A short-term budget agreement with Congress means that sailors will get half the time to prepare for a permanent change of station move.
This decision will affect sailors planning to move before April 28 who will get, on average, about two months’ notice before transferring duty stations, half the time provided in the past. That’s because the so-called continuing resolution (CR) that Congress has passed to keep the federal government running until April 28 results in less money for PCS moves.
“The Navy fully realizes that these shortened lead times limit sailors’ time to prepare for moves and burdens them and their families,” Vice Adm. Robert Burke, chief of naval personnel, said in a statement on Dec. 15. “Going forward, we remain committed to providing sailors with as much information and lead time as we can. Our goal remains to mitigate the CR’s impact on sailors and their families, to the best of our ability.”
Overseas PCS moves
For those taking orders overseas, the Navy Personnel Command will continue to issue letters of intent. These letters, while not allowing for early scheduling of household-goods moves, will allow sailors and their families to start the process of getting ready to make a larger transfer.
Without an order in hand, sailors can still prepare for an overseas PCS move by:
- Undergoing necessary overseas and medical screenings.
- Getting dependent entry approved.
- Filling out passport applications.
- Putting in security clearance requests.
DOD takes a hit
“We ask for your patience as we work through the funding challenges,” Burke said. At issue are the rules that govern how the Navy spends money for PCS moves. The Navy must set aside and spend money for moving costs immediately when the actual PCS orders are cut. Due to the way resources are phased and allocated under a CR, the Navy currently does not have sufficient funds in manpower accounts to allow for the standard three-to-four month lead times for PCS orders.
Overall, the Defense Department will take a $3 billion budget cut because of the CR, and one of the major trickle-down effects is the shortened PCS timelines. The problem is expected to be resolved when Congress passes a full defense budget for fiscal year 2017, which began in October.
Prioritization strategy already in place
This is not a new problem, and CRs have been used in the past. The Navy has used an ordering strategy in previous PCS funding-constrained periods with the intent to minimize the effect on fleet readiness, career timing and families.
As a result, the service will again decide who gets orders first based on a priority system developed during previous CR constraints.
This means sailors who are transferring to operational units about to deploy, numbered fleet staffs, overseas billets, individual augmentees or must-moves — those for safety, early return of dependents as well as humanitarian moves — will be given priority.
Personnel officials say they are encouraging sailors with projected rotation dates during the entirety of 2017 to contact their sponsors with questions and concerns as there may be additional concerns resulting from the funding shortfall throughout the fiscal year.