For the past 2 years, there’s been a lot of talk about possible changes to the commissaries. The talk has come from all directions. There was talk about possible changes from Congress. There was talk about possible changes from the consultants hired by the Defense Commissary Agency. There was talk about possible changes from commissary employees and shoppers.
Now commissary shoppers may be asking themselves which (if any) of these commissary changes are happening. Here’s a little hint: only 1 of the proposals is scheduled to happen in 2017.
What about the other possible changes? For now, these recommendations move to the land of myths and rumors.
Here are 3 myths that you may hear commissary shoppers talking about.
Commissary myth #1: DeCA is merging with the military exchanges.
If you thought this was happening, it was because the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission presented a proposal with 15 recommendations to modernize the commissaries. One of those recommendations was a proposal to combine the commissary and exchange systems into a single defense resale organization. This proposal was intended to reduce the overhead costs of operating the commissaries and exchanges separately.
When MilitaryShoppers wrote about this proposal nearly 2 years ago, readers said that this proposal was a terrible idea. Repeatedly, readers wrote this comment:
“Do not combine. We would lose our privileges.”
For now, the commissary and exchange are not combining.
The statement that DeCA is merging with the exchanges is a myth, according to DeCA officials. They also said
“DeCA leadership continues to explore different levels of cooperation with the military exchanges. To the extent the Defense Department plans to implement any of those options in future, DeCA is committed to ensuring that employees are well-informed and equipped with information to understand any potential impacts.”
Commissary myth #2: DeCA is exploring a privatization pilot program.
Privatization is happening, right? Wrong, according to DeCA officials.
“Upcoming pilot programs will not be exploring potential privatization (i.e., a private sector company taking over DeCA operations). Privatization was not a part of the changes proposed in the 2016 NDAA and is not planned for DeCA at this time.”
The proposal to privatize the commissaries was discussed repeatedly over the course of the last 2 years. At one point, several large unnamed retailers were approaching DeCA and expressing their interests in running the commissaries.
Like the recommendation to merge the commissaries with the exchanges this idea was met with many vocal opponents. They argued that privatization is not the answer to Congress’s budget concerns. Skeptics argued that privatization wouldn’t save the taxpayers money and would lead to price increases for commissary patrons.
Privatization is off the table. For now.
Commissary myth #3: DeCA’s mission is changing.
“DeCA’s mission has always been to offer the right products at the right prices as a critical benefit to its patrons,” DeCA said on its website.
One proposal, a private label brand, is happening and DeCA is confident that is program will “offer more flexibility in how DeCA delivers that benefit, and positions the agency to be more cost-effective, efficient and better able to protect the benefit for future generations of patrons.”
Congress wants DeCA to be cost-effective and efficient. Veterans want to keep this military benefit without increasing the prices or surcharge. Military families want groceries at a competitive price compared with civilian grocery stores.
We all want the same things for our commissaries. Will the private label brand be enough to save the commissary benefit without raising prices or reducing the benefit?
We’ll just have to wait and see.