Army Dealing with Tough Moving Season as US Sees Shortage of Housing, Movers
The number of household goods shipments in late May rivaled what the service typically sees during the season’s peak, at the end of June.
Frequent moves are part of military life, but the extremely competitive housing market and a shortage of movers across the country has made moving in 2021 more challenging than ever, Army officials said Thursday.
“The Army, as well as all of the services, have seen more turbulence this moving season than in recent history,” said Col. Courtney Abraham, the director of the Army personal property lead element at Army Sustainment Command in Rock Island, Illinois.
The Army is not alone when it comes to moving pains; Americans in general are dealing with a range of challenges as the economy begins to recover from the pandemic. Rental and home prices have soared due to high demand and housing shortages. The pandemic has also impacted many workforce sectors, including movers and truck drivers, Abraham said.
“So that has added a whole nother level of stress to what is always already a stressful experience for our service members,” said Maj. Gen. Omar Jones, the deputy commanding general of Army Installation Management Command.
April through September is the main moving season for the military, and the Army expects to move 54,000 soldiers and their families during those months, Jones said. Those moves result in about 92,000 shipments of household goods. At the end of May, the Army had such a large increase in early shipments that it rivaled what they typically see during their peak at the end of June, Abraham said.
The Army is watching four installations that are having the most challenges this season due to the workforce gaps and housing availability: Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Fort Drum in New York, Fort Knox in Kentucky, and Fort Irwin in California. The Army’s top concern is Joint Base Lewis McChord, which is based in a region with personnel from nearly all the services, Abraham said.
Jones emphasized that soldiers and their families should not feel like they are going through the moving process alone. The Army has several tools available to them, to include 100 percent reimbursement if a soldier moves themselves, and the ability to change their orders if they need more time to leave or report to a new duty station.
The Defense Department is also working with hotels to help soldiers who must stay in temporary lodging while they wait for housing to become available, by having the hotels charge the same rate as the soldiers’ basic allowance for housing, Jones said.
Army leaders are also looking into the appropriate frequency of moves for soldiers as part of the service’s initiative to prioritize people, Jones said, but he does not know when the service would announce any possible changes.