Presidents Message January14, 2022

Quotes of note

“Very, very troubling.” Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat on December inflation numbers.  Manchin is a critical vote for the Biden Build Back Better legislation and has expressed concern about inflation as a reason not to support the legislation. 

“We’re not really seeing a lot of progress.”  Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on supply chain problems.

“Staffing is short. Lines are longer. Customers are angry. Hazard pay is gone. Employees are exhausted by the pandemic and reaching their breaking point.”  January 6 Wall Street Journal.

“Great Resignation.”  New term for workers vacating the workforce. 

“Phygital”—MasterCard’s term for morphing of physical and digital retail.  Innovation has been vital as retailers started to think of their digital and physical stores more cohesively than distinctly separate channels.

There’s nothing immune from price increases.”   Tony Sarsam, chief executive officer of food retailer and distributor SpartanNash Co.

“The administration is compiling a list of options for force posture changes in Europe to discuss with Russia at the talks.    If Russia appears willing to discuss scaling back its presence in the region, the U.S. will be prepared to discuss specific moves.”  Administration official on the talks with Russia on Ukraine.

“I noticed a soldier who regularly visited Popeyes hadn’t been around for some time.  One day, he came to the restaurant and told me that he had lost his dad. Each of us walked around the counter and gave him a hug — that’s what it’s all about.”  Loredana Marciano, manager of the AAFES Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant at Fort Bragg. 

“Under a full year CR—DoD can’t reprogram.”  Former DoD comptroller Bob Hale on a major consequence of a yearlong continuing resolution.  The failure to get an appropriations bill is putting increased pressure on all base operating accounts.   Reprogramming is DoD’s tool for moving money during the year to meet unplanned developments.  

“Every day and every dollar matters. CRs remove predictable funding levels that allow us to spend taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible and deprive us of executing program line-items and new starts. They disrupt operational readiness, slow development of critical new capabilities, impede acquisition schedules, delay construction projects, and create business process inefficiencies up and down the Navy.“ Admiral Michael M. Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations.  

“Empty grocery shelves are back, and the coronavirus isn’t the only reason. Omicron’s surge has contributed, but the collision of record sales, extreme weather and the ongoing supply chain crisis have made a wreck of the shopping experience.”  January 10 Washington Post.  

“Our military personnel accounts would be funded $5.0 billion below our requested level, yet inside those flat funding levels we would have to absorb the cost of a well-deserved pay raise and statutory housing and subsistence increases for the troops. This means that our services would be forced to take actions such as delaying and suspending permanent change of station moves for our people, and delaying accessions, which will disrupt our training pipelines.   In the operating accounts, where a CR would leave us another $5.3 billion below our requested levels, we would almost certainly have to defer training and readiness and take greater risk in our facilities maintenance, especially if we try to avoid any furloughs of our civilian workforce.   We should not forget that inflation is also eating into our resources as our funding remains on hold. For example, I have had to approve two increases in our FY 2022 fuel prices – a first increase on October 1, 2021, and a second on January 1, 2022 – to keep our working capital fund solvent in response to higher fuel prices. This has created a bill of $1.5 billion for the services in FY 2022, DoD Comptroller Mike McCord at a January 12 House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense Full-Year Funding vs. Continuing Resolution Funding.

“More employee absences were reported in the past two weeks than in all of 2020.  Throw on top of that being down 80,000 truck drivers nationally, and another 10 percent of workers being absent at food manufacturing facilities, and you’re putting a lot of pressure on the system all at one time.” Geoff Freeman, CEO of the industry organization Consumer Brands Association, in a January 10 call with 27 food industry chief executives.


“On balance, if resale programs were publicly traded, it would be a “buy” scenario.”  Steve Rossetti, ALA President on the outlook for Defense resale programs.

“The pandemic is still going strong and unfortunately; we are seeing new outbreaks impacting our ability to move your cargo. General sickness remains high as key ports in key regions are seeing new COVID-19 peaks.”  Global shipper Maersk in a January 10 internal memo to its customers.

“This train wreck in front of us is entirely preventable.” Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps on the impact of a failure by the Congress to give DoD a full year appropriation. 

