TRANSCOM moves ahead with property system

The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) and the Army's Military Surface Distribution and Deployment Command are moving forward with efforts to make it easier for service members and their families to relocate to different duty stations worldwide.

TRANSCOM officials announced that Phase II of the Defense Personal Property System (DPS) has begun live operations.

DPS is the automated, end-to-end management system for movement of household goods for members of the armed services and Defense Department civilians. The system automates much of the process of pre-move counseling, scheduling, tracking, invoicing and claims-filing for household goods shipments, TRANSCOM officials said.

'For service members, one of the most hectic and trying events is a change of station,' said Lt. Col. William Carberry, joint program manager of DPS. One of the most challenging aspects is the movement of household goods, so the command is always trying to make that process easier for service members, he said.

DPS replaces a paper-driven, face-to-face process with an elegant Web-based approach, said George Batsakis, vice president of SRA International's logistics strategic business unit. The system puts service members in the driver's seat, eliminating the need for them to schedule office appointments to arrange to have household items moved, he said.

SRA International, Inc., a provider of technology solutions, has been working with the Command on the DPS program since 2004. The base contract is valued at $66.5 million.

Phase II initiates DPS operations at 18 Personal Property Shipping Offices (PPSOs) designated in conjunction with their service headquarters.

TRANSCOM has picked a cross-section of bases representing the five armed services, which will help pave the way for worldwide deployment of the system in early 2009, Carberry said.

The DPS system implements elements of the TRANSCOM Families First initiative, and will replace the aging, 15-year-old Transportation Operational Personal Property Standard System (TOPS) legacy system.

That systems consisted of servers located at 123 sites worldwide, Carberry said. Because there was no specific connectivity between the servers, if something broke it had to be fixed at that one location, he said.

DPS provides a more centralized approach. The databases of those decentralized servers have been consolidated into a group of servers at the Defense Information Systems Agency's datacenter at Ogden Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, said Don Tindall, project manager with SRA International.

DPS consist of mixture of commercial- and government-off-the shelf products and customized software code, Tindall said.

For instance, Siebel's customer relationship management software provides the user-facing front-end part of the system. Software from Manugistics (acquired by JD Software in 2006) is used for rating the various transportation service providers who move the household items to various locations. The integration of existing government software was achieved through custom coding and commercial products, Tindall added.

DPS has been rolled out in pilot phases. Transportation service providers have had access for a good year as they've worked on defining their rates, SRA officials said.

The claims process function has been upgraded in the current version of DPS, so families can get the full replacement value for any items damaged during moves, Carberry said. Users also like the fact that they can track items online during the moving process.

After the move, service members fill out a survey that helps in rating the transportation service provider, so they have a direct hand in helping the military decide which providers to use, he added.

On the transportation service provider side, DPS helps shorten the time it takes for them to submit invoices and receive payment for their services from months to a matter of days, Carberry said.

The first person to use the system today was a staff sergeant from Fort Bragg, N.C., who is being stationed at a base in Germany, Carberry said.

DPS Phase II was previously scheduled to begin in September but was delayed to allow for additional testing and system updates.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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