“is not how a great nation should be treating its military and military families.”
The President recognizes the value of commissaries but it appears that some in his Administration haven’t gotten the memo. We were disappointed to hear:
the Pentagon is considering closing all commissaries in the United States.
The President said: “We can do better than that.” -- We can and we must!Closing these stores would be a terrible betrayal and more evidence of promises made and promises broken in our military benefits. Commissaries are a vital part of military pay and compensation. They are one of military families’ most valued earned benefits. They help make ends meet and recognize military service at a time when the Administration says that:
And, closure of these stores would be a slap in the face of the thousands of family members and Veterans who work in these stores--employment the President and First Lady have so consistently fostered. We realize these are tough economic times, and that sequestration and shrinking budgets are forcing the Pentagon to make some drastic decisions. Commissaries have stepped up to the plate and made their fair share of reductions in costs over the years. Singling them out for outright closure just isn’t right. The President asked for a review of military compensation and retirement, and Congress created a commission to do just that. Why would he not allow them to do their job? Why would he let DoD cut commissary benefits before they have had a chance to be thoroughly reviewed? We know the President and the First Lady care for our military families because they said so--time and time again. Our military have fought the good fight for our Nation, now we ask the President to fight the good fight for them! Please don’t allow their hard earned commissary benefit to be taken away! Take Action by writing the President. Join Save Our Benefit. Like us on Facebook. Ask your friends to do the same! The Coalition to Save our Military Shopping Benefits is working to ensure military families and veterans have a voice in shaping polices that impact our nation’s ability to keep a healthy and vibrant commissary system. Washington policy makers need to hear from commissary beneficiaries and employees!programs and services for our military families are more important than ever to take care of our military who have endured 12 years of war.
The commissary program has already stepped up to the plate and offered up efficiencies to the Department of Defense. In these tough times, not only have they cut costs by nearly $700 million a year and shut nearly 40 percent of the stores, they are absorbing another $40 million in cuts as stores are forced to close an extra day a week.
But that doesn’t seem to be enough to feed the commissary benefit cutters. Now, they want to take another $330 million through shell-game budget gimmicks that will raise prices and shut stores.
We understand that these are tough times and everyone needs to do their share. But fair is fair and this is not.
One cost cutting scheme is to cut overseas transportation funding – long considered essential to keeping costs down for the most deserving – patrons living overseas.
Budget cutters also want to walk down the commissary aisles, adding products traditionally sold by the exchange and raising prices – a move that will not only damage the commissary benefit but also the exchange benefit and the on-base community programs that depend on earnings from the exchanges for their existence.
Mr. Secretary – enough is enough. We urge you to recognize and reward sacrifice and success. What kind of signal are you sending to the rest of the Department of Defense if you punish hard-working employees who have stepped up and contributed more than their fair share to cutting the budget?
Commissary employees have helped eliminate millions in costs from the system – creating billions in annual savings for military patrons – while delivering quality products to service members and their families around the globe.
Instead of being praised for these efforts, commissary employees – more than half of which are military family members, veterans, or people with disabilities – have been hit with hiring freezes, furloughs, and loss of pay, after years of going without cost of living increases.
Service members and their families stand to lose even more by additional proposals to balance the commissary budget on the back of the exchanges – putting commissaries in direct competition with their resale partners and reducing critical funding dollars for critical military family programs.
Exchanges are already under great stress as the dividends they produce – money generated from the patrons to go back to the patrons – are diverted to pay for shortfalls in other parts of the budget. The proposed cuts to the commissary system will only add to this pressure.
Commissaries are part of the solution to our Nation’s and DoD’s budget challenges, not part of the problem – providing a great return to the Department of Defense and the American taxpayer for every dollar that is spent to provide this benefit.
Commissaries are not just a shopping privilege they are an integral part of our service member’s earned benefits package and a model of efficiency. They need to be protected, not continually undermined.
The Coalition to Save our Military Shopping Benefits is working to ensure military families, veterans, and commissary employees have a voice in shaping polices that impact our nation’s ability to keep a healthy and vibrant commissary system. Washington policy makers need to hear from commissary beneficiaries and employees!
Take Action by writing the Secretary of Defense, President, and Members of Congress.
I write regarding your June 2, 2013 article “Costs and Benefits”.
Notwithstanding what we see as several inaccuracies, if you were trying to cite an example of waste, inefficiency or unnecessary programs in the Department of Defense, you could not have picked a worse example.
Besides the fact that our military folks are coming off two wars for ten years and all of the sacrifice for personnel and their families that come along with this, and besides the fact that it is embedded with the Defense mission on many levels, let’s look at the economics.
Commissary operations represent the best of the private sector coming together with the best of government to serve the best people in the world. It is an example of how government should work, not how government doesn’t work.
