Military moves are tough, but DoD has it mostly covered

A new study says DoD has great programs for PCS moves, but doesn't always employ them the best way.

This year, one-third of active duty military families will pack up their things and move to a new location mandated by the Defense Department.

Those moves are stressful on everyone involved, and the military acknowledges that. But is DoD doing enough to help troops and their families before, during and after a move when it comes to readjusting?

Sort of, according to a new report mandated by Congress and conducted by the RAND Corporation.

The study, which was required by the 2017 defense authorization act, stated DoD’s existing policies, programs and services cover all the disruptions service members and their families face when they move.

“DoD and the service branches currently provide a broad spectrum of services to assist service members and their families undergoing a permanent change of station (PCS) move,” the study stated.

But that doesn’t mean everything is perfect.

“While we did not find definitive evidence that new policies, programs, or services are needed to address PCS disruptions, there are opportunities to improve the PCS move process to reduce disruptions, particularly on the front end,” the study stated.

Simple things like notifying families about PCS moves sooner go a long way and DoD still isn’t doing a great job at it.

The study proposed a handful of recommendations to make the PCS process easier on troops and their families.

One of those is to ensure the funding needed to support PCS moves is available when needed. The recommendation goes along with the idea of giving troops and their families more lead time during a PCS move.

Earlier “notification before a move is scheduled to occur could help alleviate some of the disruptions and might further assist Exceptional Military Family Member Program families, who need to deal with additional setup costs, such as establishing medical care and educational assistance at the new duty station,” the study stated.

Exceptional Military Families are those with families members who have special needs.

“Notification of a PCS move is currently directly tied to funding, and congressional funding and decreasing resources for PCS support programs were the most frequently mentioned issues related to funding PCS moves,” the study said. “This means that, for example, the earlier funding is released by Congress, the sooner service members can be notified of a move and start planning their relocations.”

That means service members would appreciate it much more if Congress could finish its budgets on time.

Another aspect of lead time that may help troops is simply giving them an idea as to whether a PCS is coming for them. For example, the Navy uses a letter of intent as a trigger for the PCS move process.

“Earlier identification of a potential move (perhaps before funding is available) would allow families to get a head start in securing movers, establishing transportation, finding housing, and planning other aspects of the move, which could help to alleviate disruptions related to time constraints,” the study stated.

Finally, the common issue of interoperability is hurting the PCS process, RAND stated.

The current systems the military services use and the logistics systems like the Defense Personal Property System don’t talk to each other.

RAND suggested instituting an automatic notification system that would tell U. S. Transportation Command to start the move process.

The process would work through something like the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army.

Read more of the DoD Personnel Notebook.

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