If an army travels on its stomach, the Defense Commissary Agency makes sure soldiers aren't too far from their groceries. Commonly referred to as DeCA, the Defense Commissary Agency operates a network of some 250 grocery stores in more than a dozen countries. Eligible shoppers -- including active duty military personnel and retirees, Reserve and National Guard members, and their families -- purchase groceries and household goods at cost, plus a 5% Congress-mandated surcharge to cover commissary construction and renovation expenses. Patrons save an average of 30% or more on their purchases compared to commercial prices. The average commissary carries about 11,000 items. Annual DeCA sales exceed $5.5 billion.
The commissary concept dates back to 1825; however, the Defense Commissary Agency wasn't established until 1991 when the separate military commissary systems were consolidated by a memorandum from the deputy secretary of defense. This was the first Department of Defense functional agency consolidation during the post Cold War cutbacks and downsizing.
DeCA's top commissaries in sales by location are found in Fort Belvoir and Oceana, Virginia; San Diego; Pearl Harbor; Fort Meade, Maryland; and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.