Friday, October 31, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Let 22M vets shop online, says Exchange chief

By
From page B11 | June 08, 2014 |

Defense officials are weighing a proposal from the director of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to allow the nation’s 22 million honorably discharged veterans, and perhaps an equal number of their family members to shop online for military exchange products and discounts.

Shoppers who use the AAFES website enjoy savings of up to 25 percent on many brand-name products. They also avoid state and local sale taxes on their purchases just like on-base shoppers do.

By providing online discounts to millions of deserving veterans and families, said Thomas C. Shull, chief executive officer of AAFES, the exchange services would see overall profits soar while protecting the benefit in tough budget times and ensuring that quality-of-life programs for military families continue to be funded by exchange profits or “dividends.”

Shull pitched his idea in a May 8 memorandum to the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, with review and comment also sought from top manpower officials in the Army, Navy and Air Force. A spokeswoman for Acting Undersecretary Jessica L. Garfola Wright said the proposal “is undergoing staffing and no decisions have been made.”

Allowing veterans access to online exchange shopping, Shull assured officials in his memo, “will not adversely affect the benefit to currently serving and retiree personnel in any way.” Indeed, he added, it will enhance the benefit by increasing profits and, therefore, increase dividends to support the services’ Morale, Welfare and Recreation “funding accounts.”

Preserving the shopping benefit “is in the best interest of the entire military community,” Shull said. Then he summarized why it’s in jeopardy, citing “announced and planned troop drawdowns, large cuts to the DOD budget for Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities and fewer personnel and families living on the installation, all of which are leading to a greatly reduced customer base and decreased earnings/dividends.”

In a phone interview Tuesday from AAFES headquarters in Dallas, Shull, a West Point graduate and retired reserve major, said his online proposal is a “win-win-win” idea. It would help veterans, help exchanges and help to protect force “readiness and resiliency” by ensuring that exchange profits can sustain on-base quality of life programs.

AAFES is the largest of three exchange services. Defense officials might reject Shull’s plan unless all three support it. Marine Corps Exchange officials are said to be in favor, though this could not be confirmed by deadline by phone call or emails to a Marine Corps Exchange spokesman.

Kathleen Martin, spokeswoman for the Navy Exchange Service Command, said with the proposal under review “it would be premature for us to comment . . . at this time. We will certainly evaluate and respond to any proposals or initiatives presented to us by the (Department of Navy or Department of Defense) leadership.”

Navy officials, a source said, have raised concerns about the added cost of verifying veterans’ status for millions of potential shoppers, and whether allowing online shopping would lead, over time, to pressure that millions of veterans deserve full access to on-base stores.

A total of 12 million active duty and reserve component members, retirees, dependents and survivors are now eligible to shop at military exchanges. Shull envisions that pool expanded for online shopping to 44 million including honorably discharged veterans and dependents. He projects online sales would climb from $200 million a year to $1 billion.

Unlimited exchange privileges are available now only to veterans who are military retirees or 100-percent disabled or hospitalized on base. To expand shopper eligibility requires only a change in defense policy, not law.

Whether Shull’s plan is approved or not, AAFES will broaden its selection of goods sold online by year’s end from 20 percent of items now stocked in larger exchange stores to 50 percent. AAFES also is conducting a major overhaul of its online shopping experience by partnering with outside retail experts to speed ordering and shipping and to expand call centers. Online shoppers will see vast improvements by Labor Day, Shull said.

He first thought of giving more veterans access to online shopping a year ago, Shull said, in considering the extraordinary pace of operations from recent wars with many members deploying four or five times to Iraq and Afghanistan. This left service members at greater risk, but also their families, given high divorce rates and other consequences, Shull said.

The notion that vets from any era would deserve and appreciate online discount shopping dovetailed nicely with other AAFES goals: to preserve the benefit amid tighter budgets and a force drawdown and to sustain profits to fund MWR programs.

