After more than 2 ½ years of legal skirmishing, the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington D.C., decides in favor of HomeSafe Alliance, LLC, as the single indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity moving/relocation service provider to civilian and military DoD personnel and U.S. Coast Guard members under the Global Household Good Relocation Contract (“GHC”).
Unless there is an appeal and reversal, HomeSafe is the designated qualified contractor and will be the recipient of a procurement – worth up to $17.9 billion should the DoD exercise all of the options in the GHC over the next nine years.
The judge begins the decision with a quote he attributes to Winston Churchill made in 1952 – “Perfection is the enemy of progress” adding; “an adage aptly describing many aspects of the government procurement process. The search for a perfect procurement, proposal, or even performance would be in vain.”
This writer could not agree more with the judge’s observation as it relates to this case. What follows is a brief summary of the administrative and judicial arc of the HHG procurement.
The RFP was put out to bid in September 2019, because the DoD planned to transition all military members’ permanent change-of-station moves to a single managed service provider rather than contracting with companies on a move-by-move basis.
The Bidders & Their Battle
Initially, seven “Offerors” submit proposals and participate in the procurement process with United States Transportation Command (“USTRANSCOM”), including American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier, LLC (“ARC”) (headquartered in Parsippany, NJ), HomeSafe Alliance, LLC (“Homesafe”) (headquartered in Houston, TX) and Connected Global Solutions, LLC (“CGSL”).
In April 2020, ARC is awarded the GHC finding it represented the best value. HomeSafe and CGSL each protest the award by filing paperwork with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”). Before GAO rules, USTRANSCOM unilaterally takes “corrective action” resulting in dismissal of the protests. USTRANSCOM again awards ARC the GHC and HomeSafe and CGSL again protested. This time, the GAO sustained the protests; meaning that USTRANSCOM, after taking GAO-specified “corrective action” in its procurement process, must re-bid.
The GAO determined that USTRANSCOM had conducted an unreasonable, unequal technical evaluation and flawed best value tradeoff during the bid procurement process when evaluating the approach and understanding of the Offerors.
HomeSafe, ARC and CGSL go through the process again by filing new proposals with USTRANSCOM. This time, however, evaluation of the Offerors’ approach and understanding was conducted by USTRANSCOM with an evaluation team that was restaffed with new members. The new team could not consider and was not privy to the previous technical evaluation information or have access to any previous source selection data. In effect, USTRANSCOM “cleared the deck” and conducted the procurement “afresh.”
In November 2021, Homesafe is awarded the GHC. ARC and CGSL file protests with GAO, which are denied. ARC and CGSL file suit in March 2022. The decision and order upholding the GAO’s denial and affirming judgment in favor of HomeSafe was issued in a mostly unredacted form on November 15, 2022.
Summary of Some of the Findings
The judge notes, ARC and CGSL raise a “litany of arguments” why the bidding process was legally flawed and the government should be enjoined from allowing HomeSafe to perform under the GHC. Rather than explicating a 27-page court ruling with legal analysis that only a procurement lawyer would potentially be interested in, suffice it to say that the losing bidders could not overcome the “heavy burden” required to overturn an award made pursuant to federal procurement law.
In this writer’s opinion, it would be hard to imagine a different result where, as was the case here, in effect, the government had three bites at the apple to get the procurement details right.
Specific challenges rejected by the court, included:
► CGSL argued the process by which HomeSafe proposed move assignments to subcontractors and the utilization rate of small businesses in its network of movers was flawed. The court disagreed, noting that CGSL’s “gripe” was a subjective disagreement and in any event, because the procurement was based on “best value;” not merely cost alone, the government has greater administrative discretion in how it evaluates bids. As to the argued difference in threshold of committed small businesses, both CGSL and HomeSafe exceeded the threshold. As such, USTRANSCOM could conclude that there is not a “discernible difference” between the proposals and further, CGSL failed to demonstrate how the commitment of arguably fewer small businesses would be prejudicial to it.