Your article infers that if you can’t reduce spending here, you can’t reduce it anywhere. It ignores the fact that this is one place where spending has been reduced and continues to be reduced.
Of course we understand that Defense needs to get its costs under control. And that’s exactly what the dedicated folks at this Defense Agency have done. Every day, each and every one of these public servants work hard at driving costs out of the system and maximizing savings for the people they serve. They are a model of efficiency, taking out over $700 million a year in costs through store closures, consolidation and supply chain efficiencies at a time when the Defense budget had doubled and tripled. How about the billions of dollars that have been contributed to the government by patrons who finance their own store construction? What about the costs for construction that patrons had to bear when we down-sized in Europe and other overseas areas and expanded bases in the U.S. to accommodate troops coming home. How about the hundreds of millions of dollars in inventory savings that were given back to DoD when the supply chain was out-sourced? How about the hundreds of millions of dollars that is saved in offsetting cost-of-living allowances for troops assigned to high cost areas?
And they are accountable for their resources being one of the few organizations in the Department that have had a clean audit for 13 years running (contrary to what was published in your article).
The article suggests that the private sector could take over the system. I think that you would find that they would cherry pick the big, high volume stores and leave the smaller, remote operations to fend for themselves—the very place where this benefit is most needed. And, let’s not forget overseas, high cost areas where it’s hard to find affordable and recognizable American brands.
We knew this debate was coming and that’s why we did a report to analyze the economic costs and benefits of this program. We knew that in the budget debate that we would need the economic arguments along with the traditional arguments that it is compassionate to take care of people who sacrifice for their country and that the system is embedded in the mission of the DoD.
Commissaries are part of the solution to the DoD’s and the Nation’s budget problems, not part of the problem giving back to DoD and the Nation far more than they consume (as highlighted in the study that we provided to you) where the net cost to the U.S. Treasury is actually a plus. This program gives back far more in employment for military families and veterans, promotion of American products, jobs, and industry. It is a part of the Defense department that is living, breathing commerce, spinning off a multitude of benefits that go beyond the billions of dollars that patrons save every year by shopping there.
Indeed—as you correctly note--when the idea came up to diminish the benefit, there was a large hue and cry from beneficiaries, industry and Congress. There’s a reason for that. People love this benefit and they value it far beyond what it costs proportionately to other defense personnel programs. Just take a look at the hundreds, if not thousands of comments you received in your own paper and all we ask is that the Post and Defense policy makers take a long look at the facts as they deliberate how to tackle our Nation’s pressing budget problems.
Then the inaccuracies:
The list of misrepresentations in the article is long but allow me to clear the air on some of the more egregious items:
Commissaries never sold leftovers from the mess hall. In fact the mess hall usually ordered goods from the commissary or its sister organization troop subsistence.
The article cites “hidden” costs like rent, security services. The Defense Commissary agency pays for every service it receives from the installation.
The article claims a high volume store costs more to operate.… the operative number should be unit cost per dollar of sales. Commissaries have almost double the sales per employee hour, per register hour, per square foot than the leading supermarkets.
The broad brush stroke on compensation levels is unintelligible.
Mr. Chandrasekaran, the win, win, win here is to use the commissary system as a model not as an example. It has and continues to demonstrate efficiency, a remarkable return on investment to the taxpayer, a model of fiscal responsibility and stewardship of taxpayer dollars. It has a positive effect on recruitment and retention and it is valued by the patrons far more than the cost of the program.
Finally, we need to stop this insanity of suggesting the burden of our nation’s fiscal mess should be shifted to the backs of our military. These are the 1% of Americans that carry our colors into battle and pay the ultimate price with their service. You have been with them, you have seen who they are and what they do but I am not sure everyone understands about the military family and the challenges they face.Patrick B. Nixon
In order to cope with crippling cuts to the current budget and a Department of Defense (DoD) hiring freeze, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) – which manages 252 commissaries worldwide – stopped hiring replacement workers, leaving gaps in commissary operations. As a result, some stores have been operating at less than 70 percent of the required workforce, threatening store hours and product availability.
Last week, Patrick Nixon, President of the American Logistics Association and The Coalition to Save Our Military Shopping Benefits highlighted the hiring freeze issue in an interview with syndicated columnist Tom Philpott. Today, we learned that DeCA has received authority to hire at commissaries operating below 90 percent workforce capacity. Although this is a good step forward, commissaries must still operate with 10 percent less workforce for the foreseeable future, which is why we remain concerned with the ongoing effects of the hiring freeze.
