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Editorial Comment — February 2013

To the new and returning members of the 113th Congress,
And Department of Defense Budget Decision-Makers ...

Without further ado, let's cut to the chase. As crunch time on decisions affecting policy and budgets approaches, the military resale system is nearing a critical juncture.

And once again, this essential, but often taken-for-granted, component of personnel readiness and mission support has come under threat. These constantly recycled assaults are tiresome, they detract from other business, but this is a serious issue that must be addressed.

On one hand, a recent assertion by a member of the Brookings Institution that Stateside commissaries and exchanges should be closed could certainly warm the hearts of the nation's enemies. They would no doubt rejoice at such a weakening of the force, that would lay bare the pantries and family budgets of military personnel in the name of misguided agendas.

On the other, the desperate no-holds-barred push for budget savings is also generating its own share of unintended problems.

If resale capability on base is undermined, whether by these suggested draconian closures, or funding cuts to an already trimmed-down agency, personnel and their families — and ultimately the mission — can be quickly affected despite all the best efforts to support them.

In the long term, what this means is an additional hollowing out of the force — but in this case, from deep inside the core, where it hurts the operators in and out of uniform.

During this Congress and this cycle, we ask that you keep resale's proximity to mission and personnel in mind when any decisions regarding operations and maintenance (O&M) budgets and working capital funds are being made.

Without appropriate funding, the Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA) ability to provide a viable cost-price benefit and maintain its role as anchor on base for other resale activities would be severely compromised. Without adequate second destination transportation (SDT) funds, the exchanges, which have been optimized over the years to exactly and dynamically fit their service branches' needs, would have to slash dividends to MWR, which already faces its own funding challenges, perhaps of a very high order.

It's an important time to stand up and resist continuing efforts to undermine resale. Your historical support is appreciated by all those who shop on base. However, the voices of bipartisan congressional, military, and installation leadership need to be heard again and again in support of exchanges and commissaries. These systems are integral to servicemember and mission readiness, not ideas to be toyed with in some theoretical puzzle, nor trading pieces in a budget negotiation.

Quiet, Steadfast Support ...

The special support military resale's industry partners provide for servicemembers and their families has endured for generations through the toughest of times. Steeped in the military culture, they work side-by-side with resale agencies to achieve the common goal of ensuring all eligible patrons receive the savings and dedicated service they have unquestionably earned. With passionate, quiet efficiency, they can be counted on to accomplish the task at hand.

For these companies and their employees — many of them reservists, veterans or retired military — their passion often emanates from a desire to continue to serve, or to sustain those they see as the most deserving customers in the world.

That's why so many of them have poured generations of personal time and untold investment into building their support organizations, through which they also assist the military by hiring so many spouses, wounded warriors, veterans and military dependents.

But resale's supplier partners now face the same fiscal uncertainty as other companies, agencies and organizations in the military ecosystem. And, like other military industries, they are already taking a financial hit. The longer this goes on, the more the industry base of military resale is eroded.

Although in the great, grand scheme of things it may not sound like much, the superficial appearance can be deceptive. Livelihoods are at stake, as they are elsewhere in defense, as well as servicemembers' quality of life.

Private industry's investment in the military resale enterprise is as much in the interest of the serviceman or woman, and his or her personal readiness, as it is an investment in their own organizations. Policymakers must proceed with great caution whenever cuts to resale are in question as part of the military compensation package.

The threat of damage to the ultimate source of commissary savings — the system's industry partners — and to their military family employees is real, and its corrosive effects would cause irreparable harm.

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