AMSA’s Position on Military Outsourcing
Scott Michael, AMSA President & CEO
I continue to receive questions about AMSA’s position on the military’s outsourcing plans and would like to share the process we followed to determine our approach.
AMSA works through committees of our members to ensure that staff is acting in the best interest of the moving and storage industry. In this case, the Government Traffic and Government Affairs Committees were utilized to craft our position, along with the Executive Committee. Most of AMSA’s committee meetings, held at the spring Annual Education Conference & Expo and fall Moving Day on Capitol Hill, are open to all members. In addition, attending the meetings is the best way to volunteer to serve on a committee. Register today to attend Moving Day on Capitol Hill!
AMSA’s advocacy experience proves that it is more effective to lobby in favor of something, rather than opposing what someone else is doing. Over the decades of military re-engineering and various test programs, we have learned that any change was likely to lead to industry winners and losers. Our past efforts to support the industry in consolidating behind a specific new Department of Defense (DOD) program demonstrate that it is impossible to design a new program that garners consensus from our diverse industry. As a result, we developed the concept of a Working Group that would give movers a seat at the table to help build the new program. A working group ensures that all stakeholders have a voice in discussing and determining the best course of action while limiting the ability of parties outside of the moving and storage industry to make unilateral decisions regarding our business.
“AMSA’s advocacy experience proves that it is more effective to lobby in favor of something,
rather than opposing what someone else is doing.”
After the committees approved the Working Group as our main goal, we sought allies such as the International Association of Movers (IAM), military spouse representatives and others. We lobbied Congress for months to embrace the Working Group concept. In response, the House offered something similar, an Advisory Council, while the Senate offered a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of DOD’s actions and the current military program. We are concerned that we don’t have any control over GAO’s findings and the study could negatively portray our industry’s role in the current program. GAO has no power over DOD, and they may not agree with DOD’s findings. We are not opposed to a GAO study, but we think there is a better way: to give our industry a larger voice in the process through a working group.
As our lobbying efforts garnered a variety of reactions from Capitol Hill and DOD, we have had to consider alternative ideas and approaches, often within short time frames. On those occasions, we utilized the aforementioned committees to consider these options and refine our position. You can find more details of the history of this effort in the next section below. We have also seen the views of some of our member companies evolve as more details come out about the DOD plan. Through it all, we have been guided by identifying what makes sense for the industry as a whole.
Some in the industry are opposed to any change to the DOD program, while others are open to minor changes that preserve the basic structure. This is understandable for companies who have been successful and who have invested significantly in building a network of Standard Carrier Alpha Codes (SCACs). Others see significant challenges with the current structure, such as limited compensation reaching the agents and drivers who are doing the bulk of the work. While the outsourcing contract is not guaranteed to solve these issues, some companies are putting together bids that would deliver more money to those agents and drivers. Of course, that only works if they win the contract. With such a range of views, there may be times when AMSA is not able to establish a position. So far, we have been able to create a coalition of support for the Working Group proposal and now the House language based on the Advisory Council as the best option.
Looking forward and assuming we are successful, we expect Congress to give final approval to the Defense bill this fall thus sending it to the President for his signature. Even though the language calling for a GAO study hasn’t become law yet, GAO has already begun work on their study in anticipation. We expect to meet with them soon to continue to educate them about the industry. DOD has already begun work on the Business Case Analysis (BCA) also required by the House, laying out their rationale for outsourcing. The final solicitation is currently scheduled to be released in August, with bids due this fall.
By early next year, the GAO, BCA and the bids will come together and we will know a lot more about the program’s direction and whether there are new arguments to be made for or against proceeding. We will again turn to our committees to guide us. This topic has been incredibly divisive for the association and at every step we have continued to advocate and protect the household goods industry. By aggressively advocating for a reasonable approach and not opposing improved service for military families, we have been able to capture the attention of lawmakers to take our industry’s concerns seriously. We will keep fighting for all of you!
History of AMSA Engagement
This section provides more background on AMSA’s involvement with the outsourcing proposal. On November 29, 2018, DOD released a Request for Information (RFI), indicating that they were beginning market research to determine whether it made sense to rely on industry to coordinate their relocation program. We learned about it the next day and notified the Government Traffic Committee and sent an e-blast to the entire membership indicating that we were trying to get more information.
We scheduled a call with the Government Traffic Committee for December 12 to begin discussions about the proposal and get input from the committee. That same day, I sent General Lyons a letter laying out detailed suggestions for improvements that could be made to the current DOD program. In January, the Government Affairs Committee held discussions about all of AMSA’s advocacy priorities for 2019 and decided to include military outsourcing as one of our key lobbying priorities for the year.
On January 18, AMSA’s Executive Committee held a conference call and were updated on the outsourcing proposal. The committee directed staff to quickly develop a plan for responding to the proposal, and to work with IAM to determine if our positions could be aligned on the issue. We held a call with the Government Traffic Committee on January 22 to identify options for AMSA, and then worked with IAM to flesh out a joint policy paper with talking points based on asking Congress to establish a Working Group including industry representatives that would give us a seat at the table as DOD determines how to proceed.