“Houston, we have a problem.”  Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas on recruiting difficulties in the Air Force. 

“It’s a “perfect storm” of supply-chain disruption, “amplified” by COVID-19.”  Kalani Patsel, commissary zone manager in Okinawa, in a January 13 email to Stars and Stripes.

“We’re already seeing bare shelves.  Labor shortages due to omicron are going to exacerbate the issue.” Bindiya Vakil, chief executive officer of supply chain consultant Resilinc Corp.

“Red Hill fuels depot has been the center of our bulk fuel’s logistics effort in INDOPACOM since World War II.   It has also been the source of repeated fuels incidents and is lacking a secondary containment system. This is particularly problematic considering that it sits 100 feet over an aquifer that provides over 77% of the island of Oahu’s drinking water. I believe the existing Red Hill fuels situation is unacceptable and a significant change to our bulk fuels laydown and overall management system in INDOPACOM needs to occur.”  U.S. Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL), Ranking Member of the HASC Subcommittee on Readiness at a hearing on massive water problems that has disrupted military family life and operations at Hawaii military bases.

By the numbers

1,375,926–active-duty service members.

800,064–National Guard and Reserve forces.

8 percent – December increase in commercial grocery sales.  Since December 2019, sales increased by 16.9%.

120—average number of days in the past 10 years that DoD has operated under a continuing resolution

2,500—number of DeCA products on allocation from manufacturers.

85 percent–food retailers surveyed leveraged higher wages in 2020 to help with hiring and retention of full-time employees.

58 percent–turnover rate in the food retail industry.

$505 billion–sales lost due to out-of-stocks amid the pandemic.  $75 billion of that was newly discovered due to the rise in digital orders.

80,000—National truck driver shortage.

35 percent—vendor cuts to DeCA distribution centers.

$24 billion–2021 venture investment in supply-chain tech companies, a record.

11 million–COVID vaccines administered by Albertson’s grocery stores.

7 percent—December YoY CPI increase, highest in 39 years.   Rent, food, used cars fed the increase.

70% percent–U.S. households that received one or more online grocery orders during 2021 according to Bricks meet Clicks.

68 percent—Americans who think inflation is a top concern.  37 percent said COVID was their top concern.  The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

2022 resale headwinds and tailwinds

There’s no shortage of challenges faced by military resale managers and their industry partners.  But these challenges need to be balance with the inherent strengths of the military resale system that have and will sustain these programs going forward.  On balance, the system is on a firm foundation and its tailwinds are more than adequate to overcome any headwinds.  On balance, if resale programs were publicly traded, it would be a “buy” scenario.  Here’s a rundown of the system assets and challenges.


  • The system enjoys inherent benefits on tax, real estate and other Federal immunities that allow it to bring the best of Government and the best of industry to bear on caring for the best people in the world—our military.  We have a solid patron base that is growing.  The addition of some 20 million patrons to the authorized rolls in recent years has given us the opportunity to market products to this expanding base that includes veterans and first responders, DeCA employees, and civilian employees of the DoD.
  • We have a stable and growing base infrastructure.  ALA has been tracking and covering base alignments across the globe with expansion in Europe and the Pacific region. Congress has outlawed base closures in a series of Defense bills over the past ten years.  Basing in Europe has stabilized as the Administration has reaffirmed its NATO commitment and bases in Germany and further east are stabilizing or expanding.
  • Active-duty patrons have more disposable income due to 20 years of successive pay hikes that put them in par with their civilian counterparts.
  • The system is largely capitalized with years of investments in brick and mortar and technology platforms.
  • The underlying and fundamental organizations structure of the system has stabilized after years of organizational uncertainty associated with the push to merge the systems into one entity.
  • The Department of Defense has embarked on a course to round-up the collective strengths of the various resale entities and leverage them to the benefit of the patrons through the Defense Executive Resale board.
  • And those strengths are massive.  As highlighted by the presentations at the most recent ALA conference, innovation and investment continues apace.
  • We have a dedicated and stable workforce in resale programs due to its high military affiliation nature.
  • With COVID, the system shuddered but did not fail.  Stores stayed open, on-base commerce continued, and they supply chain, although strained, held.
  • We have a supportive Administration.  Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gill Cisneros and his entire P&R team recognize the value of the system and have consistently supported policies and initiatives that benefit the benefit.  The system supports three prime White House goals of family member employment, eliminating food insecurity, and providing healthy and nutritious food to patrons.
  • We enjoy broad congressional support in all the key oversight and funding committees.
  • Appropriations that underpin the system have stabilized.
  • There is a reinvigorated partnership with industry by our resale partners–DeCA, AAFES, NEXCOM, MCX, CGX and VCS, DLA, and the military departments.
  • Exchange balance sheets are strong, and all resale entities consistently get an A from a governance and audit perspective.
  • Resale industry leadership is spectacular with a slate of leaders that are forward thinking and realize that sales is the best barometer of patron acceptance and satisfaction.
  • Exchanges have their hands firmly on the pulse of the consumer and are upping their game on offerings including health care, credit, food service, and much more.
  • DeCA is transforming its sales and marketing processes and engaging with industry partners to make sure the right products are offered at the right price.
  • There is increasing appreciation and realization across the government of the direct mission support contribution of these programs.
  • ALA enjoys an active and robust Board of Directors and hard-working Councils that are engage on system improvements across the board…and now has a food service wing that provides a comprehensive view of all food offerings across installations.
  • ALA is moving to tackle several intractable issues including base access for patrons and more and better information and transparency from our resale partners.


