Military PCS Guide

A family sits with boxes

Everyone in the military is subject to worldwide transfer, based on the needs of the service. Despite this fact, many service members and their families are not clear on what getting PCS orders really entails. Getting a PCS order means moving household goods, shipping vehicles, meeting weight limits, covering airfare and lodging, per diem rates, and on and on.

Unlike other "temporary" travel orders, PCS orders are just as they sound -- permanent (well, typically two to four years). Many service members look forward to getting PCS orders, as it can mean a change of scenery, new responsibilities, new missions and new opportunities. But military families are not always as excited about leaving a familiar community. The thought of finding a new home, making new friends, finding new jobs or starting new schools can be overwhelming. Keep in mind as you prepare for the big move that your transfer is what you make of it; each new duty station can bring new and exciting opportunities.

Don't miss this: Listen to the PCS with Podcast

For most military families, the biggest issue with PCS is the move itself. Packing, housing inspections, house hunting, the waiting list for government housing and traveling with pets, just to name a few tasks, can make the process daunting.

Understanding your rights, responsibilities, benefits, allowances and the impact on your pay can help alleviate the anxiety of "getting orders."

This guide was designed for that specific reason -- to help you understand all the aspects of military transfers by taking the mystery out of the acronyms, providing easy-to-follow checklists, links to important resources, and helpful tips and insights that can help make your move a smooth one.

2 PCS Gotchas

Don't wait for orders first. It is a mistake to wait on official orders before starting to get ready for your move. Go through the moving checklists featured in this guide and get as many items checked off as you can. A head start now can save on headaches later.

Don't be lax about your inventory. Your possessions are important -- don't sit back and expect that they will be organized properly by movers. Be proactive in labeling and keeping track of your boxes and shipments, and double-check everything with your movers.

5 Things to Do When You Get Your PCS Orders

Once you have your PCS orders, in hand, what should your priorities be? Five key steps to take include setting up a meeting with your base transportation office, contacting the family center on your new base, notifying your landlord, visiting your finance office and using the checklist.

Read more about these five important steps.

Tip: Deducting PCS Costs from Your Taxes

If you are a member of the Armed Forces on active duty and you move because of a permanent change of station, you can deduct your unreimbursed moving expenses on Form 3903. For more guidance and information, read about deductible PCS taxes.

Saving Money for Your PCS

When you combine moving costs with the difficulty of uprooting your life every few years, relocations can take a big toll. While some moving hassles are unavoidable, you can ease the financial pain of PCSing with a little advance planning.

To do this you need to set a budget and save early, have your high-value items appraised, correctly insure your belongings and prepare for next time by saving cash in advance.

Read more about saving money for your PCS.

The Personally Procured Move (PPM) Option

The Personally Procured Move, formerly known as a DITY move, allows you to be reimbursed by the government for moving your belongings yourself. You're eligible if you make a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), Temporary Duty (TDY) or Temporary Additional Duty (TAD) move, or separate, retire and move to or from government quarters under orders. The program is voluntary.

Why to make a PPM move

While moving yourself can seem like more trouble than it’s worth, there are many reasons it might be right for you.

For example, if you have a small amount of household goods or can take advantage of moving company discounts, you could make money by moving yourself. There’s also benefits to having total control of the timing and logistics around your move.

Read more about the advantages of a PPM.

If you're ready to take advantage of the PPM program, you’ll need to take eight important steps. Starting with applying for the PPM move at your base personal property office, deciding whether you’ll be hiring someone to help you, arranging any equipment, confirming insurance coverage and more.

Read more about what you need for your PPM.

Top 10 PCS Mistakes

Do you know the Top 10 PCS mistakes? From trying to do a move yourself when it’s not a good time, forgetting records, not keeping tabs on your pets, trying to rush the process and so many more.

Learn more about the top 10 PCS mistakes.

PCS Weight Allowances

Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR) sets the maximum Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and Non-Temporary Storage (NTS) weight allowances that you can ship and/or store at government expense, based on your rank and dependency status. Weight allowances do not include Professional Books, Papers and Equipment (PBP&E/Pro-Gear) or required medical equipment.

PCS and NTS Weight Allowance (Pounds)

Grade (see note 1) With Dependents (see note 2) Without Dependents
O-6 to 0-10 18,000 18,000
0-5/W-5 17,500 16,000
0-4/W-4 17,000 14,000
0-3/W-3 14,500 13,000
0-2/W-2 13,500 12,500
0-1/W-1/Service Academy Graduates 12,000 10,000
E-9 15,000 (see note 3) 13,000 (see note 3)
E-8 14,000 12,000
E-7 13,000 11,000
E-6 11,000 8,000
E-5 9,000 7,000
E-4 8,000 7,000
E-1 to E-3 8,000 5,000
Aviation Cadets 8,000 7,000
Service Academy Cadets/Midshipmen   350


Note 1: Includes a uniformed service regular and Reserve component member, and an officer holding a temporary commission in the U.S. Army/Air Force. Also includes a member appointed from an:

  • Enlisted/warrant officer grade to a commissioned officer grade, or
  • Enlisted grade to a warrant officer grade or rating is authorized the grade's weight allowance:
    • Held on the member's PCS authorization/order effective date used for household goods (HHG) transportation, or
    • From which an appointment was accepted, whichever is greater.
  • Upon reversion, the member is authorized the weight allowance of the grade held:
    • On the member's PCS authorization/order effective date then being used for HHG transportation, or
    • Before reversion, whichever is greater.

