more than three years ago, plans were set in motion to outsource the Global Household Goods Contract (GHC) with promises that a single point of accountability would bring efficiency, enhanced communication with technological advancements, and improved performance.
It was music to the ears of military families, who for years have complained of delays, lost and broken personal items, sketchy providers, and a black hole of information about their move status. But after several contract awards, protests, procurement start-overs, and a change in administration, it now appears that U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) plans to award the $6.2 billion contract to a hyper-low bidder, a team with a checkered past when it comes to government contracts.
With seven major military bases here, Arizona-based military families will certainly feel the impact.
Ironic that the Biden administration, after pushing through massive spending programs, would do this contract on the cheap, especially after promising a “better customer experience” to Americans interacting with government in general, and service families enduring a PCS move in particular.
TRANSCOM recently announced that it plans to award the contract to HomeSafe Alliance, a newly created entity that came in $1.7 billion lower than the prior contract award. That’s led some industry experts to question whether it’s even possible to do the job for the bid amount, let alone deliver the transformation that was promised, given supply chain issues, and rising global trucking, air, and ocean transport costs. Pull back the curtain on HomeSafe, and you’ll find it’s made up of two companies with issues: Tier One Relocation and KBR.
The Better Business Bureau gives Tier One Relocation one out of five stars. The Bureau’s company profile does not have a single positive customer review and is filled with stories of priceless family items being lost or stolen by the company’s subcontractors.
One active duty military member wrote in July 2021, “...It will almost be two months without our belongings, sleeping on the floor of an empty home. If this was explained to us, we would have moved our own household goods and would have never let Tier One get paid money by the government to hold our goods for two months.”
Andrea Cacho and her husband, Spc. Christopher Cacho, described their moving process with Tier One as a “nightmare experience” according to the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. When they moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, their belongings were delayed by more than six weeks. When they finally arrived, many personal items, including her wedding ring set, were lost or damaged.
“Living a military lifestyle is not easy. … We move every few years, sometimes continents away from our friends and families,” said Andrea Cacho in an interview with the Leaf-Chronicle. “The absolute least we can expect is a moving company to handle our items in an adequate and professional manner.”
And even more alarming, KBR has a record of criminal behavior. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) lists 40 instances of KBR misconduct, many of which are still pending, including sexual assault, religious and racial discrimination, human trafficking, and false claims. In 2009, KBR pleaded guilty and paid a $402M criminal fine for bribery in Nigeria. This crime also landed its CEO in prison.
Our military families deserve better. They deserve the transformation they were promised. If there is one domestic program worth investing in, one customer service experience worth improving, it’s this one.