Service members and their families can soon expect faster forwarding times on mail sent through the US Postal Service to APO addresses after they move.
The Postal Service is revamping how address changes are filed and continuing its push to move all overseas personnel to a standardized address system -- a move that will save millions of dollars in labor and transportation costs each year.
Right now those stationed at overseas bases either receive mail to their units, which distributes it, or to a personal box number. When they move from overseas to stateside, or from one overseas base to another, they must manually file their changes of address at their local military post offices.
Any mail sent to their old addresses goes all the way to their original overseas locations before being manually redirected stateside or to a new APO location. That sometimes means mail can take up to months to reach a new address. For deployed troops who have recently returned stateside, mail is simply returned to sender.
The new system will also allow users with APO addresses to file a change of address form online via the USPS website for a $1 fee. The USPS's automatic mail forwarding system, which has been in use by the agency for stateside addresses since 2003, will then capture and forward any mail originating stateside before it leaves the country.
"The current redirection process for military mail is an antiquated destination-based service," said Jim Clark, the head of the Military Postal Service Agency's operation division "We've been working on this for quite a while now with USPS."
The new system, which is scheduled to go live in November, relies on all APO addresses being compliant with the traditional three line USPS address system -- a name, street or PO Box number, city, state and zip code. Military mail, however, has in the past been sent with a four line address system -- name, unit details, delivery line with box number and APO location in place of city, state and zip code.
Up to 80 percent of military members at overseas bases have already been moved to mailing addresses that do not include their unit details. Those who haven't can expect their commands to give them new unit and box numbers for mail by late fall, Clark said.
The change is expected to save the agency $4 million annually in labor and transportation costs thanks to mail no longer being sent first overseas to an outdated address before being forwarded all the way back to the US.
Deployed troops will have to wait a little longer for the address system change and, therefore, the automatic mail forwarding system. Clark said his office is focused on bringing deployed addresses into compliance with USPS's standard address system, but he did not have an estimate for when that project will be completed.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.