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Editorial Comment — May 2012

Military Appreciation Near and
Far from Home ...

May is National Military Appreciation month. One place that is especially evident is in military resale operations on base, both on the home front and overseas.

Glimmers of good news regarding the economy have not in any way dimmed patrons' desire to throng to commissaries and exchanges to exercise their benefit. We hear the words “destinations of choice,” used frequently at the various headquarters, and judging by the strength of the business, it's more than just a slogan. For those who live reasonably close to a commissary or exchange, the benefit is far more than a convenience, it's a lifeline. The proof is in the shopping cart: the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) continues to experience the strongest sales growth it has seen in quite some time, the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) and the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) continue to generate strong sales, and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has grown earnings 25 percent while keeping sales slightly above par during the first month of the fiscal year.

With so much media focus on the home front, it may be a little too easy for some in the public and the government to recall servicemembers' recent and ongoing sacrifices downrange, not to mention those of their families, only through a glass darkly, if at all. However, in this marketplace, where military family members make up such a large part of the workforce, deployed warriors are never far from the resale community's minds. They are embedded in how resale thinks and acts. For military exchanges, operations downrange are still job No. 1. That has never changed.

Now, while the daily news reports from Iraq have dwindled to a quiet whisper, the security mission continues unabated in Afghanistan. And out at the ends of the most treacherous reaches of the supply chain, exchanges, and their supply and logistics teams, continue to excel at a task that no other organization could possibly do at the cost they do, while delivering anywhere near the same value and dedicated service. They continue to find new ways to do a difficult job, deploy new technologies, develop improved planograms, and adapt to an environment where things change not just by the day, but by the hour.

Even with all the moving goalposts in Southwest Asia, sales in 2011 were strong in the Area of Responsibility (AOR). No matter how many personnel remain, AAFES takes care of the “We Go Where You Go” part of its mission with the utmost seriousness, as do MCX and NEXCOM for their respective operations downrange.

If much of the rest of the nation has its mind focused elsewhere right now, it can be forgiven; times are tough, and although a ray or two of optimism have found a crack to shine through, many military family budgets — especially those relying on one income or fixed incomes — are still stressed. This month, however, we can pause and be thankful that no matter the mood or concerns of Main Street, military resale has servicemembers' backs and is dedicated to supporting military families back home.

Military appreciation is what military resale does — not just in May, but every month. For CONUS patrons, that means a community that understands their lives and problems. For those in OCONUS and the AOR, the exchange, whether main store or tactical field exchange, is a home away from home. The sense of appreciation is mutual — associate for servicemember, servicemember for associate — and the Department of Defense (DoD), the government and the nation are all better for it.

Base Access Back on Board ...

Could there be a ray of hope and a blueprint for improved base access on the horizon? Vice Adm. William D. French, USN, has taken the helm at Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC), and already there has been great progress in recognizing the important issues at stake — servicemember quality of life, force readiness, and the simple logic that the essential supply and resupply of food and merchandise for servicemembers and their families on installation shelves must continue. The Navy has a deep understanding that its NEX stores, general managers, store managers and their staffs are, in effect, functional arms of the base commander. It also understands that the exchange service relies on its suppliers to be able to get on base and do their work.

Recognizing this importance of resale in the Navy Fleet and Family Readiness equation, CNIC has issued a directive that eases access for many of the family members, dependents, and suppliers and their representatives who keep resale ticking, and has expressed its intention to reevaluate credentialing programs so that all programs are FIPS-201 compliant. That could be a welcome step in the right direction for those who have invested in sophisticated and expensive credentials at their own expense. Bravo Zulu to CNIC for reeling back this “man overboard.”

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