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New PCS limits on professional gear

Feb. 25, 2014 - 09:04AM   |  
The military is placing weight limits on the amount of 'professional books, papers and equipment' troops can ship when making permanent change-of-station moves.
The military is placing weight limits on the amount of 'professional books, papers and equipment' troops can ship when making permanent change-of-station moves. (Airman 1st Class Gul Crockett/Air Force)
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Service members are seeing new limits on the amount and type of professional gear they are allowed to ship during a reassignment move.

That allowance, which does not count toward the separate weight allowance for household goods, is 2,000 pounds of professional books, papers and equipment — known as “PBP&E.”

And there will be no authority to waive that limit, according to a Feb. 3 memorandum from the Pentagon’s Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee.

The change took effect for all permanent change-of-station orders issued on or after May 1.

The regulation also limits which items can be included in the professional shipments. If something doesn’t qualify as a professional item, its weight will count against the member’s regular household goods allowance.

Service officials requested the change, said Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, “because of some cases of apparent egregious use of PBP&E,” such as “members shipping 20,000 pounds of professional items in addition to 18,000 pounds of household goods.”

Household goods weight limits are based on rank. The maximum allowance of 18,000 pounds applies only to four-star O-10s. That is also the only paygrade for which the household goods weight allowance is the same regardless of whether the member has dependents or is single.

From there, household goods allowance limits decrease with paygrade, with slightly lower “without dependents” limits for each grade. For E-1s, the limits are 5,000 pounds for those without dependents and 8,000 pounds for those with dependents.

According to the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, which manages the household goods process for all service members, the average weight of professional gear shipped for flag and general officers was more than twice the overall average for all military personnel in 2013.

Of the 346 shipments delivered for flag and general officers, the average pro gear weight was 1,797 pounds, SDDC spokesman Mitch Chandran said. Overall, the average weight of pro gear in the 108,000 shipments delivered for all ranks was 880 pounds.

Industry officials contacted said they don’t generally collect data about professional gear weight.

“I don’t normally like to make statements like this without the data, but anecdotally it certainly seems like members claim way more as [professional gear] than what they did when I started in this business 20 years ago,” said Tim Helenthal, president and chief operating officer of National Van Lines, Inc., in an email statement.

The new regulation will include a grandfather clause that will allow anyone who shipped more than 2,000 pounds of professional items overseas before May 1 to return the same amount to the continental U.S. on their next PCS move.

The professional items must be declared at the origin of the move and documented according to agency or service procedures. If they are not declared and documented before shipment, they will be counted against the member’s household goods weight allowance.

Examples of items that will be excluded under the new policy are personal computers and peripheral devices, and memorabilia such as plaques and awards.

Professional items that are not needed at the next or subsequent duty stations also are out, such as textbooks from previous schools unrelated to future duties, and personal books, even if they are part of a past professional reading program.

Other exclusions include furniture of any kind, even if used with professional items, such as bookcases or desks. Reference materials that would ordinarily be available at the next duty station, either in hard copy or on the Internet, also are excluded, as are table service items such as flatware and dishes, utensils and glassware.

Items that are required as part of a service member’s official duties at the next duty station will continue to be accepted. That covers a variety of instruments, tools and equipment used by technicians, mechanics, medical professionals, musicians and members of the professions; and specialized clothing such as diving suits, flying suits and helmets, band uniforms, chaplains’ vestments and other specialized apparel that are not normal military uniforms or clothing.

The policy change appeared March 1 in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations.

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