  • Competition outside the gate is heating up with deep discount grocers, dollar stores, and mass retailers targeting military customers.
  • Successive years of pay raises for military personnel give them more choices outside the gate and force resale retailers to up their game on attracting military consumers.
  • COVID continues to cause convulsions in base access, product availability, and employee health.
  • The $15 minimum wage mandate for contractors extends to all exchange contracts placing them at a distinct disadvantage with retailers outside the gate and threatening their ability to recapitalize and provide dividends to support on-base community programs.
  • Exchanges are incurring costs or providing government services that are not being reimbursed including support for Afghan refugees.
  • While some COVID financial relief has been provided to exchanges, the federal payments were not apportioned equally with some services getting more payments than others resulting in the unfair treatment of military personnel depending on what service they were in.
  • Some DeCA operating margins are coming at the expense of trade funding needed to promote and grow business.
  • While DeCA appropriations have remained steady in the past five years, the best way to ensure continued taxpayer support is to demonstrate that patrons want the benefit.  Declining sales weaken that argument.
  • Military consumers are better educated, more discerning, and are using technology to scope out the better deals.
  • DeCA needs increased funding to help it weather the supply chain crunch and reinvigorate the patron value perception.
  • DeCA sales are slumping, placing pressure on prices as the supply chain econ0omics of scale diminish.
  • Transformation at DeCA is difficult on a good day.  COVID and supply chain pressures make the challenge exponential.
  • COVID has inhibited product availability across resale, particularly in critical food items.
  • As DeCA works to come up for air on sales, holes on commissary shelves are discouraging patronage.
  • Successive terror and virus threats have tightened base access and created uncertainty with many patrons as to the availability of and accessibility on base and in the stores.
  • VCS sales are getting pounded as hospital access remains highly restricted.

ALA food service conference and expo March 17…companion commissary workshop being discussed for March 18.   Virginia State University, Petersburg, Va.  ALA is hosting a conference and expo for the military foodservice industry on March 17.  We have engaged with DeCA officials to explore the possibility for a companion sales and marketing workshop March 18 to focus on driving customer patronage.  Details forthcoming on the ALA site.

DeCA sales directory updated.  Attached to this email is the latest DeCA sales team directory.

Vets on base.  Here’s a first: Fort Hood just opened the first VFW post on base, the first on a military installation.

VCS sales get pounded as hospital access is restricted.  Sales hit a high-water mark of $554 million in 2019 but COVID curtailed Veteran Center operations and sales dipped to$ 334 million in 2020.  There are signs that sales will be rebounded in 2021 to the $365 million range.   VCS sales figures are attached to this email.

