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The Pentagon can't seem to explain why the cost of moving military families is going up


Airman Michael Butler, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron receiving technician, uses a forklift to retrieve a crate at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

Permanent Change of Station has gotten more expensive, and the Department of Defense doesn't know why. That's the general findings of a report released by the Government Accountability Office last year.

Military.com reported earlier this week that the Defense Department would begin a review of the system that oversees military moves as a result of the report.

Accounting for inflation, the cost of a PCS was up by 28 percent between 2001 and 2014, capping at around $4 billion that year, or 3.7 percent of the overall military personnel budget.

The study found that "the services have not reported complete and consistent PCS data, thereby limiting the extent to which DoD can identify and evaluate" the current PCS system. It went on to explain that the Pentagon had not maintained required data nor required the services to independently maintain data that would help the DoD in determining how to reduce the cost of PCS.

PCS moves ranged on average from $2,289 to $13,336, with the Air Force spending the most on average per move and the Marine Corps spending the least.

In a review between services, the Marine Corps was most likely to accurately and consistently report PCS data outside of the direct cost of moving, i.e. the cost of temporary storage, lodging expenses, and tour extension incentive payments. The Air Force and the Army were least likely to report the data.

Because of the lack of proper reporting by the services and the DoD, the report found, it is impossible to determine exactly how to address the rising costs of PCS.

In addition to a lack of complete data on the cost of PCS, the report found that the DoD was not able to explain why personnel were not meeting "time-on-station requirements" because it had not required any of the services to maintain that data themselves.

Of the services who could provide any data on time-on-station requirements, the Air Force was most likely to have some data, and the Marine Corps was least likely to have any data.

The Government Accountability Office described four recommendations to improve the issue of rising PCS costs:

  • Improve the completeness and consistency of PCS data
  • Complete periodic evaluations of whether the PCS program is efficiently supporting DoD's requirements for assigning military personnel… [and] identify changes in PCS per-move costs
  • Improve the completeness and consistency of data on exceptions
  • Improve the completeness and consistency of data on waivers

The Pentagon agreed most of the recommendations in the report, writing in its response, "We recognize the importance of improving the availability of information needed for effective management of the PCS program."