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A single point of contact for military moves will save time, money and keep our forces ready.

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Lee Hinkle: Keep politics out of moving military families

Disrupting contract for moving American military families hurts brave men, women in uniform, compromises troop readiness.

Two priorities apply when the government awards contracts: benefit taxpayers and get the job done right.

Our federal government recently contracted to move military families worldwide through a new single point of accountability. This can produce real efficiencies and improve the move experience, and it’s vital to America’s security — to efficiently relocate 400,000 military families annually is key to our military’s readiness. It also maintains a nimble, well-functioning defense posture.

Currently, moves are clunky — managed through an inefficient patchwork of 40 government offices and hundreds of contractors. The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) called the system ‘fundamentally flawed.’ Plagued by quality and service problems, this old system struggled with timely delivery and strained to meet demand during peak seasons. Communication with families has been inadequate.

But TRANSCOM boldly decided to consolidate the management of household goods relocations to create a unified system and improve service and accountability. A lengthy, methodical, and highly competitive process resulted in award of the contract to a consortium called Team ARC.

It includes the nation’s first, second, and fourth-largest van lines, plus the nation’s largest military moving company — one of Florida’s leading businesses, Jacksonville-based Suddath. The consortium entities have long-served TRANSCOM, our service members, and the military for 75 years.

Losing bidders are engaging in classic manufactured mudslinging to disrupt the process, pressuring some members of Congress to help them. But this contract must move forward. The Washington swamp is filled with “oppo research” consultants, squeezing maximum value from campaign contributions, and stopping progress unless it benefits their clients.

For example, in the first protest process (we’re now in the second), losers lobbed a later-disproved claim that New Jersey-based ARC didn’t divulge that its parent company had “pled guilty in the U.S. to price-fixing allegations.” Military Times reported the U.S. Justice Department found that claim “unsubstantiated”— and the criminal case did not involve ARC or its parent company. Unsuccessful bidders also claimed the winning team lacked necessary experience in relocating military household goods, though the team or its affiliates already participate in more than 50% of military moves.

Losing bidders have attempted to twist facts. But public information and legal filings reflect ARC is a U.S.-based company with a U.S. citizen management team and board. For decades, the company has provided port-to-port, end-to-end transport of heavy vehicles, helicopters, household goods and other equipment for the U.S. government and its various agencies. Surely, if ARC can be trusted to move American military equipment to support combat operations, it can be trusted to deliver couches and televisions.

TRANSCOM’s rigorous, fair, and lengthy bidding process determined that the winning proposal provided “the best service for the best value.” The exhaustive level of analysis TRANSCOM brought to this complex contract appears to be unmatched and should not be undermined by politics.

Members of Congress should let the process continue, without political interference. To implode the stellar work that led TRANSCOM to a solid decision is a tragic disservice to Service Members and their families. Politically connected companies pushing power plays to delay, disrupt, or derail this outcome has the potential to jeopardize the safety and well-being of our military families.

This award moving forward is good for Florida, potentially adding hundreds of new jobs when COVID has pushed unemployment to record highs. Most importantly, it holds promise for the well-being of our valiant men and women in uniform during the stressful relocating process — and for their families, the real unsung heroes who follow their spouses around the world to keep us safe.

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Lee Hinkle is a director of the nonprofit Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers.

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