SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Sept. 24, 2014 – Peak moving season, a contract protest, litigation and insufficient transition time all have played a part in challenges to the Defense Department’s program to ship privately owned vehicles overseas and back to the United States under a new contract, a U.S. Transportation Command official said.
“This peak season was hampered significantly when legal actions interrupted the planned transition between contractors,” said Gail Jorgenson, Transcom’s director of acquisition.
But in the long run, she added, Transcom and International Auto Logistics are committed to service members and committed to getting things right.
Protest by Former Contractor
When Transcom awarded the contract to IAL in October 2013 with a start date that December, American Auto Logistics, the former contractor, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, Jorgenson said.
That put a hold on performance on the contract until after the GAO’s ruling. The GAO ruled in Transcom’s favor at the end of January, she added, and a week later, the former contractor filed a lawsuit with the Court of Federal Claims, which again prevented IAL from preparing to take on the new contract.
The court found in Transcom’s favor in a sealed oral opinion March 7 and denied AAL’s request for an injunction, and AAL has filed a notice of appeal to that decision. Even though the GAO and Court of Federal Claims determined that AAL’s allegations were unfounded, Jorgenson said, Transcom continued to pay for AAL’s services rather than stop vehicle shipments altogether during the protest and litigation.
IAL began work on the new contract May 1, when the last extension with AAL ran out, and AAL refused Transcom’s request to continue shipping vehicles for an additional two weeks, Jorgenson said. This curtailed efforts to conduct a smooth transition for the new contractor and government personnel, she added.
Start Date Pushed Into Peak Season
In addition, she said, this pushed the start date into the beginning of peak season for service members and civilian employees moving to or from overseas assignments, which dramatically cut short the time necessary to prepare for adequately for a successful peak season.
Jorgenson has a pointed response to those who want to turn back the clock or pull the contract.
“Obviously,” she said, “we can’t go back to May. We can only learn from this experience, implement improvements to the [vehicle] shipping process, and ensure our military families receive the service they deserve when they undergo a permanent-change-of-station move.”
Overall, Jorgenson said, the new contract is a “best value” solution for the federal government, saves a substantial amount of money and moves more responsibility for performance to the contractor. It also provides enhanced services to service members, she said. The recent contract award saves the government about $50 million annually in comparison to the previous contract, with a potential savings of $250 million over the life of the contract, Jorgenson noted.
The contract also requires IAL to be responsible for the entire move within established timelines, she said.
“In the previous contract, the contractor was not responsible for delays or damage caused by the ocean carriers, which often meant required delivery dates were targets for AAL rather than contractual mandates,” she explained.
Jorgenson also pointed out that service member entitlements are more comprehensive with IAL than with the former contractor.
“Every service member must know the contract protects them through entitlements,” she said. “We are looking at preparing a customer bill of rights to facilitate the members’ understanding of their entitlements and the process to obtain those benefits.”
Contractor Has Been Responsive
IAL is obliged to assist service members under this new contract, and has been very responsive in handling claims well before the contract’s 90-day requirement, Jorgenson said. “IAL must reimburse the government and service members for damages, rental cars, and on a case-by-case basis for inconvenience,” she explained.
She said that IALs performance is improving under the contract, noting that current-month statistics show that the company is delivering twice as many vehicles per week as it had a month ago. Also, as peak moving season winds down, shipments have reached a point where more vehicles are being delivered than the number of those entering the system.
Transcom’s acquisition director said she understands the delayed delivery of vehicles and the inability of service members to track vehicles can overshadow the overall benefits of the new contract.
“We know there are areas that need greater attention,” she acknowledged. “We want service members to have easy access to shipment information. We need our contracting officer representatives to be actively engaged in the work at vehicle processing centers and ensure service members receive the best possible customer service.”
Dialogue Will Continue
Going forward, Jorgenson said, Transcom and IAL representatives will continue their dialogue and hold meetings before, during and after peak moving season to make sure that during the next peak moving season, service members will face fewer difficulties.
“Moves and changing duty stations are tough on our service members and families,” she said. “From all indications, we predict even further improvements to this system and a positive peak season experience for our service members next year.”
For claims information for IAL, call 1-855-389-9499, Option 3, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The email address for the Transcom inspector general’s privately owned vehicles customer support team is email@example.com.