There are so many changes happening at the commissary that many people have questioned if the 5% surcharge will be going away as well. At this point, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) hasn’t announced that it is considering it.
The government is always looking for ways to save money and the commissary certainly takes a big chunk of the defense buget. The government wants DeCA to be more self-sufficient. If they drop the surcharge, then more taxpayers’ money would have to fund the commissary.
When the commissary was first approved, it was set by law that goods would be sold at cost plus a 5% surcharge. The surcharge covers the cost of maintaining and improving commissary infrastructure. The government funded the rest.
For FY 2018, DeCA requested $1.3 billion in appropriations to cover costs such as: civilian and military labor, labor contracts, transportation of commissary goods overseas, and other general and administrative support. Many new programs have been implemented since to help reduce federal funding.
What has changed at the commissary?
Quite a lot has changed recently.
Have you noticed prices at the commissary aren’t the same? That’s because DeCA moved from set prices to variable pricing. That means that prices are not consistent across the country now. If you live near D.C., you’ll find prices are higher there than at a commissary in Georgia. That’s because the cost of living is higher in D.C. and therefore, items cost more.
Goods fluctuate with market prices as well.
Previously, prices changed at the commissary when the cost changed through the manufacturer. Now they change with the market similarly to how commercial grocery stores handle pricing.
Commissary shoppers are still getting great savings even with the 5% surcharge. In some areas, shoppers are seeing as much as 44.2% savings. You can read more about variable pricing here and see how much your region is saving.
DeCA has made some substantial changes in a relatively short time to start relying less on the government for their funding. The success of these is noticeable in how much money DeCA requested in appropriations for FY 2019. They asked for $123 million less than they did for FY 2018. While you would think the government would be happy about that, they are already asking how much more money they can reduce their appropriations.
From the customer’s standpoint, how do you feel about these changes?
The government wants to save money but DeCA still wants to bring great savings to military families. The commissary benefit is a part of the compensation package and is a great recruitment and retention tool. It isn’t going away.
Neither is the 5% surcharge. The surcharge is one thing that customers ask about a lot.
The exchange doesn’t have a surcharge; so many people don’t understand why the commissary does.
The commissaries and exchanges are two different entities and are funded differently. For now, the 5% surcharge stays in place, but if another change occurs, combining the commissary and exchange, you might see something different. That’s a long way down the road though as a new study just began this month.