Transforming Commissaries for the 21st Century

By Stephanie Barna, 
Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Reserve Affairs)

Commissaries are a vital part our military community.  Our 238 commissaries provide groceries and household items to military personnel, retirees, and their families in locations around the world.

Stephanie Barna, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Reserve Affairs)

Our team at the Defense Commissary Agency provides you with quality and savings – and they do so while stores, inside and outside the military, are changing.  The entire resale ecosystem is in a state of transformation, and so we must be as well.

Some of these transformations are in place and easy to see.  Self check-out, for example, is popular and convenient downtown, especially for smaller orders, so we introduced that concept in our commissaries, where it has been very successful.  We are rolling out our private label brands – Freedom’s Choice food products and HomeBase household items – featuring high-quality products at far lower prices.  Stores are converting their credit card terminals so that you can use a “chip” card, the gold standard to protect consumers and reduce fraud.  We’re also excited that customers can now use their MILITARY STAR card at the commissary.  Visit your local exchange to apply for MILITARY STAR, or apply online at MyECP.com.

The amazing team at the Defense Commissary Agency is driving forward with these and other transformations.  It’s extremely difficult, challenging work.  It requires that DeCA transform its business model to be more responsive to the needs of today’s military customers in this dynamic retail environment, and enhance their commissary shopping experience.  It demands a level of knowledge and expertise in a wide variety of resale business activities, and the ability to adapt and apply contemporary business concepts to the challenges facing the commissary system.

Army photo by Honey Nixon

That is why we are bringing on board – for an interim period – Retired Rear Admiral Robert J. Bianchi.  He served 29 years as a Navy Supply Corps Officer.  Today, Admiral Bianchi is Chief Executive Officer at the Navy Exchange Service Command, and he will continue to serve in that capacity while he is leading DeCA.  This is not an assignment that he sought out, but rather – as he has so many times in his career – he stepped up to the challenge when asked.

The Defense Commissary Agency has a phenomenal team in place.  Every day, we are humbled by their passion and talent.  As they continue to drive the transformations needed to deliver a 21st Century Commissary benefit, Admiral Bianchi will bring to bear his knowledge and experience from running a multi-billion-dollar worldwide operation that includes a wide array of resale activities and support systems.  His career is marked by a fierce dedication to the needs of military members and their families, and an unwavering commitment to the mission needs of commanders at all levels.  He will bring this same passion to his service with DeCA.  As a commissary shopper himself, he takes a personal interest in the value of the benefit.

Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb

Changes to the grocery industry are happening faster than at any time in history, and they are happening globally.  It is extraordinarily complex and challenging work, but we do all in our power to keep pace with these changes and make your commissary “Worth the Trip.”  I also promise that we will be more transparent with you about what is happening at the commissary, what it means to you, and how it will impact your wallet.

I am proud of the worldwide team of Defense Commissary Agency professionals.  They bring passion and excellence to their work every day in service to our customers – the most important customers in the world – soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, retirees and their families across the globe, in war and in peace, now and into the future.

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