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Military Personnel: Longer Time Between Moves Related to Higher Satisfaction and Retention

GAO-01-841 Published: Aug 03, 2001. Publicly Released: Aug 03, 2001.
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About one-third of all military service members make permanent change of station (PCS) moves each year. These moves, which may involve the members' dependents and household goods, are a considerable cost to both the government and individual service members. Not all relocation and moving costs are covered by the government. Reimbursements are based on what property a member was authorized to move and weight allowances that vary by grade and dependents. GAO found that the average duration time between PCS moves was about two years. Personnel who were unmarried and without dependents had the least time between PCS moves. Among the services, the Marine Corps had the shortest average time between PCS moves. Among enlisted personnel, those in the combat occupations had the shortest time between moves; for officers, those who were in the intelligence and tactical operations areas had the shortest average tours. GAO found that the duration of PCS tours was related to satisfaction. Those with shorter time spent between moves were less likely to be satisfied and were more likely to have a spouse who favored the member leaving the military. The most frequently cited problems with PCS moves were losses or decreases in a spouse's income, changes in the cost of living, waits for permanent housing to become available, and spousal employment. Service members cited several reasons for why they traveled alone, including that the service member was separated or divorced, the service member's spouse worked or was in school, or the government would not pay for the cost of moving dependents. Those serving unaccompanied tours were less satisfied with the overall military way of life, types of assignments received, and amount of personal or family time available.

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