Realignments Add to Busy Summer Moving Season

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 — With a busier-than-usu­al mil­i­tary mov­ing sea­son about to kick into high gear, offi­cials are ask­ing ser­vice mem­bers to book their mov­ing dates ear­ly and to keep flex­i­bil­i­ty in mind when doing so.
The mil­i­tary moved more than 230,000 ship­ments last sum­mer alone, and this year offi­cials are expect­ing even more due to the base realign­ment and clo­sure process, said John John­son, chief of the per­son­al prop­er­ty branch for the Army’s Mil­i­tary Sur­face Deploy­ment and Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mand. The com­mand is the lead agent for the Defense Department’s Per­son­al Prop­er­ty Pro­gram.

John­son said he’s expect­ing an addi­tion­al 10,000 moves this sum­mer due to base realign­ments and clo­sures. Though that’s just a 3 per­cent increase to the pro­ject­ed num­ber of sum­mer­time moves, it’s an extra 3 per­cent at an already chal­leng­ing time of year, he not­ed.

The peri­od between Memo­r­i­al Day and Labor Day is com­mon­ly known to mil­i­tary-savvy peo­ple as “PCS sea­son,” which refers to per­ma­nent-change-of-sta­tion moves. With school out for the sum­mer, or about to be, many par­ents view that stretch of time as the least dis­rup­tive for a fam­i­ly move, John­son explained, and set their sights on mov­ing over Memo­r­i­al Day or Fourth of July week­ends to take advan­tage of the extra days off.

But this mov­ing clus­ter can cre­ate a back­log for offi­cials, John­son said. On aver­age, the mil­i­tary moves about 600,000 ship­ments a year, and more than a third of those moves take place over the sum­mer.

“The biggest chal­lenge is expec­ta­tion man­age­ment,” he added. “Mov­ing in the sum­mer sea­son is already dif­fi­cult, and most peo­ple are set on mov­ing on hol­i­day week­ends. It’s always a chal­lenge when vol­ume exceeds capac­i­ty. We need to ensure we have enough trucks and crews to move peo­ple.”

Keep­ing the busy upcom­ing sea­son in mind, offi­cials began a review of the mov­ing process in August, John­son said. They focused much of their effort on work­ing the kinks out of the Defense Per­son­al Prop­er­ty Sys­tem, a com­put­er­ized mov­ing man­age­ment sys­tem for mil­i­tary mem­bers and Defense Depart­ment civil­ians. Last sum­mer marked the first time the major­i­ty of house­hold ship­ments were moved through that sys­tem, he added.

While the new sys­tem proved suc­cess­ful, users ran into a few stum­bling blocks along the way, John­son said, cit­ing the elec­tron­ic claims process as an exam­ple.

Pre­vi­ous­ly, the “sub­mit” but­ton for the elec­tron­ic claims form was locat­ed only at the top of the page. Peo­ple would fill out the form, and then fail to real­ize they had to scroll back up to sub­mit the claim, he said. And by the time they real­ized their over­sight, they had missed the 75-day fil­ing dead­line.

“Some folks got upset -– right­ful­ly so,” John­son said. “We’re mak­ing a big effort to fix this and some oth­er issues.”

John­son said a sys­tem redesign is in the works, but in the mean­time, he rec­om­mends that peo­ple watch the video post­ed on, which explains in detail how to nav­i­gate the online claim sys­tem.

Offi­cials also have direct­ed train­ing efforts at mov­ing experts, John­son said, includ­ing the intro­duc­tion of a webi­nar series that cov­ers the stor­age and tran­sit process for per­son­al prop­er­ty ship­ment offices and car­ri­ers.

Among efforts to increase capac­i­ty, offi­cials now allow car­ri­ers to use portable move­ment stor­age con­tain­ers sim­i­lar to those used for com­mer­cial ship­ments, John­son said. In the past, he explained, the mil­i­tary required house­hold goods to be moved in “loose loaded” or in wood­en crates with spe­cif­ic dimen­sions. How­ev­er, in the com­mer­cial sec­tor, car­ri­ers use mul­ti­ple types of con­tain­ers.

“We’re now allow­ing car­ri­ers to use what con­tain­ers they nor­mal­ly use to move mil­i­tary mem­bers,” he said. By doing so, he added, offi­cials hope to increase the capac­i­ty of car­ri­ers qual­i­fied to con­duct mil­i­tary moves.

These improve­ments will help, John­son said, but the sheer num­ber of peo­ple mov­ing over the sum­mer calls for some extra pre­plan­ning mea­sures. Peo­ple need to book moves ear­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly if they want to lock down a hol­i­day week­end. And, above all, he said, they should remain flex­i­ble on dates.

When peo­ple are noti­fied of a move, John­son said, the first stop should be their local per­son­al prop­er­ty ship­ment office, and then the Move.Mil web­site. Mil­i­tary One­Source also offers fam­i­lies a host of online mov­ing resources, includ­ing “Plan My Move,” which fea­tures a mov­ing cal­en­dar and trav­el and arrival check­lists, and “Mil­i­tary Instal­la­tions,” which links fam­i­lies to infor­ma­tion about their new base and the local com­mu­ni­ty.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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