In addition to the hiring freeze, the Secretary of Defense announced today that due to sequestration DoD will furlough about 680,000 civilian employees for up to 11 days – half of the 22 days originally planned. The Pentagon will allow the Navy to avoid furloughs for tens of thousands of workers at shipyards, where civilians make up the majority of the workforce. Furlough notices are expected to go out between May 28 and June 5 with furloughs beginning on July 8 – at the rate of one furlough day per week – through the end of the current fiscal year ending September 30, 2013.How will furloughs impact commissaries and military families?
Now that Sequestration has triggered the Department of Defense (DoD) must cut $46 billion. To help meet this requirement, DoD is planning to furlough nearly 800,000 civilian employees. Furlough notices were due to go out as soon as this week, with furloughs beginning in late April. However, the Department has delayed releasing furlough notices for two weeks, until on or around April 5, 2013.
This delay allows the Department of Defense time to analyze the impact of the Continuing Resolution legislation which passed both the House and the Senate last week. The new spending bill – which funds federal government agencies through September 30, 2013 – adds more than $10 billion to operations and maintenance accounts, which may allow DoD some flexibility in how they implement these budget cuts.
Originally, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) planned to furlough its employees on Wednesdays. After reaching an agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents the majority of the commissary workforce:
· DeCA plans to implement furloughs on Monday for all employees instead of Wednesday.
· DeCA headquarters and commissaries will be closed on Monday.
· For commissaries already closed on Monday, these stores will also close on Tuesday in order for all employees to meet the number of required hours for the furlough day.
· All DeCA employees may be furloughed for up to 22 days, which would equate to a 20% cut in pay, although this is still subject to change.
Many military and civilian families will be affected by these cuts. Although Save Our Benefit recognizes that all defense programs must share in the effort to reduce costs, budget cutters continue to overlook the fact that military resale is part of the solution to curbing defense spending, not part of the problem.· Reduced base operations and maintenance funding, which will impact transportation support to Exchanges and MWR programs.· Increased pressure on the Exchanges to provide more of their earnings for MWR programs, thus retaining less for investment in facilities and other capital programs.
Military communities across our country and overseas are gearing up for Military Saves Week (25 February – 2 March), which is the national campaign to motivate military families to save every month. Military Saves is part of the Department of Defense (DoD) Financial Readiness Campaign and has partnered with DoD since 2003. The Coalition to Save Our Military Shopping Benefits would like to encourage all military families to “Take the Military Saves Pledge” by visiting www.militarysaves.org. We also want to take this opportunity to remind service members and their families that one of the best ways you can save money is by shopping regularly at your local commissary and exchange.
By using your earned benefits, military families can save an average of 31% by shopping in the commissary and over 20% by shopping in the exchange. Combined, these savings add up to nearly $7,000 a year for a family of four. If you are not already using your benefits, just think what you could do with that kind of savings! You could pay off your bills or college loans, build up your savings account, invest in your retirement, save for your children’s education or your own, or help take care of aging parents. The options are limitless but it must start with a plan to pay yourself first. By consistently shopping at your commissary and exchange, and keeping track of your overall savings, you will be able to put that money to work for you on a monthly basis. Now that is savings you can count on!
Millions of our troops and their families already count on commissaries and exchanges to help stretch their household budgets, deliver much needed supplies, and provide a “touch of home” wherever the military sends them. In remote and overseas locations, they are often the only affordable shopping opportunity available. In metropolitan areas, where prices are consistently higher, commissaries and exchanges help keep prices affordable. For some junior enlisted military families and fixed income retirees, savings are the difference between making ends meet and filing for public assistance. No wonder military families consistently rank commissaries and exchanges as one of their most important non-pay benefits.
Commissaries and exchanges save military patrons $4.5 billion annually. They also contribute billions more to Moral, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs, which save you and your family additional money each month and add to your quality of life. Commissaries and exchanges are also the largest employers of military families in the world and the leading employer of veterans in the nation. So, every time you shop at your local commissary or exchange, you are also helping other military families to make ends meet or save for tomorrow. Now that is savings our military community can count on!
Military families can also increase their savings by visiting the Save Our Benefit Patrons Savings Portal http://www.saveourbenefit.org/for_military_patrons.html. This one-stop location is designed to keep you current on the latest sales, deals, discounts, coupons, and promotions taking place at your local exchange and commissary. Our Coalition Partners also offer you further discounts through coupons, contests, promotions, and giveaways. We encourage you to visit our website weekly to take advantage of these additional savings.By shopping regularly at your local commissary and exchange, you and your family will not only save money but help protect your benefits from budget cutters in and outside of Congress who want to take your benefits away. Given this fact, it is important for you to know that the commissary and exchange systems actually save the government money the more service members and their families use their benefits. So, the more you shop at your local commissary and exchange, the greater the savings for you and the nation. Now that is savings we can all count on!