Thursday, July 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

It’s ‘camping for 30′ at the Solano fair

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Cities dealing with state drought rules

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Muralist helps locals ready for some painted wall history

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Rejection makes us each stronger

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
Highway 12 crash sends 2 to hospital

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Mall to host Ultimate Army Throw Down

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Police release name of Vallejo homicide victim

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Peace Corps evacuates over Ebola as 2 isolated

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Pipe break that flooded UCLA dumps 20M gallons

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Deadly Israeli strikes hit UN school, market area

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Obama takes tougher line against Gaza casualties

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

AP Analysis: Amid war, endgames in Gaza emerge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
2 women survive ordeal along Indiana rail bridge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-IRS official called conservatives ‘crazies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Dissent quieted with most Israelis behind Gaza war

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Congress cooperates – and fights – as recess nears

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Powell maybe not told early about CIA techniques

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Crews work to keep Yosemite fire from sequoias

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Sanctions will damage Russia if not lifted quickly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

 
Cruz gets border crisis wrong

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

Editorial Cartoons: July 31, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
What happened to the US?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

Am I blaming victims?

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Why ‘compassionate conservatism’ is still dead

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A11

.

Living

Community Calendar: July 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for July 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Horoscopes for July 31, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
I want to change my daughters last name to my maiden name

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Commentary: ‘Orphan Black,’ Emmy snubs and questions of identity

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Allison Williams headed skyward as NBC’s Peter Pan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Contract dispute delays ‘Big Bang’ production

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

.

Sports

Complete game shutout lifts Expos to State Tournament win

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Hammel fails again for Athletics in loss to Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Ray Guy’s long wait for Hall of Fame comes to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders owner confirms talks with San Antonio

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Lloyd’s film watching impresses 49ers teammates

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
SF benefits from Pirates’ blunder, ends skid at 6

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Stanford star Ty Montgomery rehabbing shoulder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Greg Ives to crew chief Earnhardt in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Steelers to retire Hall of Famer Greene’s No. 75

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Fairfield-Suisun 6U Bobby Sox win titles

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Usain Bolt in controversy at Commonwealth Games

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Indians trade pitcher Masterson to Cardinals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Riley speaks out, insists Heat will be competitive

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Nadal out of 2 tournaments because of right wrist

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Pipe break that flooded UCLA dumps 20M gallons

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

US judge slaps $1.3B fine on Bank of America

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

 
A more vigorous US economy appears to be emerging

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Overhaul approved for troubled California refinery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Judge says Crystal CEO should testify in lawsuit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Louise Scholten

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Ronald Witt Escue Sr.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Scott Allen Shaver

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

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

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9