If an army marches 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.
DeCA reported fiscal 2012 (ended September) revenue of $6.1 billion. It also received about $1.4 billion in appropriations during the fiscal year.
Part of the agency's strategy is a modernization effort to deliver what it calls a "21st century benefit." As such, it is investing in social media, expanded online ordering capabilities, and smart phone technology.
In 2013 it began rolling out to all stores technology that allows for the scanning of ID cards, which will improve the customer experience by helping DeCA identify shopping trends and preferences. Also that year it launched an app for customers to access their rewards card information and began testing Internet-ordering/curbside pickup at its Fort Lee, Virginia, location.
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.
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