New PCS Survey Would Help Weed Out Bad Movers. But People Aren't Filling It Out

Permanent change of station, or PCS, moves are a fact of life in the military.
Permanent change of station, or PCS, moves are a fact of life in the military. (Photo by Eric Pilgrim/Fort Knox)

Military families were given a new streamlined satisfaction survey during permanent-change-of-station, or PCS, moves this summer but, so far, few have been filling them out, according to Defense Department statistics.

About 18% of the surveys were completed in May and 10% in June after the Defense Personal Property Management Office began giving out the questionnaires in a shorter and easier to access format, the statistics it published Aug. 4 show. The office is aiming for at least a 30% response rate.

The surveys chart the satisfaction of service members and families with the moves, which can be long and difficult under the best circumstances, and the responses are used to choose providers and make improvements to the system. The response rates are likely to climb in coming weeks and months as survey return windows close, Brig. Gen. Joel Safranek, the director of the Defense Personal Property Management Office, told

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"We're always pushing families that your voice is important and we want to listen. The families are busy with moving during the summer," Safranek said. "But like anything, you can never over-communicate. Any other venue to communicate to them the importance and how it's taken to calculate which companies will take care of families in the future is appreciated."

Many of those who moved this summer still have time to fill out the satisfaction surveys, with deadlines depending on the dates of each move. Changes to how the surveys are distributed -- no longer requiring a CAC card or that families log into the Defense Property System -- should make filling out the surveys easier.

Safranek said troops and families are emailed a survey request after their belongings are picked up and have 90 days to complete it. That means the initial snapshot of an 18% return rate for May could continue to climb in August as those who started moves fill out surveys before the deadline.

Meanwhile, those who move into new housing at the end of a PCS are sent the survey request 30 days after they arrive and also have 90 days to complete it.

The deadlines mean a full picture of surveyed satisfaction rates on this summer's PCS moves is likely months away. But the initial statistics show deep dips in satisfaction among those who have responded so far, according to the statistics published this month by the U.S. Transportation Command.

Overall satisfaction on PCS moves began declining in early May. It fell to 75% that month and also in July, the statistics show. During that same period last year, the satisfaction rate started near 95% and gradually declined to about 85%, which tracked closely with a three-year average.

Safranek said he still believes the new survey will net a higher response rate as time goes by -- at a minimum, 30% should return the surveys by deadline. "I am feeling confident that this new approach is gonna be more beneficial to the customers," he said.

The pandemic has caused complications for PCS moves, just like so many other facets of life. This year, the hundreds of moving companies that pick up and drop off belongings are struggling with a labor shortage, surging gas prices and supply chain issues, which have snarled the international system of getting troops and families to new duty stations.

The personal property office is also considering other methods to improve the moves beyond the survey results, which now account for 70% of the scores given to moving companies that compete for military business. In the future, more of that score could depend on how prompt companies are, Safranek said.

"We're looking at splitting that up and just pulling information straight out of the databases on, did their stuff arrive on time? If the answer is yes, then let's put that into the equation," he said. "Did their personal property get shipped on time? The answer is yes. Let's get the TSP [transportation service provider] a certain score. And how did the claims process go, and let's give the TSP a certain score."

The PCS system is also facing its biggest overhaul as the Defense Department prepares to contract a private entity to manage the moves, rather than managing them in-house. The so-called Global Household Goods contract has been planned for years and was awarded to a company, HomeSafe Alliance LLC of Houston.

But the award remains tied up in litigation after a losing bidder challenged the award in federal court. Safranek said U.S. Transportation Command has requested that the appeal be decided by the civilian court by October, though it is unclear whether that will happen.

-- Travis Tritten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten. 

Related: Need-to-Know Changes for the 2022 Moving Season (with Brig. Gen. Joel Safranek and Kristen Johnson Barnat)

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