The four-star chief of U.S. Transportation Command has ordered survey teams into the field to verify the location of every service member's vehicle that is in transit in an effort to restore confidence in the government's shipping process for privately-owned vehicles.
The order from Air Force Gen. Paul Selva was announced by TRANSCOM Friday evening in a press release that reflected an apparent lack of confidence in the new contractor handling vehicle shipments for troops and families making permanent change-of-station moves. A groundswell of complaints has developed since the new contractor, International Auto Logistics, took over the vehicle shipping contract May 1.
After command officials recently visited several IAL vehicle staging facilities and reviewed data provided by the company, it was determined that "significantly increased contract surveillance during the contract transition is necessary," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Guemmer, the leader of TRANSCOM's "POV Fusion Cell," which was formed about two weeks ago to look into the reported problems.
The new survey teams will catalog every vehicle identification number to verify the location of all vehicles owned by service members that are in IAL's control. Information gathered by the teams will help the command validate IAL's data and more fully understand the company's shipping chain, command officials said.
The survey teams "will not be doing IAL's job, but provide additional contractual oversight, which is a function of contract administration," Guemmer said.
IAL spokeswoman Amanda Nunez said the company welcomes TRANSCOM officials to visit vehicle staging facilities, noting that command officials always have an open invitation. "Our continued working relationship with the government has produced positive improvements in our POV shipping process, as it is IAL's goal to deliver the most accurate information to our service members and provide them with the highest quality experience," Nunez said.
Since IAL took over the contract, troops have complained about delays in car deliveries, cars being shipped to the wrong place, and problems accessing the company's online tracking system. Many troops have said they've had great difficulty even reaching IAL to get any information about their vehicles.
"We have service members waiting on delivery of their vehicles past the required delivery dates, and it is unacceptable," Guemmer acknowledged. "Their issue is our issue. We are treating each service member's vehicle as if it were our own."
IAL took over the contract May 1 during the peak military moving season from American Auto Logistics, which had held the contract since 1998. Prior to that, the government ran the program through as many as six different contractors.
IAL has added employees to its vehicle processing centers and to its call center, but complaints about delays and lack of information have persisted.
According to the DoD contract award announcement, the $305 million contract runs through September 2015. A posting on the TRANSCOM website states that the new contract is projected to save the government about $50 million a year.
Last November, TRANSCOM officials lauded their contract team for its work in analyzing requirements and identify efficiencies and better buying practices for the new contract, and noted that the team had sought industry insight in an open communications process.
"They stayed in close formation throughout the entire process, and the resulting savings clearly show they went above and beyond to deliver value to the warfighter and the taxpayer," an official was quoted as saying at the time.
American Auto Logistics unsuccessfully disputed the award of the contract to IAL with both the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
An online petition calling on the Defense Department to revoke the contract with IAL had garnered 1,217 signatures as of Friday.