Note 2: For this table, a member "with dependents" is a member who has a dependent eligible to travel at government expense incident to the member's PCS. Actual dependent travel has no bearing. Incident to a member's first PCS after:

  • The death(s) of all of the member's dependent(s), or
  • A divorce that leaves the member with no dependent(s) eligible to travel at government expense, the member has the weight allowance of a member "with dependents."

Note 3: A member selected as senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sergeant major of the Army, chief master sergeant of the Air Force, master chief petty officer of the Navy, sergeant major of the Marine Corps or master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard is authorized a weight allowance of:

  • 17,000 pounds with dependents
  • 14,000 pounds without dependent for a PCS authorization/order issued on or after receiving notice of selection to that position and for the remainder of the military career.

Weight tips:

  • You are responsible for staying within your weight allowance. Get an early start on estimating the weight of your household goods before you visit your transportation office, which will require an estimated weight for each shipment you intend to make.
  • Weight estimates are not official. They are planning tools only. You never can use weight estimates to refute excess weight charges.
  • Excess weight = big costs. Exceeding your authorized weight allowance on a move can end up with your getting overcharged several hundred to several thousand dollars. Contact your local transportation officer for additional information regarding excess costs.

If you're moving overseas: Some overseas areas impose administrative weight restrictions. If the area to which you are assigned provides government furniture, for example, you may get a weight restriction, which would prevent you from shipping your full weight allowance overseas. If you are administratively weight restricted, you have the option of storing the remainder of your HHG in long-term storage (NTS), or you may ship your HHG to a designated location within the continental U.S. (CONUS) for the duration of your overseas tour. Be sure to check with your transportation office about your options.

Know before you go. If you are transporting a vehicle, PPM moves require you to weigh the vehicle empty and loaded before departing and again upon arrival at your destination. Weigh stations that issue official certified weight tickets can be hard to find. Make sure you know exactly where to take your vehicle before you leave your old duty station. Otherwise, you may have to delay unloading your household goods when you get to your new home.

Shipping Your Car Overseas

Moving overseas brings many extra tasks, including shipping your vehicle. It’s important to think through the many steps you should take to get your car or truck ready to go, from making an appointment to cleaning it in preparation for shipping.

Read more about shipping your car overseas.

8 Tips for Packing Yourself for a PCS

Do you need to pack yourself for your military PCS? The task can seem daunting, but from getting organized to getting the kids involved, these eight tips will help you tackle the job.

Read eight tips for packing yourself for a PCS.

PCS Responsibilities

Do you know Keep these responsibilities in mind as you prepare for your PCS:

At Origin:

1. Keep your transportation office informed of any change in your orders or other changes, such as a current telephone number or email address where you are available until you leave your old duty station.

2. Rules for shipping any engine power-driven equipment (i.e., motorcycle, dirt bike, lawnmower, snowmobile, moped, boat): Ensure equipment is free of dirt or grease. Disconnect the battery cables and tape the leads so they do not make contact with the battery terminals. Batteries with acid or alkali are prohibited from shipment; only non-spillable, gel-type batteries are authorized. Disconnect lead from spark plug and also tape the wire lead. No fuel can be in the tank when shipping a motorcycle/dirt bike as a HHG shipment.

3. Do not change your shipping dates unless necessary. Changing moving dates, especially during the summer months, can mean a lengthy delay in getting your move rescheduled. Contact your transportation office immediately if rescheduling the shipping dates is necessary.

4. Contact the origin transportation office if the transportation service provider (TSP) or the TSP's representative has not contacted you a few days before your scheduled pickup date.

5. You or a representative designated in writing must be home when the TSP arrives to pack and remove your belongings (from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.).

6. Your residence or pickup location should be organized enough so it does not hinder the job performance of the crew that packs your property.

7. Separate your professional items and any authorized additional consumables. Be sure they are identified on the inventory as "PBP&E/Pro-Gear" or "Consumable Items" and ensure they are weighed separately, or a constructive weight has been annotated on the inventory.

8. Do not argue with the TSP's representative. If you have a problem, call your transportation office at once.

Upon arrival:

1. Contact the destination transportation office and/or TSP delivering your personal property as soon as possible after your arrival. The TO/TSP needs a telephone number and/or address where you can be reached on short notice.

2. As soon as you have a delivery address for your personal property, call the transportation office again and provide this information.

3. If possible, be prepared to accept delivery of your property as soon as it arrives. This will prevent additional handling, reduce the chance of loss or damage, and reduce or eliminate storage expenses.

4. You or your designated representative in writing must be home on the day of delivery.

5. Know in advance where you want each piece of furniture placed in your new residence. You are allowed a "one-time placement of goods" by the TSP upon your request.

Top 10 Ways to Prepare Military Kids for a PCS

As you prepare your family for a military PCS you must consider the many ways your move will impact your kids. Moving is stressful for anyone, but there are ways to reduce the impact it has on children.

Here are 10 ways to prepare military kids for a PCS.

PCS Move Checklists

Looking for a list of things to think about ahead of, during and after your military move? You can find a series of handy military move checklists on or by downloading the military PCS guide.

Visit these pages to see the individual checklists:


Keep Up-to-Date for Your Next PCS

Get the inside information from those who know. Get PCS help and all the news and benefits information you need delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe to now.

Story Continues