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Sat May 26, 2018
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Commissary savings rank, along with medical care, at the top of military members' most valued items of non-pay compensation. It is also a key part of military retiree compensation. When shopping at the commissary, customers buy food and household items at cost and pay no sales tax. They do, however, pay a five percent surcharge, which pays the cost of new construction, maintenance, equipment, and supplies. Surveys show shoppers average 29.7 percent savings when compared with commercial retail food store prices. This consistently high level of savings is a non-cash form of indirect pay. Additional savings come from the use of coupons and voluntary price reductions by vendors. The five percent surcharge that is added to the shopper's total bill is required by law and pays certain commissary operating costs. Good portions of surcharge dollars go to construction of new commissaries and renovation of old stores. The surcharge also pays for equipment purchases and maintenance, and daily operating supplies such as paper bags and packaging material for meat products. Because of the surcharge, these costs are not borne by other taxpayers or by the government. Beyond the economic boost, commissaries give military personnel and their families an important sense of belonging to a caring organization that enhances their quality of life and improves morale. When making the decision whether to remain in service, active duty personnel consider their current benefits and what they can expect during retirement. The United States makes a considerable investment in training the best military force in the world. The commissary continues to be a major factor in keeping highly-qualified, trained men and women in the service to meet the national defense needs of the United States. Sure, you could shut down the commissary system and let military service members shop downtown, but the issue is, "How do you compensate the force?" Because of the level of savings the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) delivers, for every dollar spent on the commissary program, it would cost $2.11 to compensate the military community in direct pay and pension if the commissary benefit went away. That amounts to nearly an additional $1 billion annually in appropriations, over and above that which is spent on the commissary now. The worldwide system is managed by DeCA at Fort Lee, Virginia. The agency operates 298 stores through four regional headquarters, three in the United States and one in Europe.