AAFES School Meal Program Jumps into Action for School Put on COVID ‘Pause’.  ALA’s Larry Lapka reports.    The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) came through in a pinch when a COVID “pause” at the elementary school here necessitated a quick change of plans in feeding protocols related to this situation.

When a surge in COVID cases caused a three-day pause to in-person classes at the elementary school, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) officials asked the Exchange whether it could offer carry-out lunches.

The question came on short notice: The decision to close

the schools from Tuesday, Jan. 11 to Thursday, Jan. 13 was made on Jan. 10.   Even with such a short turnaround time in place, the Exchange, which operates the school meal program for children overseas, was well-prepared to shift to grab and-go lunches.

“When COVID started in 2020, we had to modify our menus slightly to allow for grab-and-gos,” said Adrian

Hinson, senior restaurant program planner. “When schools closed, there was still a need to provide meals to the families.”

On Jan. 11, 107 breakfast meals and 240 lunch meals were served.  Families picked up the carry-out meals during school lunch hours. Social distancing was enforced as the families lined up for their meals.

All five components required by the USDA — meat/meat alternative, grain, fruit, vegetable, and milk — were included in the meals.   “Since COVID, we’ve always created menus that were flexible enough to be made to-go,” Hinson said. “Even stuff like spaghetti. You might think, ‘How do you do that?’ You just package it in a salad bowl.

“We just used what we had to offer it, to be able to package it and just bag it,” Henson explained. We had to get bags that we don’t carry in schools, so we would just use T-shirt bags from the main stores.”

The school is scheduled to reopen to in-person learning on Tuesday, Jan. 18. Because Friday, Jan. 14 is a teacher-training day and Monday, Jan. 17 is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, students were already scheduled to be off on those days, so the “pause” was limited to three days.

DeCA Plans Slate of Early CY2022 Category Reviews.  ALA’s Larry Lapka reports.  In late December 2021 and early in the new year in January 2022, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) announced a trio of category reviews that were scheduled to be conducted by the Sales Directorate (SD) and are scheduled to take place in early-to-mid February in calendar year 2022.

According to Bonita Moffett, the agency’s director of Sales, these category review areas are slated to include items ranging from New Age beverages to chill dinner sausage to frozen pre-pack meat.  February 2022, Chill Dinner Sausage, Frozen Pre-Pack, New Age Beverages.  Go to the ALA site for details and NTTs.

AAFES CIO Lucas Discusses tech plans.  Chad Lucas, the Exchange’s chief information officer (CIO)spoke about a variety of subjects, including what lies ahead for the Information Technology (IT) branch and for the exchange service in general.

How would you explain what you do to a new associate?

Everything we do in this organization is enabled and executed through technology. IT is a really exciting part of the organization to be a part of.  In addition to the technology that runs our various lines of business, a major focus of what we do centers around cybersecurity. It is critically important that all data that we process, and store is completely secure.  Technology is critical to the Exchange strategy. As an organization, we have really matured over the last number of years to ensure that IT is part of the decision-making upfront   We have a good mix of technologies that we’ve been running for a while as well as cutting-edge technologies. We just implemented a robotics solution at Dan Daniel Distribution  Center (DDDC). It’s cool technology, but it’s also driving efficiency.  It’s going to enable an important part of our e-commerce transformation as we continue to grow that sector of our business.  Whether it’s Logistics, Merchandising, point of sale, e-commerce, or Human Resources, it’s all driven by and through technology.

How has the pandemic affected IT?

With the onset of the pandemic, almost overnight, we had to make sure everybody had the tools needed to work remotely and remain safe. We also had to keep the business running and moving forward.  Both objectives required having the correct technology in place.  It was a different challenge, not only for IT, but across the organization, because we had to learn how to work, manage and collaborate remotely, across the board.  It was a complete change of scenery and change of pace. But I think we made the transition, from both an IT and organizational perspective, very seamlessly.  Over the past two years, we’ve turned a challenge into an incredible opportunity and huge success story. We’ve met the need and increased productivity.  Increasing remote work has allowed us to greatly expand our recruiting base. We are now recruiting nationwide and, in some cases, worldwide.  Pre-pandemic, our recruiting base was primarily the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, Metroplex. Remote work has been a huge benefit for existing employees, and as we continue to build the bench, it’s really opened the floodgates with respect to securing new talent.

