Air Force Permanent Change of Station Assignment Policies

Air Force PCS Moves (Stateside / Overseas)

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer overflies Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Rob Edgcumbe / Getty Images

In October 2018, the Air Force announced restrictions on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) assignments, to be effective immediately.

In an effort to save PCS dollars and to stabilize and better develop the force, new policies have been developed regarding PCS moves that will keep most Air Force personnel in one location for a longer period. This limitation can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

For the Air Force, these dollars saved can be used to recapitalize equipment, airplanes, and facilities. For Airmen, this means your families can stay in the same house for a little longer, your children can finish another year at the same school, or your spouse can continue to work at their civilian job. On the other hand, if you really want to move from a base you dislike, you will now have to wait longer in many cases.

Increases CONUS PCS Time

The first PCS policy change increases the time-on-station requirement needed before one can PCS from one continental United States (CONUS) assignment to another. In the past, you needed to remain at a stateside base for three years before you could PCS to another stateside base. Now, you will need to remain on base for four years before you can get a new assignment to another stateside base.

All enlisted Airmen are affected by this change, as are officers in support, judge advocate, chaplain, and medical career fields. Also, most officers in rated staff positions are affected. Lieutenants, however, will need only three years on base in order to do a CONUS to CONUS move.

Stateside to Overseas PCS

This change in policy does not affect the time on station needed to move from a stateside base to an overseas base. That time requirement is 12 months for first-term airmen and 24 months for all others.

Marriage and PCS Changes

Airmen who get married to another Airman often seek out duty locations where they can do their Air Force job alongside their spouses— called Join Spouse. The Air Force works with these couples to help them find assignments that allow them to stay together.

However, another change to PCS policy increases the time married couples will need to serve on-station before the Air Force will pay for a move to a Join Spouse assignment location.

Under the new PCS policy, Airmen must have 24 months on-station before they can apply for a government-paid Join Spouse PCS. This doesn't mean it’s not possible to move sooner if manning permits. However, it means the Air Force won't pay for the move before two years.

If a suitable assignment is available before the 24 month period, and an Airman chooses to, they may pay their own way to move. This change affects both officers and enlisted.

Adjusting Manning Percentages

Another set of changes to Air Force policy is more indirect, but they still affect PCS moves in the service. These changes involve adjusting manning percentages at both overseas and stateside bases.

At a base in the United States, for instance, manning for an AFSC (job) must now be less than 85% before the Air Force will send more Airmen there. So if Base X has authorizations for 100 aircraft maintainers, it is okay for them to have only 85 maintainers assigned. Should they fall lower than 85% manning, another maintainer could PCS in—but not until then.

Similar changes will happen overseas. Because the manning numbers have been changed both overseas and stateside, the Air Force will have to fill fewer vacancies, and that means fewer PCS moves.

Assignment Availability Code 50 Tours

Finally, the Air Force has extended by 12 months the tours of Airmen in jobs coded as Assignment Availability Code 50 (AAC 50). Airmen affected by this change are now serving in special jobs where the Air Force initially set an absolute limit on how long they could serve. Those limits have now been increased by 12 months. If you don’t know if this change affects you, check with your supervisor to determine if you are coded as AAC 50.

Programs and Helpful Links

In the Air Force, the Assignment Distribution System distributes personnel from command to command throughout the individual's career. Personnel distribution to specific units is done jointly adhering to the policies contained in AFI 36-2110, Assignments.

When you graduate from basic military training (BMT) and Technical Training (TTGs) the base requests are considered, but the needs of the Air Force will always win—sometimes they match. You can receive an assignment within the Continental United States (CONUS) as well as overseas, specialities distributed equally among the commands.

There are many programs designed to assist with the Air Force personnel needs such as:

  • Voluntary Stabilized Base Assignment Program (VSBAP)
  • Base of Preference(BOP)
  • Join Spouse

General information can be found within those sites. More specific information on each can be obtained at your local military personnel office. 

Airmen may access their permanent change of station (PCS) through the virtual MPF (vMPF). Log into the Air Force's Personnel Center secure website, click vMPF, click the Out Processing link (under Most Popular Applications), and access the "view orders" link (under the Pages menu).