► ARC argued HomeSafe’s bid failed to properly address commitment to the government’s HHG rules regarding customer-provided packaging (i.e., boxes) and carrier unpacking services at destination, unless waived by the customer. Interestingly, the court suggests deviation from such services would at best, have a “negligible impact” on the level of service. Regardless, the court concludes the government was not irrational by accepting HomeSafe’s statement in its submission that it will comply with all DoD packing material requirements.
► CGSL argued USTRANSCOM emphasized certain factors relative to its technical operational capabilities such as handling/adjudicating claims to its detriment when evaluating HomeSafe’s factors, such as its IT and “customer experience” through utilization of Homesafe’s cloud computing software. USTRANSCOM placed greater significance on HomeSafe’s IT system which will be used by the customer for “virtually all aspects of each of the roughly 400,000 annual moves[.]” Further, the “impact” of HomeSafe’s software platform “can be felt by the customer, during both pick-up and delivery, on every move whereas the impact of CGSL’s [operational approach] . . . will only be felt by customers on moves in which claims must be filed.” The court rejects CGSL’s argument that the government did not apply equal weight as to the factors, as required under the RFP. The government’s “conclusion regarding the relative impact of the offerors’ strengths did not create a new weighting scheme centered on the percentage of moves impacted by a particular proposal feature [i.e. the customer experience with HomeSafe’s software platform on every move throughout the move vs. a customer possible experience resolving a claim during a move and how CGSL would facilitate claim settlement] but instead constituted an observation about the degree of benefits to the United States.”
► ARC argued the nature of the venture in which HomeSafe participates, having a 50/50 joint venture partner with Tier One Relocation, LLC raises national security risks because Tier One apparently was the recipient of funds from an investor who in turn had investors located in “high risk jurisdictions like China or Russia[.]” USTRANSCOM used a contractor called “Exiger” to evaluate risks associated with foreign ownership and control. The contractor determined the connections merited a “Medium” risk rating in terms of potential exposure and vulnerability to foreign intelligence target operations and presented “concerns” on this issue to USTRANSCOM. USTRANSCOM found these factors did not impact the responsibility level attributed to HomeSafe and “contrary to ARC’s contentions, a Medium risk rating does not lend itself to an irresponsible rating.” The court would not substitute its judgment for the that of the Agency because the Agency believes that its interests, as well as the interests of its services members and their families are sufficiently protected and it alone bears the risk of that decision.
► More argument and analysis can be found in the redacted court decision posted to U.S. Court of Federal Claims’ website here.
Where HomeSafe & GHC Goes From Here
According to USTRANSCOM, negotiations are currently underway with HomeSafe to establish a transition period for military moves and warehousing and that following the transition period, a measured phase-in of domestic shipments will begin after the 2023 peak moving season. The soonest all domestic and international HHG and unaccompanied baggage shipments are expected to move under the GHC is the 2024 peak moving season.
While this writer has no particular expertise in valuation, it would seem that by restricting military move management to a single move manager having access to two international van lines for subcontracting out the service (whether that’s moving or storage) the value of the agencies of such van lines just went up. For agents who are ready, willing and able, it would seem to be no time like the present to participate in the business of military moves. In this writer’s opinion, for the business intent on committing to undertake such work, would be well served to have capable, experienced legal counsel at their side when making the move.
Dated: Sudbury, MA
Nov. 17, 2022
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 Connected Global Solutions, LLC v. United States, Memorandum Opinion and Order, __ Fed. Cl. __, Doc. 110 (filed Oct. 28, 2022 under seal and “reissued” Nov. 15, 2022).
 If this writer’s reading is correct, as anyone in the residential moving and storage industry who has been at it for a while can appreciate, the apparent lack of understanding – in this case, the court – in what it takes to provide adequate moving service is a daily reality. However, it also serves to highlight the judge’s introductory cautionary statement about the procurement process. According to the court, “[t]he search for a perfect procurement, proposal, or even performance would be in vain.”