What’s the biggest challenge facing IT in 2022

Our biggest challenge right now is recruiting.  Today’s labor market is incredibly competitive. From an IT perspective, it’s as competitive as I’ve seen in 20 years.  One of our top priorities is recruiting and continuing to build the bench and bring new talent to the organization. We’re  partnering very closely with Human Resources (HR). We’re trying to get creative as we compete for limited resources.  There are no bad ideas right now when it comes to recruitment strategies.

What is the most significant event that has occurred during your 20-year Exchange career?

The pandemic changed everything including the retail industry and how we work.  The winter storm in February 2021 further compounded challenges related to the pandemic.  IT has always prided itself on our ability to firefight, to fix problems quickly. There has never been a more significant Exchange-specific challenge than our headquarters and data center flooding. It was a huge risk to Exchange operations worldwide, but it was also an opportunity for our IT associates to show what they do and how they respond to adversity.  Teammates literally put their safety at risk in the early stages to keep as much water out of the data center as possible, and over the course of the next several weeks, the entire team went above and beyond to ensure everything was back up and running as soon as possible. 

Commissary shortages hitting Okinawa.  Air Force spouse Valerie Jackson shopped the commissary on Wednesday at this Marine Corps installation because the shelves are much emptier at nearby Kadena Air Base, according to an item in the January 13 Stars and Stirpes.

“The Kadena commissary is kind of lacking in supplies and we’re wanting tacos tonight,” Jackson, 31, told Stars and Stripes. “My husband went the other day and said that there was hardly anything left, like milk, sour cream, cheese.”

A “perfect storm” of supply chain issues coupled with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has arrived at Defense Department commissaries worldwide, leaving shelves empty and shoppers frustrated.

The New Year brought food shortages to Japan and South Korea, according to Facebook posts by military commands and notices on blank shelves and dairy cases. Periodic shortages also have occurred in recent months at some stores in Germany and Italy.

Chilled items and dairy products have thus far been hit the hardest.

“For the immediate future, do not expect our commissary shelves to be stocked at levels that we are used to,” said a Facebook post Tuesday by Camp Kinser, a Marine base on Okinawa. The Defense Commissary Agency, the post states, “sincerely apologizes for the inconvenience this may cause the community, but they are doing all they can to get product to the shelves.”

The same California distributor supplies commissaries in Japan and South Korea, so all are equally affected by shortages, said Kalani Patsel, commissary zone manager in Okinawa, in an email Thursday to Stars and Stripes.

Products are trickling in, and shelves may be restocked by the end of the month, according to Patsel and store notices.

The same supply chain issues plaguing U.S. retailers the past year are to blame for shortages at military commissaries. Higher consumer demand, a backlog of container ships at ports around the globe and a shortage of drivers to haul merchandise away are contributing to the problem.

“We have 100s of containers with commissary products sitting out in the US ports waiting to get off-loaded,” Patsel wrote. “Now top that with a COVID case in any of these chain links and supply interruptions will occur.”  a “perfect storm” of supply-chain disruption, “amplified” by COVID-19, he said.

Resupplying overseas commissaries is the top priority for the Defense Commissary Agency, Patsel said. He said he expected sufficient supplies are coming to meet demand, but panic buying could complicate matters.  Milk, cheese, butter, sour cream, and yogurt, along with eggs and chilled juices are conspicuously absent from shelves at most U.S. bases in Japan. Patsel said coffee creamer is the most requested item on Okinawa.

“There will be times that we won’t have an item in stock for whatever the reason is,” he wrote in his email, “however, I can assure you that we are doing our utmost to try and get the necessities to the customers as quickly as possible.”   In Italy, the commissary at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily put purchasing limits on some items after running out of fresh meat and other products over the weekend.   On Tuesday, the base announced on its Facebook page that the commissary’s shelves were restocked with new supplies of meat, dairy products, cheese, and deli items. The announcement followed a Monday post blaming empty shelves on “significant supply chain disruptions” impacting many bases throughout Europe.   Those shortages resulted in some “scarcity driven behavior” or hoarding by Sigonella base commissary customers, so purchases of certain items would be limited, the base said Tuesday.

