BUTZNER, Circuit Judge:
The Secretary of the Army and the Commander of the Military Traffic Management and Terminal Service (the Service) appeal from an order of the district court that enjoins them from enforcing the Service's "four-carrier" regulation against W. G. Cosby Transfer and Storage Corporation without first holding a hearing to determine whether Cosby is entitled to an exemption from the regulation. We affirm.
The Service is the defense agency in charge of moving furniture and other personal property for members of the uniformed services.
Formerly, a local moving company could represent any number of carriers, but in 1971 the service amended its regulations to restrict a local agent's representation to four carriers.
In recent years, a major portion of Cosby's business has involved local representation of carriers that are making international shipments of household goods for the Service. Since initially qualifying as an approved agent for international carriers in 1962, Cosby has represented as many as 15 carriers at one time, and the company represented 11 when the Service announced the four-carrier limitation. Over the years, Cosby has upgraded its facilities to accommodate its carriers and the Service. Its present investment totals approximately $200,000 and includes five pieces of motor vehicle equipment that were
Shortly after the Service announced the four-carrier rule, Cosby applied for an exemption. Although the company had met all of its inspection standards and had transacted its business satisfactorily while representing more than four carriers, the commander summarily denied the request for an exemption. The only reason given for the rejection was that carrier service at Fort Lee was adequate. When Cosby failed to designate the four carriers it wanted to represent, the Service threatened to stop all tenders of international shipments to the company. Cosby then filed suit in the district court and obtained the injunction which the government attacks on this appeal.
The district court found that limiting Cosby's representation to four carriers would cause the company economic harm. Accepting this finding, the government does not contest Cosby's standing to sue. Cf. Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 90 S.Ct. 827, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970). The government, however, contends that the restriction placed on Cosby is not subject to judicial review because the imposition of the four-carrier limitation was a management decision. While it concedes denial of Cosby's request for an exemption was final agency action within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act,
The Supreme Court has recently emphasized that the statutory exception from judicial review of administrative action that is committed to agency discretion should be narrowly applied. It is appropriate only "in those rare instances where `statutes are drawn in such broad terms that in a given case there is no law to apply'." Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410, 91 S.Ct. 814, 821, 28 L.Ed.2d 136 (1971). The commander's decision to deny Cosby's request for an exemption does not fall within this limited exception. The Service, like any other government agency, is required to follow its own regulations. Brooks v. Clifford, 409 F.2d 700, 706 (4th Cir. 1969). The Service's regulation itself provides the applicable law for judicial review of the agency action because it carefully defines the limits of the commander's discretion in ruling on requests for exemption.
The government contends that the regulation allows only a transportation officer to initiate the request for an exemption and that it permits him to act
We construe the regulation to provide that the commander should grant an agent's application when (1) the exemption is consistent with the program's effective management and (2) the agent is able to represent more than four carriers satisfactorily. The regulation does not allow the commander unfettered discretion to grant or withhold an exemption even though it provides that he "may . . . grant" an exemption. The use of the verb "may" does not permit the commander to act arbitrarily. Cf. Mulloy v. United States, 398 U.S. 410, 415, 90 S.Ct. 1766, 26 L.Ed.2d 362 (1970); Thompson v. Clifford, 132 U.S.App.D.C. 351, 408 F.2d 154, 158 (1968). His decision must accord with the criteria set forth in the regulation. Brooks v. Clifford, 409 F.2d 700, 706 (4th Cir. 1969).
The regulation also authorizes transportation officers to initiate requests for exemptions. But this can be done only when the four-carrier restriction results in inadequate service at the officer's installation. This severe limitation on a transportation officer's discretion does not limit the commander's authority to grant an agent's application when the agent satisfies the regulation's criteria for an exemption. Instead, the limitation prohibits a transportation officer from favoring local agents when there is already adequate service at his installation.
We conclude, therefore, that (1) an agent may apply for an exemption; (2) the commander may not arbitrarily grant or deny the request; (3) although service at an installation is adequate, the commander should grant an agent's application when the exemption is consistent with the program's effective management and the agent has the facilities to represent more than four carriers satisfactorily; and (4) the commander's decision is subject to judicial review. Cf. Littell v. Morton, 445 F.2d 1207, 1210 (4th Cir. 1971).
The officer charged with administering the program testified that the Service imposed the carrier restrictions because it found that overcommitted agents often had to refuse tendered shipments and that agents would select from a number of tenders only those shipments they desired to handle. He explained that limiting the number of carriers an agent can represent reduces the incentive to refuse shipments. Abuses of this type, of course, would afford grounds for denying an exemption. But the record does not disclose that Cosby has ever engaged in the practices that the regulation is designed to prevent. Therefore, the commander did not attempt to justify his denial of Cosby's request on either of the grounds recognized by the regulation — inconsistency with effective management or inability to represent more than four carriers.
Cosby is not barred from relief because it contracted with the carriers it represents and not directly with the government. The regulations require the Service's approval before an agency may represent a carrier.
Before debarring a contractor from future government contracts, a federal agency must comply with § 3(a) of the Administrative Procedure Act by stating and publishing its rules of procedure.
Section 3(a) of the Administrative Procedure Act requires the commander to follow published procedures in making his decision. Establishment of these procedures is the Service's responsibility, and the district court properly refrained from promulgating them. The procedures should at least include a method for filing exemption requests, an opportunity to present evidence in support of the request and to rebut evidence against it, and, finally, a decision that is based on the administrative record. Because the Service's regulations and the Administrative Procedure Act afford Cosby adequate relief, we need not consider its constitutional claims.
The district court properly declined to adjudicate the merits of Cosby's application. Instead, the court enjoined enforcement of the four-carrier restriction against Cosby until the Service granted the company a hearing at which it could prove that it merited an exemption. Determination of Cosby's entitlement to an exemption under the regulation should be made in the first instance by the Service in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. The Service's failure to state and publish its procedures justified the district court's conditional injunctive relief. Cf. Gonzalez v. Freeman, 118 U.S.App.D.C. 180, 334 F.2d 570, 579 (1964).