Wednesday, September 17, 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

David Grant doctor’s mission continues

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Chamber PAC draws candidates to Jelly Belly

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Damaged dog gets going-away party after getting healthy

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Police enlist help to find armed bandit

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Suisun City slaying suspect case moves forward

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Touro University to host Zombie Run/Walk

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Land trust organizes Rockville Trails Preserve hike

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun police to host medication take-back

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A5

Chamber to host Suisun City candidates night

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A5

 
Coastal Cleanup Day targets local waterways

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Judge questions juror in Calkins case

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

Drama reigns supreme with week’s film debuts

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Anti-drug programs face funding shortfall

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A8

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 13, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Sept. 13, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: Sept. 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Suisun City police log: Sept. 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for Sept. 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B14

.

US / World

Woman in wildfire’s path lost almost everything

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Lumber town takes stock after wind-driven wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

PG&E officials leave posts over improper emails

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Governor signs first California groundwater rules

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Things to know about California groundwater law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
California drivers must give bikes 3-foot buffer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

San Francisco trying shaming for quake safety

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
UN: Nearly $1 billion needed now to stop Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

CDC study: Americans’ bellies are expanding fast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Blacks, Hispanics have doubts about media accuracy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

School bus driver killed during safety drill

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Hunt on for survivalist charged in trooper killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Robbery suspects tried to make off with $15,600

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Top general: US ground troops possible in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Obama: Ebola outbreak a threat to global security

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Afghan suicide bomber kills 3 foreign troops

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

Mexico airlifts tourists after Hurricane Odile

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Ukraine lawmakers ratify landmark deal with Europe

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Iraq parliament rejects interior, defense nominees

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
.

Opinion

Brown dons rose-tinted glasses for look backward

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

 
Time for utility execs to start worrying

By Thomas Elias | From Page: A11

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 17, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
Climate change: Complacent vs. apocalyptic

By John M. Crisp | From Page: A11

 
Column focus on campaign signs misplaced

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 12 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My selfish husband neglects and cheats on me. What’s next?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

All the flavors of fall in one twice-baked package

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Leave them feeling full with nutritious chia seeds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

A late summer Southern classic – tomato pie

By Elizabeth Karmel | From Page: B6

 
.

Entertainment

CBS: Rihanna out of NFL telecast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Leonardo DiCaprio named UN Messenger of Peace

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Kazmir, sloppy Athletics lose 6-3 to Rangers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Armijo volleyball team falls to Vintage

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Peavy, Posey help Giants gain ground in NL West

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Prep volleyball preview: Big goals for city teams

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders games are like live reruns

By Tony Wade | From Page: B1

 
Sacramento Kings to retire Stojakovic’s jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Broncos, Seahawks top AP Pro32 before rematch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Union appeals Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension by NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Jaguars sign Rodriguez grad Jensen off practice squad

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B2

 
Short stay at NASCAR’s party for AJ and Almirola

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Hindsight: a Ryder Cup tradition, like no other

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Senator ties NFL tax status to Redskins name

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

DA: Josh Gordon gets probation in DWI case in NC

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s voice NFL disapproval

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Criticism mounting for Vikings, Adrian Peterson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
McIlroy wins PGA player of the year award

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Grand jury to weigh case of NASCAR’s Tony Stewart

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
49ers defense looks to bounce back from tough day

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Business

NASA picks Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Web filter lifts block on gay sites

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Alibaba risk: China’s rise leaves out investors

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Corinthian Colleges sued for predatory lending

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

UPS expects to hire up to 95,000 seasonal workers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
US CEOs less optimistic about hiring, spending

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Minnie Watkins Dixon

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5