“Multiple signs have been posted near the dairy section and check-out areas with specific details,” the base said. “If you do not follow these requests, you will be politely asked to return the items.”   Meanwhile, local grocery stores are still an option for U.S. military consumers. Even under a stay-at-home order imposed until Jan. 24 by U.S. Forces Japan to stem the spread of the coronavirus, base residents are allowed to shop in off-base stores as an essential service.  On Wednesday at the Camp Foster commissary, Navy spouse Roxane Evans, 30, had seen enough empty shelves.  “If they don’t have what I need on base,” she said, “then I am just going to go out in town,” the paper reported.

1,000 military medical personnel to six states to help hospitals during omicron’s winter surge. The new teams of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel will begin arriving at hospitals in Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island to help triage patients now straining the capacity of hospitals and emergency rooms.

Bleak Maersk outlook.  Maersk has provided clients with a global congestion update with shippers warned they must brace for another tough year of bottlenecks and disruption.

“Unfortunately, 2022 has not started off as we had hoped,” Maersk warned, adding: “The pandemic is still going strong and unfortunately, we are seeing new outbreaks impacting our ability to move your cargo. General sickness remains high as key ports in key regions are seeing new COVID-19 peaks.”

The situation is particularly challenging at several hub ports and gateway terminals. Looking at the most acute pain points in northern Europe, as of yesterday, yard density at Bremerhaven stood at 131%, while ships are having to wait seven to 10 days to berth at Felixstowe in the UK.

In North America, yard density at Prince Rupert in Canada was reported to be at 113% yesterday while delays to berth are commonplace across the west coast with Long Beach standing out as the worst with ships waiting between 38 and 45 days to berth.

In China, Maersk said that vessel calls and departures out of Covid-19-hit Ningbo are running normally, however trucking services around the port remain troubled following a partial lockdown of the city which houses the world’s third largest container port.

Analysts at Sea-Intelligence have also reported an uptick in port congestion in the opening days of 2022.

“All the available data shows that congestion and bottleneck problems are worsening getting into 2022, and there is no indication of improvements as of yet,” Sea-Intelligence warned in its latest weekly report.

“As the situation evolves every day, we are working closely with all respective port authorities and coordinating with all involved parts in the local supply chain to help alleviate the situation. That could include slowing down the sea transit for minimal queuing, opening substitute container depots or moving more cargo via alternative modes,” Maersk stated.

Shots boost retailers.  Albertsons and CVS have raised their profit outlooks as Covid vaccines, test kits help fuel sales.  The roughly 11 million Covid-19 vaccinations that Albertsons said it has administered have helped create repeat customers, increasing pharmacy and grocery sales and lifting gross profits, executives said Tuesday.

“This has been a major initiative for us, not only from a business perspective, but also from a social perspective,” Sharon McCollam, Albertsons’ chief financial officer, said on a conference call.  CVS separately projected its 2021 profitability would be stronger than previously expected, as executives said surprisingly high demand for Covid-19 vaccines in November and December boosted the largest U.S. pharmacy chain. CVS finance chief Shawn Guertin said Tuesday at an investor conference that more people sought on-location tests, and sales of over-the-counter Covid tests “really took off.”


Retail worker stress.  Staffing is short. Lines are longer. Customers are angry. Hazard pay is gone. Employees are exhausted by the pandemic and reaching their breaking point.  Long checkout lines. Closed fitting rooms. Empty shelves. Shortened store hours. Plus, the dread of contracting the coronavirus and yet another season of skirmishes with customers who refuse to wear masks.  A weary retail work force is experiencing the fallout from the latest wave of the pandemic, with a rapidly spreading variant cutting into staffing.  While data shows that people infected with the Omicron variant are far less likely to be hospitalized than those with the Delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated, many store workers are dealing with a new jump in illness and exposures, grappling with shifting guidelines around isolation and juggling childcare. At the same time, retailers are generally not extending hazard pay as they did earlier in the pandemic and have been loath to adopt vaccine or testing mandates.

