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MAY 2015




You and Your Packout

It’s getting to be that time of

year again: summer transfer

season is quickly approach-

ing and thousands of Foreign

Service employees and their

families are preparing to ship

their possessions all over the


The Overseas Briefing

Center, part of the Foreign

Service Institute’s Transi-

tion Center, should be the

first stop for anyone facing a


All U.S. government

employees, contractors, and

family members assigned

to or returning from U.S.

embassies and consulates

overseas are eligible to use

the OBC and take any of the

Transition Center training

courses. More details on

the OBC and its offerings

can be found at


In brief, the five golden

rules for a successful pack-

out are the following:

1. Watch your weight.

Most overseas posts provide

furnished housing, so the

total weight you are autho-

rized to ship there is 7,200

pounds. That amount is the

same regardless of the num-

ber of people listed on the

travel orders: A single person

or a family of six both will

get the same 7,200 pound


A separate weight allow-

ance is also authorized to be

shipped as unaccompanied

air baggage; this amount

does change based on the

number of shippers. A single

traveler is authorized to ship

250 pounds of UAB. The

second traveler in the party

is authorized to ship 200

pounds; the third traveler

is authorized to ship 150;

and any additional traveler

can ship 100 pounds each,

meaning that a family of six

can ship an additional 900


Remember, too, that you

cannot transfer unused UAB

weight to your household

effects allowance. Moving

companies in the United

States do not weigh each box

before loading it on the truck

and can only provide a final

weight once the shipment

has been consolidated at the

warehouse. Which leads us to

golden rule number two:

2. Take your time.


planning your packout from

the Washington, D.C., area,

make sure you leave plenty

of time to check weights

and inventory before you

get on the plane. Remember

that the moving company’s

weight estimate is just that,

an estimate, and it rarely

comes in right on the money.

So it is very important that

you have time before you fly

out to verify the weights of

all your shipments—UAB,

HHE and long-term stor-

age—to make sure that you

are not overweight, and time

to remove items if you find

that you have exceeded the

weight allowance. The 10

days of per diem you are

allowed before flying out will

help you do this.

3. Organize and sepa-


Make sure you separate

each category of shipment

carefully. The packers will

descend on you and will pack

things up faster than you

realize. Keep the HHE, the

UAB and the storage items

carefully segregated. You can

mark big items with tape,

but you may want to keep

the smaller items in separate


4. Inventory, inventory,


Make sure your

inventory is as comprehen-

sive as possible. Put your

smart phone to use and take

photos or videos of each

box, if possible. A sketchy

or incomplete inventory will

make it difficult to cull the

shipment if you’re over-

weight. It will also make it

hard to know what is missing

if items are lost or damaged

en route. So spend a little

extra time to make sure your

inventory is as complete as

you can make it.

5. Engage the inspector.

A State Department’s inspec-

tor visits each packout site,

probably on the first day of

the process—which is likely

to be before any problems

have cropped up. Be sure to

speak with the inspector and

ask him or her to pay a sec-

ond visit later on. At the very

least, make sure you are able

to contact the inspector in

case any problems arise.


–James Yorke, AFSA

Senior Labor Management

Adviser, and Debra Blome,

Associate Editor

AAD Report continued from p. 53.

the need for educational

opportunities to strengthen

the Foreign Service and

create a “deep reservoir of

top talent,” for support for

strengthening Civil Service

career development, and for

a broad review of the State

Department to “optimize its

organization, management

and workforce development.”

The report is available to

download in both abridged

and full-text versions at the

American Academy of Diplo-

macy website (


AFSA urges members to

read the report. The


would like to facilitate discus-

sion on these issues. To that

end we ask readers to please

send comments and feedback

on the AAD report to journal@ with subject line:

AAD Report. We will compile

comments and publish them

in a future issue.


Debra Blome,

Associate Editor