The military’s three exchange services are resisting a Pentagon proposal to merge them with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) over concerns it would jeopardize their success in operating base department stores and other retail outlets, and generating profits to support morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) programs. DOD’s proposal to form a single military resale organization comes as attempts to reduce commissaries’ reliance on taxpayer support has exacerbated a recent decline in sales at military grocery stores, reports Stars and Stripes. Defense officials say the proposal to consolidate the exchange services with DeCA would lower operating costs, rescue commissaries and preserve the shopping benefit for military families.
But exchange officials are taking exception to DOD’s claim that all resale operations are troubled. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service, for example, has almost doubled earnings from sales over a recent five-year period and has regularly delivered about $375 million annually to support MWR programs. Advocates for military families say they are keeping an open mind about a prospective merger. “We are open to ideas that could make the system more efficient as long as they also preserve the value of the benefit for military families,” said Eileen Huck, deputy director of government relations for National Military Family Association.
Photo by Tammy Reed