In February, Paul and Katie met with Congressional offices in support of the Working Group proposal, taking over 100 meetings throughout the spring, including some with IAM’s outside lobbyists. They tirelessly reiterated that we want to be part of the solution to improve the military moving process, that we are not objecting to DOD’s plans but want to be involved in helping military families. This positive message resonated with Congressional offices and resulted in them asking many pointed questions of DOD’s legislative liaison office.
On February 19, we attended Industry Day at Scott Air Force Base to learn more about the military’s plans. They issued a draft Performance Work Statement (PWS) on the 13th, but there were still many questions about what exactly DoD was proposing. We learned that DoD intends to award a single contract for all of their business, and the current program rules would cease to exist. We sent an alert to the entire membership with this information on the 25th, along with an invitation for a fly-in we arranged with IAM for March 12-14, where attendees continued to encourage Members of Congress to support the Working Group proposal.
“AMSA stressed the value of communication between the DoD and the industry, and the need to focus on the compensation and working conditions for the local agents providing that service at the curb.”
I wrote to Gen. Lyons again on March 6, asking for improved communications and answers to our industry’s questions, while again suggesting the Working Group. Gen. Lyons invited me and several other industry representatives to a meeting on March 14, but it mostly covered the current program issues. AMSA stressed the value of communication between the DoD and the industry, and the need to focus on the compensation and working conditions for the local agents providing that service at the curb.
DOD held another Industry Day on March 20, and we also held a session at our conference at the end of the month where John, Paul, and Katie explained AMSA’s push for a Working Group and got input from attendees about this effort. The conference also included meetings of the Government Affairs, Government Traffic and Executive Committees, along with the Board of Directors, where lively discussions about outsourcing took place. The primary challenge noted in these meetings was the lack of specifics from DOD about what outsourcing would look like. I sent a third letter to Gen. Lyons on March 29, again asking for more details, including a Concept of Operations (CONOPS).
A draft Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued April 11, with comments due back by May 9. Once again, the gaps in the draft made it challenging to understand exactly what DOD was proposing, but it was becoming clear that they wanted to hand over the program to an outside contractor with limited restrictions on which movers were used, and how and when those movers were paid. As drafts were released throughout the year, more and more companies both inside and outside the industry began to become interested in bidding on the contract.
AMSA’s Government Affairs team continued to meet regularly with Members of Congress, and many AMSA members arranged trips to join us in lobbying their congressmen and senators. Having directly affected parties here to explain how this impacts them enhanced our message and helped get the attention of Congress on our issues. We focused on the annual Defense Authorization bill as the best place to include our language, since this must be passed each year, while appropriations bills have been more controversial in recent years and are often set aside.
In June, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees voted on their versions of the Defense Authorization bill, each containing language that was different from the Working Group proposal that AMSA supported. The Senate version focused on waiting for the results of a GAO report that the Committee had requested in May, which is expected early next year. The House version created an Advisory Committee, which is like a Working Group, including four industry representatives out of 15 total members. It also directed DOD to prepare a Business Case Analysis (BCA) for outsourcing, and withheld funding for outsourcing until 30 days after Congress is briefed on the BCA and the advisory group. In separate report language, it asked DOD to delay the final RFP for 60 days and give our industry another opportunity to comment on the RFP.
On June 14, we held a joint call of the Government Traffic and Government Affairs Committees to review the two versions, and the committees agreed that the House version was better than the Senate version, in part because the GAO was already doing the report requested by the Senate. The committees’ recommendation that AMSA should lobby in support of the House version was approved by the Executive Committee via an email vote. We also learned of a proposed amendment in the Senate that would require electronic tracking of every box in each shipment and successfully opposed its inclusion. Later that month, DOD agreed to the House-requested delay and released a new draft on June 27.
The full Senate approved their version of the bill on June 27, and the House followed suit on July 12, after approving a floor amendment that added a requirement that DOD wait for a detailed GAO report. Since both bills used the February 15 deadline, the differences between the House and Senate language were narrowed, which may make it easier for the upcoming Conference Committee to decide which version to use. On July 15, we submitted additional comments to the revised June 27 draft. Many of our comments were reiterations of the earlier comments as they were not answered or addressed. We will continue this process of providing input to the specific draft solicitation, while simultaneously lobbying Congress in support of the House legislation.
Looking forward, the DOD is now supposed to release their final solicitation in August, although many details still need to be determined. We expect to submit additional questions based on gaps or confusing provisions and will attend a Pre-Solicitation Conference to learn more. Meanwhile, the House and Senate will meet over the next few months to work out the differences between their bills, including many partisan provisions that are unrelated to our industry. AMSA members will have another opportunity in September to come to Capitol Hill and lobby on this and other issues during .