Last March, Shull had authored another controversial memo, this one in reaction to administration plans to slash funding for commissaries, from $1.4 billion annually down to $400 million, by fiscal year 2017 and to allow grocery discounts to fall from 30 percent, on average, down to 10. Shull warned that an exodus of patrons would “render the commissary system unsustainable,” forcing many stores to close with “devastating” consequences to exchanges.

To better handle such cuts and preserve discount shopping, Shull proposed merging commissary operations with exchanges, and relying on resulting efficiencies to stabilize grocery prices and ultimately keep patrons.

The administration’s plan to cut commissary support has gained no traction in Congress this year. Shull remains concerned that commissary discounts will erode over time, which would leave exchanges vulnerable too.

To date, online shopping has been a break-even feature for AAFES, having no impact on profits. But if honorably discharged veterans are allowed to shop online, Shull predicts a tenfold increase in online sales and profits of $160 million annually, a pop of 50 percent in total AAFES profits.

Representatives of major military associations who serve on the Exchange Retiree Advisory Council unanimously support the plan. Shull said he hopes to have a decision from the Defense officials within a few months. It would take of year of preparation to execute the plan. Shull would like to have online shopping open to millions more veterans by Veterans Day 2015.

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120, email milupdate@aol.com or tweet @Military_Update.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Real estate agent pens, produces movie

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
 
Neighborhood candy hunts of the past

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
Vintage Fair on tap at McBride Senior Center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Candy from sky highlights North Texas Street event

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Oct. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
.

US / World

California eyes $500 billion in water spending

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment

 
Judge approves Stockton’s bankruptcy plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Marine wants new charges in Iraq war crime tossed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
Roseville officer accused of criminal threats

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

Man charged with murder in SWAT officer shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Teen arrested in threat at Sacramento school

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Police make arrest in slaying of Oakland mom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Retrial in assault case over stray cat feeding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

Missing California hunter roasted bugs, lizards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Pilot identified in California jet crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Poll: Democrats leading in all statewide races

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Lawsuit: Surgical gowns let diseases pass through

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Fearing Ebola? Doctors say get a flu shot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Questions, answers about California’s Ebola policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Maine in standoff with nurse over Ebola safeguards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Relatives suspected poisoning in family’s deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Pair convicted in secret $1.6 M Navy silencer deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Guard troops sent to site of Hawaii lava flow

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Terminally ill woman may postpone taking her life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
Man’s own dog helps police bust him on drug charge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Fearing uprising, Iraq militants hunt ex-police

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Vatican admits Sistine Chapel frescoes ‘whitened’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Israel closes Jerusalem holy site after shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Death penalty sought for trooper ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 31, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
 
Man’s prosecution unwarranted

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 5 Comments

Are we safe now?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 18 Comments

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Oct. 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

My husband sends texts filled with ‘dirty talk’ to an old flame

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 31, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Jorge Garcia makes the most of ‘Hawaii Five-O’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

 
Week in preview Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Monica Potter wants to save her show ‘Parenthood’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: Jake Gyllenhaal, tightly coiled and creepy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Exhibit on Paul Simon’s life to debut at Rock Hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
PBS touts 2013-14 ratings growth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ to debut in China

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
‘The View’ now under ABC News as further revamping

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Review: ‘Sleep’ a decidedly average psych thriller

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Oct. 31, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

Winter’s wife has blues listening to his new album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

 
Benicia fends off Vanden, 35-21

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
New dynasty: Giants capture 3rd title in 5 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Warriors exercise options on Barnes, Ezeli

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Mack making impact for Raiders even without sacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Bye week helps 49ers Vernon Davis’ recovery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Sonoma Raceway to host IndyCar Series finale in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Prep football capsules: Week 9

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

.

Business

Not so sweet: Chocolate prices are set to rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Apple CEO publicly acknowledges that he’s gay

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment | Gallery

FTC accuses Gerber of false claim on baby formula

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Robert Louis Wright

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Oscar Lee Vezeau

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9