ECN CoverE&C Commissary News

Editorial Comment — April 2013

Time to Be Heard!

Short of a march on Washington or skywriting over the National Mall, few things can capture Congressional and Administration attention as well as correspondence from constituents. Lots and lots of it. So get your pens and keyboards ready.

This is a pivotal time for military resale. It's been that way since the “S”-word first showed up on the nightly news, followed in turn by the “F”-word: furloughs.

As we write, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the service chiefs are reviewing family programs to try to reduce the impact of sequestration on employees, servicemembers and their families. You'd think commissaries would be high on the list, but in fact they're not even included.

So why should military family grocery programs — a.k.a. commissaries — matter to the service chiefs and the Pentagon? Because even the most sophisticated weaponry relies on human control; and even the most hardboiled warrior relies on the military's family support structure, including military resale, while fighting at the front. The question is not just about “grocery stores” and exchanges on base, it's about servicemembers being primed and ready to take care of their mission, secure in the knowledge that their families are being taken care of at home.

It might be tempting in a time of belttightening to try to save dollars by removing that support structure ... but without it, the entire edifice of family readiness is in danger of collapse.

In the current federal budget-cutting dialogue, the loudest voices — the naysayers — have already been heard from, chanting consolidate, concatenate, eliminate.

It is difficult to understand why the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Defense Business Board (DBB), the Center for Strategic Budgeting and Analysis (CSBA), the Brookings Institution and other similar organizations calling for drastic changes cannot, or will not, connect the dots. Still, their suggestions keep making the news and stealing the spotlight — when the voices that really need to be heard are those in the military community itself.

The alarm has been sounded, and associations and coalitions have been responding for the troops they represent. But the Pentagon, the White House and Capitol Hill need more.

They need to hear from you.

Faithful supporters of military resale, system insiders and supplier partners alike, shout it out!

Tell your elected representatives why commissaries and exchanges matter to servicemembers and their families, as well as to their supporters in industry and employees of the systems themselves. As discussions get under way on the 2014 budget, remind them just how important it is not to rescind funding and not to shove the burden of budget cuts onto the backs of those who serve.

Send an email. Go to the senator's, the congressperson's “.gov” home page and leave a message. Text them. Tweet. Call. If all else fails, there's pen and ink and postage stamps (word has it that members of both houses of Congress weigh personal letters more than anything). Go to the “contact us” buttons on WhiteHouse. gov and Defense.gov.

No matter how you do it, make sure your voice is heard!

Rising Above the Fray ...

With the threat of sequestration before them, and all the consequences that might threaten their very operations, we must congratulate the military resale systems for rising to the challenge during fiscal 2012, and going about their business, which is to serve their customers the best way they know how.

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) propelled itself past the $6 billion mark during the fiscal year; and coupled with generally positive sales rung up by the exchanges, military resale was able to rise above all the negatives and post a solid sales year, recording cumulative direct sales of more than $19 billion.

Although the cumulative percentage rise in sales was only small — not quite 1 percent — it nonetheless served to demonstrate the resilience of the commissaries and the outlets overseen by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), Marine Corps Exchanges (MCX), Coast Guard Exchanges (CGX) and the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS).

It also highlighted, without a shadow of a doubt, that even after more than 10 years at war, the world of military resale remains strong and can handle itself in the face of adversity.

In fiscal 2013, there will be more challenges to face, more demands to confront. But based on past performance, we know that exchange and commissary associates, managers, executives and their supplier partners will find ways to overcome the hurdles, and not only survive, but thrive in spite of any obstacles.

Servicemembers and their families — and all who are familiar with military resale — expect nothing less.

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