Moving industry experts say this summer's heavy moving season could be even worse than last year's, when some military families were left waiting for their household goods to be picked up or delivered because of shortages of moving agents such as packers and drivers.
It's not the fault of service members or families — but you still need to do whatever you can to avoid problems.
If there's one piece of good news, it's that officials don't expect families to be left hanging on pickup day.
If problems arise in this area, it will be because a service member requests a certain moving date and won't be able to get it, said John Johnson, chief of the personal property branch for the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, which manages Defense Department moves.
That's because in the wake of last summer's problems, moving industry officials this year are planning to "black out" certain dates when they won't accept military shipments, and they will do it more aggressively and further in advance.
This summer, there will be even fewer truckers and packers willing or able to move military households. There also is increased competition for movers because of more moves in the private sector as well as complaints about what truckers and packers are being paid under the new Defense Personal Property Program, which is causing some companies to turn down military business.
Add about 15,000 to 17,000 moves related to base closures and realignments that must be finished by Sept. 15 — on top of the 200,000-plus moves that usually take place during summer crunch time — and the outlook is dicey.
SDDC has stressed to service officials the need for flexibility in dates for service members to leave their current duty station and report to a new one.
That's problematic for some service members, including sailors who are getting shorter lead time for moves because of budget issues.
While there may be nothing a service member can do to get reassignment orders further in advance — or to deal with the shortage of movers — there are things that can be controlled.
We've gathered the following tips from the moving industry, government officials in charge of military moves, and from a military wife who has moved 10 times — including last summer, when her family was stuck because the packers didn't show up as scheduled.