Store workers are navigating the changing nature of the virus and trying their best to gauge new risks. Many say that with vaccinations and boosters, they are less fearful for their lives than they were in 2020 — the United Food and Commercial Workers union has tracked more than 200 retail worker deaths since the start of the pandemic — but they remain nervous about catching and spreading the virus.

Retail expert take on empty shelves.  Worker shortage.  Grocery stores are operating with less than their normal workforces, according to the National Grocers Association, and many of its members have less than 50% of their normal workforce.

“Phil Lempert, an industry analyst and editor of “From farms to food makers to grocery stores, it’s across the board,” said Lempert. “During the pandemic, these operations have had to implement social distancing protocols and they’re not really built for that, and it has impacted production.”  And as the pandemic continues, many food industry workers are opting not to return to their low-wage jobs at all.

Transportation problems.  An ongoing shortage of truckers continues to slow down the supply chain and the ability of grocery stores to replenish their shelves quickly.   “The trucking industry has an aging workforce on top of a shortage,” Lempert said. “It’s really been a problem for the last several years.”  Layered atop widespread domestic transportation issues is the ongoing record-high level of congestion at the nation’s ports. “Both of these challenges are working in tandem to create shortages,” he said

Weather issues.  At Trader Joe’s stores, shoppers over the weekend saw messages attached to empty shelves blaming weather emergencies for delivery delays.  Much of the Midwest and Northeast has recently been grappling with severe weather and hazardous commuting conditions. Not only are people stocking up on more groceries, that level of high demand coupled with transportation challenges is making it more difficult to transport goods in inclement weather, thus resulting in more shortages, said Lempert.  to mention climate change, which is an ongoing serious and longer-term threat to food supply. “Fires and droughts are damaging crops such as wheat, corn and soybean in the US and coffee crops in Brazil,” he said. “We can’t ignore it.”

Pandemic changed our eating habits.  More and more of us have taken to cooking and eating at home through the pandemic that’s contributing to the grocery supply crunch, too, said Lempert.   “We don’t want to keep eating the same thing and are trying to vary home cooking. As we do that, we’re buying even more food products,” he said. The shortages have also made buying food increasingly more expensive going into 2022.  Grocery stores certainly are aware of the empty shelves, Lempert said, and they are trying to mitigate panic buying, which only worsens it the situation.  One strategy: Fanning out products. They’re doing this by putting out both limited varieties and limited quantities of each product to prevent hoarding and stretch out their supplies between deliveries.  “Pre-pandemic you might have seen five different varieties of milk across the front row and 10 cartons deep. Now it will be five across and maybe two rows deep,” said Lempert.

Latest DoD travel guidance.  Memorandum for Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 20) Revision 1 – Department of Defense Guidance for Personnel Traveling During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic. This memorandum applies to official and unofficial travel and provides updated pre- and post-travel guidance for purposes of force health protection (FHP) for Service members, DoD family members, DoD civilian employees, and DoD contractor personnel. Per the guidance, the Secretaries of the Military Departments (MILDEPs), heads of OSD Components, and Commanders of the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) may implement more restrictive guidance and additional FHP measures based on mission requirements and local risk assessments, in consultation with their medical staffs and public health authorities.  The memorandum for Force Health Protection Guidance (Supplement 20) Revision 1 – Department of Defense Guidance for Personnel Traveling During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic can be found here.

$400 million for Guam base construction.  Ten firms have been issued $400 million in construction contracts for military facilities on Guam.

Military bases are still housing about 19,500 Afghan refugees as they seek resettlement in the U.S.  The refugees are now spread across five domestic bases with the highest number — 9,700 Afghans — being hosted by Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. Thousands more are at facilities in Wisconsin, Virginia, Indiana, and New Mexico.  The men, women and children who call the bases a temporary home were evacuated from Afghanistan as the country fell to Taliban control and the last U.S. military forces pulled out on Aug. 30, ending a 20-year war.  DHS reported that the remaining number of refugees being housed at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is 9,700; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, 4,400; Fort Pickett, Virginia, 2,700; Camp Atterbury, Indiana, 1,100; and Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, 1,600.  At Quantico, the housing tents, military personnel, food, medical and educational services rang up a $188 million price tag from August to December, when the last Afghans were resettled and the base ended its program, the Defense Department inspector general reported last week.

