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E&C Commissary News

Editorial Comment —May 2011

Model Agency...


As the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) prepares to go into its 2011 conference this month, it can do so with a great sense of accomplishment. There are few federal entities with such a stellar record of stewardship of the taxpayer dollar, and leadership in fiscal accountability, while operating one of the two most cherished benefits for military servicemembers and their families.

While the marketplace's everyday business rolls on with store resets and planograms, sales and promotions, there's some very important work going on in the resale back offices.

The accountants, operations and finance people at DeCA have received a verdict on an entire year of work — and it's good news. DeCA is once again among the Department of Defense's (DoD) elite in setting the standard for fiscal accountability.

Congratulations are due, as for the ninth year in a row, DeCA has received a “clean audit” of its reporting and financials from independent auditors; and for the fourth time in the last five years, DeCA has achieved a first-place score in DoD from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller (OUSD (C)) with its “Statement of Assurance.”

Fiscal accountability is an everyday job at the agency, just like culling lettuce or making sure the shelves are filled for patrons when the doors open.

But it's an uncommon job, too. DeCA's mission is unlike any other “grocery business,” for its people are directly connected and committed to delivering the benefit. That fact was demonstrated most recently in Japan, where commissary crews kept the flag flying and critical products flowing for servicemembers and their families caught in the aftermath of theearthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency.

DeCA personnel were on the mark when the chips were down, just as they are on the mark when it comes to keeping the books.

It's the people who make the agency special, but the numbers are equally undeniable. For each appropriated dollar it receives in funding, DeCA returns upwards of two and a half times that in savings to servicemembers and their families.

We hope these facts, and commissaries' many other contributions to the military community, are not forgotten when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) gets around to dusting off its outdated reports, and the DoD Comptroller next asks DeCA where it could again trim this essential servicemember benefit.

Conversation Starters ...

Kudos are due to the entire steering committee of the 2011 Exchange Roundtable and its chairman, Jim Martin of Overseas Service Corporation (OSC), for a job extremely well done in developing a program for this past March's American Logistics Association (ALA) event.

This Roundtable diverged from the “same old/same old” financial reviews and hit the ground running after opening remarks, with marketplace-specific presentations from the various systems' chief merchandisers and their front-line retail division leaders.

There's no doubt a lot of thought and planning went into producing such a unique meeting. Every one of the presenters had something of interest to say to the entire assembled group. What's more, the various panels, and especially the exchange and canteen category merchandising leaders, raised the level of spontaneous interaction and town hall-style questions and answers to an utterly engaging new level.

Cindy Whitman Lacy, the Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) chief operating officer, Business Operations, also injected an immenselyimportant “Call to Action” to earnestly get the word out on military cause marketing.

The conversation during the breaks is often a good barometer of a meeting; and this year, it was all about what the speakers had to say, rather than the chilly weather.

Usually, it's the commissary side of the house that's asking the question, “Is it worth the trip?” As far as this year's Exchange Roundtable was concerned, there's no doubt the trip was not made in vain.

Heart and Soul ...

“Dale has left the building!” With his unflagging sense of humor, now-retired Sales Directorate Senior Vice President (SVP) Dale Bryan would probably have a chuckle at this paraphrase of “Elvis has left the building.” But he was to AAFES what “The King” was to Rock and Roll. He may have put in his papers and left the building physically, but his heart and soul will always be there, because that is what he poured into his work at AAFES every day he walked in the door.

It's perhaps a familiar yet remarkable theme among AAFES leadership, but Bryan was yet another example of a senior executive who climbed all the way up the ladder from the bottom rungs. Along the way, he raised the bar in so many areas. Among them, he brought end-to-end supply chain efficiencies across the AAFES enterprise, marrying logistics with the buying side of the house. Behind the scenes, he was the architect of many mutually beneficial arrangements and relationships with other installation, government and industry partners, all for the benefit of the servicemember (where they made business sense — Dale wouldn't have it any other way).

It's the ultimate tribute, perhaps, that he could be called a “people person.” Make no mistake, he knew his business inside out, and he drew much inspiration from being able to lead, foster training, and help individuals achieve their potential.

“I can't really mark or measure time without considering all the great people who I have been fortunate to have shared life with during my career,” he told E and C News. “They have certainly made me a better person and a stronger leader. I hope that in some small way I may have returned the favor.”

Of that there can be no doubt. Bryan's contributions were multiplied in the little things, as well as in the big ways he had an impact on people. He will be missed but his legacy will continue; and in that, there will always be a little bit of Bryan in the Exchange. Enjoy your retirement, Dale.