An issue that seems to surface with great regularity every couple of years bubbled up again on Wednesday: Does the military really need three separate and distinct exchange systems?
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., an Army reservist, brought up the issue at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel that focused on commissaries, exchanges and other morale, welfare and recreation-related activities.
“Why not have a ‘defense exchange’?” Heck mused.
For his part, retired Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, chief executive officer of the Navy Exchange Service Command, said NEXCOM is involved in more than just retail, and is woven into the fabric of Navy leadership and mission readiness.
“Just as you wouldn’t necessarily [merge] Ford and GM together and get a better organization out of it ... this allows us to meet the needs of our service members while still maintaining operational efficiencies through cooperation without creating one mega-corporation.”
“To combine operations would actually cost us more than it does to operate our exchange and [MWR programs] today,” said William C. Dillon, director of the Marine Corps’ Semper Fit and Exchange Services.
On other exchange service issues, Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, questioned why a Dollar Tree store has been allowed to operate as an Army and Air Force Exchange Service concession in the AAFES Town Center at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Davis suggested that represents competition for exchanges as well as commissaries, and undermines those programs.
Thomas Shull, AAFES director, said real estate brokers fill store space in the town center, and he has only recently learned that the concessionaire’s operations may be in conflict with the Defense Commissary Agency and the military exchanges.
AAFES officials are now reviewing the merchandise assortment at that Dollar Tree, which may have more than 30 items that conflict with DeCA’s stock assortment, Shull said.
“We’re going to look at that Dollar Tree and evaluate whether we should have in the mix,” he said, adding that AAFES will not seek to establish that type of store in other locations.
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