56% of retailers saying they are “extremely” or “fairly” confident in the economy. While more than half of respondents this year are positive, it reflects a drop from last year’s result when 65% of retailers were confident coming into the new year.  Hiring will continue to be a growth area for grocery retailers in 2022, with 75% of respondents saying they plan to hire more workers — up significantly from 56% in last year’s survey.

More fresh and food service offerings in U.S. grocery.  In 2022 retailers plan to step up their in-store activities such as expanding fresh offerings (56%), improving supply chain efficiencies (54%), and increasing in-store promotions (46%).  Many retailers are renewing their focus on foodservice, with 48% of respondents planning to increase their prepared foods offering in 2022 and 45% planning to alter or change their prepared foods offering (i.e., more grab-and-go, prepackaged, etc.).

Omicron confines U.S. military in Japan to their bases.  The United States and Japan on Sunday agreed to keep American troops within their bases as worries grew about a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the country.The restrictions starting January 10 will last 14 days, confining U.S. military personnel to base facilities except for “essential activities,” a statement from the U.S. Forces in Japan said.

Sole source contract for Germany-based commissary FFV.  DeCA has issued a contract for FFV in Germany.  The contract went to Wasgau Produktions & Handels AG, a Germany-based company engaged in the production and distribution of consumer goods, as well as trade in capital goods.

The document said that: “The WASGAU Produktions & Handels AG has been performing this contract successfully over the past five years providing products that conform to the contractual requirements and terms and conditions. The company has the intimate knowledge and resources in place to continue uninterrupted service. WASGAU is the only source available that has the necessary infrastructure and logistics established to provide uninterrupted service in accordance with DeCA requirements to the DeCA commissaries for the extension period.  A sources sought notification was not issued for this requirement due to the fact no contactor other than the incumbent is capable of providing the required services during the proposed extended period without causing unacceptable delays, disruption in service, and unrecoverable duplication of cost.”  The contract coves commissaries located in the European Theatre plus deliveries to outlying stores through CDC Kaiserslautern: Spangdahlem, Ramstein, Vogelweh, Baumholder, Wiesbaden, Patch Barracks, Kelley Barracks, Robinson Barracks, Panzer”

AAFES Popeyes Manager Named ‘Professional of the Year’ by Strathmore’s Who’s Who.  ALA’s Larry Lapka reports.    Loredana Marciano, manager of the AAFES Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant operating here on the installation, was named “Professional of the Year” for Government/Retail/Restaurant Management on the 2021 Strathmore’s Who’s Who list.

Strathmore’s, a registry and global network for outstanding professionals, highlighted Marciano for her leadership, contributions, and achievements in the field of government food services.

“I was surprised to be honored among so many other people,” Marciano said. “I love working for the Exchange. I just try to take care of the soldiers the best that I can.”

“It’s nice to see Loredana recognized for her daily efforts during these challenging times,” said Fort Bragg Exchange General Manager (GM) Amanda Hartfield, adding, “Loredana’s passion for serving our soldiers exemplifies the Exchange’s core value of family serving family.”

Marciano, a native of Italy, married Army Soldier Billy Joe Southern Sr., and relocated to Fort Bragg in 2001.

She started her Exchange career as a foodservice worker selling ice cream before progressing to her current management role and has been with the Exchange for 20 years. Her son also works at Fort Bragg Exchange

Her husband served in the Army for 16 years.

Marciano cited her love for Fort Bragg and the soldiers as the inspiration behind her success.

“I’ve made Fort Bragg my home,” Marciano said. “I love the soldiers and I’m proud to serve them,” citing one recent example.

“I noticed a soldier who regularly visited Popeyes hadn’t been around for some time,” she recalled. “One day, he came to the restaurant and told me that he had lost his dad. Each of us walked around the counter and gave him a hug — that’s what it’s all about.

Best regards

Steve Rossetti