Families First will transform servicemembers' moves
By LaWanda York, Public Affairs Specialist, Military Surface
Deployment and Distribution Command
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (USTCNS) --- Packing, handling and shipping
of personal belongings is a great concern for service members
when relocating. Yet, the process of moving service
member's household goods has remained virtually unchanged
for many years. To modernize this process, the Military Surface
Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is developing a
new process called Families First and is scheduled
to launch the benefits phase of the program Feb. 1, 2006.
"We are extremely proud to introduce this absolutely
transformed personal property program that will provide many
benefits and safeguards to individual service members,"
said Major General Charles W. Fletcher, Jr., Commander of
SDDC and leading proponent for Families First.
Mobilization and relocation is a reality of military life
for service members and their families. It can be very stressful.
Families First is designed to alleviate some of this stress
by involving the service member in the process and giving
them a voice in how their personal property is moved. Families
First focuses on meeting the customers' needs by promoting
a first-rate moving experience.
Working closely with the military services, OSD, and Congress,
SDDC partnered with the trade associations of the American
moving industry to create Families First. "Families First
is dedicated to supporting the armed force's most important
stakeholders, the military and civilian service customers,"
said Thomas Hicks, program director for personal property
moves for SDDC. "Our commitment to the Warfighter runs
parallel to our support to the invaluable work provided by
America and international transportation service providers."
"'The working partnership between the moving industry
and the U.S. military is a longstanding, mutually productive,
and positive relationship," Hicks said. Every year, approximately
500,000 service members and civilian employees move to new
duty stations. In any given year, this comprises the biggest
moving population in the United States. With each move, the
stakes are high for both the customer and the transportation
service provider. In an effort to maximize the best value
for the customer and the provider, the partnership will soon
enter a new dimension.
Presently, transportation service providers are selected based
on the lowest cost with little consideration for performance.
Under Families First, transportation offices will use a "best
value" approach that focuses on performance. The majority
of the moving business will be awarded to transportation service
providers who do the best work as measured by the customer.
That customer, the service member, has the opportunity to
complete a web-based customer satisfaction survey to measure
the performance of their movers. This gives the service member
a voice in how his or her household goods are shipped.
"We all share the goal of providing the best customer
service to those who deserve it the most, the American service
member," Hicks said. "Families First unites the
moving industry, the Services and SDDC in a sensible and cooperative
manner to achieve this goal.
This is a win-win approach for both the customer and the provider.
Based on this information, transportation service providers
providing the best service will receive the most business. In
turn this emphasis on customer satisfaction stimulates better
quality work from all transportation service providers. Families
First also promotes customer satisfaction through:
- Full-replacement value for property lost or damaged beyond
- Direct claims settlement between the service member and
transportation service provider.
- Web-based counseling option.
- Increased emphasis on direct deliveries - reducing temporary
Currently, service members may only receive a depreciated
value for property lost or damaged beyond repair in a move.
In the new program, a member is entitled to the current replacement
value of the item.
As an example, a five-year-old television with a replacement
cost of $200 would be valued at only $100 if lost or damaged
beyond repair. The $200 replacement cost is depreciated at
10 percent a year. Under full-replacement value, the transportation
service providers will either replace the lost or damaged
item with a new item - or reimburse the service member the
full cost of a new one.
There are some exceptions where the transportation service
provider may replace the lost or damaged item with a comparable
used item. The exceptions are boats, personal watercraft,
ultralight aircraft, pianos, musical organs, firearms, art
objects, all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles.
Today moving claims are handled through the closest military
claims office. In Families First, service members file a claim
directly with the transportation service provider using SDDC's
web-based claim filing process, a part of SDDC's new Defense
Personal Property System. If no settlement is reached within
30 days, a service member may transfer the claim to the servicing
military claims office. In all claims processing, there is
a maximum transportation service provider limit of liability
of $50,000-up from the current $40,000.
Presently, service members receive pre-move information from
the local transportation office or the Department of Defense
pamphlet Itís Your Move. In Families First, service members
have an additional option and convenience to receive pre-move
counseling through SDDC's web-based Defense Personal Property
Families First encourages door-to-door moves with the goal
of sharply reducing temporary storage. Temporary storage results
in additional handling, delay, and expense. All of which increases
risk to the shipment.
"Under the new program, we will work closely with the
Services to synchronize member relocations so most moves may
be door-to-door," Hicks said. "This initiative emphasize
customer convenience and reduces the need for the double handling
Families First provides a payment program feature that automates
payments to transportation service providers. The introduction
of automated PowerTrack payments for transportation service
providers enables them to be paid for their moves within 5
to 7 days. This important program feature will especially
benefit the small business owner sector of the moving industry.
PowerTrack assists their business operations by eliminating
payment delays and providing a consistency to their cash flow.
"We recognize that Families First represents a dramatic
change in the way we do business," Hicks said. "The
greatest challenge is managing business among competing firms."
To follow the implementation of Families First and to keep
apprised of the business rules as they develop, go to the
SDDC web page at www.sddc.army.mil
and click on the Families First link.