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, it operates a network of some 250 grocery stores in more than a dozen countries. Eligible shoppers -- including 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 reports to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
The agency operates a worldwide system of 245 commissaries which supply some 5.3 million authorized households' products.
DeCA operates on military installations in about 13 countries and two US territories.
DeCA reported fiscal 2014 (ended September) revenues of $6 billion of which $5.6 billion was generated from sales, and it conducted some 89.7 million customer transactions.
Expanding its reach, in 2014 the agency opened three commissionaires, one each at Fort Polk, Louisiana; New London, Connecticut; and Annapolis, Maryland.
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.