The Military Relocation Assistance Program was created by Public Law 101-189 (1988) and is implemented by DoD Instruction 1342.22, "Military Family Readiness." The program envisioned and enacted by the law provides service members and their families with education and information before departure to prepare them for a cost-effective, efficient move, minimizing family stress and maintaining productivity.
Frequent relocations are part of military life. Moving can be challenging and stressful to Department of Defense personnel and their families, but many service members and their families learn to thrive on the new experiences and opportunities for personal and professional growth afforded them through this mobile lifestyle. Relocation service providers help families navigate moving-related challenges by providing counseling, planning assistance, information, referral and education on how to minimize the stress and maximize the benefits of military life and frequent moves. To ensure a smooth move, start planning early using the many Relocation Assistance Program services and tools available.
Key Relocation Assistance Program components
Worldwide staffing from Relocation Assistance Program headquarters to the field exceeds 300 individuals, and at least one, and usually more, personnel are assigned to the relocation function in installation military and family support centers. There is one headquarters program manager per service except for the Air Force and Marine Corps, which have deputy program managers.
Common program elements include the following and vary by Service:
- Individual permanent change of station - PCS - planning. Most relocation programs offer one-on-one consultation for anyone needing assistance. In particular, those making their first military move, first overseas move or those with challenging and complex situations such as special needs family members or financial problems should schedule an appointment with the Relocation Assistance Program office.
- Military Installations and Plan My Move. For managing and planning your move, use these two DoD-sponsored web-based relocation tools with information on over 250 installations worldwide. You can estimate expenses, find the forms necessary for housing and household goods, keep a calendar of events and take other necessary actions to ensure a successful move.
- Loan closet. Many basic household items are available to borrow while your personal property is en route to your new destination. Available items typically include pots and pans, dishes, silverware, irons, ironing boards, port-a-cribs and high chairs. Generally, towels and bed linens are not available, so these should be packed in your hold baggage.
- Workshops and briefings. Available classes vary from installation to installation, but you can generally find workshops or briefings on smart buying, selling and renting (real estate), budgeting and finance, moving with children, general moving preparation, and many related topics.
- Pre-departure briefings. Sometimes called Smooth Move or PCS briefings, you and your spouse will want to attend these for sure. You'll get essential information that can prevent you from making uninformed and costly decisions before your move.
- Settling-in services. These may include welcome wagon services, local area tours with childcare often provided, or distribution of basic household items to use until your goods arrive. Overseas arrival services may include introductory language classes and cultural awareness training.
- Deployment support. The military and family support center assists unit family readiness groups and Ombudsman programs during the entire deployment cycle. Support includes services for people with special needs, classes on deployment preparation, managing finances, helping children adjust, family separation, return and reunion, and information on local and online resources.
- Foreign-born spouse support. Whether you need to know about immigration and naturalization, learning the English language or how to take local transportation, the Relocation Program provides assistance, classes and referrals.
- Emergency assistance. If you find yourself in an emergency situation during a move, the Relocation Assistance Program office has the resources to provide emergency financial assistance and referrals.
- Transition assistance. This is a mandatory program available to assist personnel and family members when they separate from the military. The Relocation Assistance Program office will establish your individual transition plan and refer you to all the necessary installation and community resources to complete a successful transition.
All active duty, Guard, and reserve service members and their immediate family members, Department of Defense civilians and retired personnel are eligible to receive relocation assistance services.
Relocation services are available worldwide on military installations and online through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS and Plan My Move. If you are from a small installation that does not have a Relocation Assistance Program, there are numerous offices and resources that assist service members with the relocation process such as your local transportation, finance and legal offices.