The Navy announced a new plan Friday aimed at reducing the stress of short lead times for permanent change of station moves.

Starting July 5, most sailors nearing the end of their current assignment will receive a letter of intent — LOI in Navy-speak — that will enable them to begin the PCS process, set up their household goods shipment and complete other required screenings before they receive their official PCS orders.

The policy, released Friday morning, allows sailors to get the ball rolling on things like sea duty screenings, security clearance updates, house-hunting and scheduling their move before they receive their funded orders.

Budget battles on Capitol Hill in recent years have caused the Navy to regularly delay issuing PCS orders as long as possible.

While older sailors remember a time when orders were issued four to six months ahead of a move, the current average for orders is about two months, according to Navy officials.

"We understand the impact that compressed PCS lead times have had on sailors and their families preparing to move," Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke said in a statement. "While we are working hard to ultimately provide sailors with six months of orders lead time, these are tangible changes that will help sailors prepare for their upcoming move several months in advance."

Before the LOI program, sailors could not even begin their move without being issued their orders. Receiving an LOI will generally allow sailors to get going on their PCS preparations, in effect replicating that four-to-six-month lead time, according to Navy officials.

In the past, LOIs were reserved only for sailors getting orders to an overseas duty station.

Upon receiving an LOI, sailors should go to the website move.miland enter "NAVYLOI" in the box where they would normally enter a PCS order number to begin setting up their household goods move.

When funding is received and orders are issued, Naval Personnel Command will provide household goods offices with the copy of the sailor’s orders and send the moving request to the industry.

Personnel support detachments will also be able to make travel reservations with the LOI.

But because an LOI doesn’t contain a line of accounting, it can’t be used to issue tickets, receive advanced military and/or travel pay, ship household goods or personal vehicles, put personal vehicles in storage or to reimburse a personally procured move, according to the Navy.

Some orders are not eligible for an LOI. They include temporary limited duty, home port changes, pre-commission units, Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center, Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands, pregnancies, accessions, retirements and separations.

For more information, contact the Naval Personnel Command Center at (866) U-Ask-NPC (827-5672), or UASKNPC@Navy.mil.

In addition to being a source of consternation for rank-and-file sailors and their families, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano warned in March that it could impact readiness.

"Ours is a life of hardship and we must do what we can to manage it, to keep our sailors focused on their jobs," he said. "This places a significant distraction on our sailors and may negatively impact our competitive edge."