The Defense Commissary Agency continues to publish a list of commissary store restrictions due to the Covid 19 pandemic. This list remains a fluid document and statuses can change throughout the day. Updated files are posted as new information becomes available, typically on a daily basis. Each individual commissary web page will also have the most current operating status for that commissary.
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The American Logistics Association Board of Directors has selected Steve Rossetti to be the next President of the Association. Board Chairman Bill Doyle in a statement noted, “Steve is well known to ALA members, government resale partners, Administration policymakers, lawmakers and their staffs, and is uniquely qualified to lead the next stage of growth for ALA. His record of accomplishments and commitment to ensuring that the commissary, exchange and MWR benefits evolve and endure is unmatched. We look forward to his leadership as we navigate the rapidly changing commercial and government marketplace including the major developments caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. ALA will continue its active advocacy on behalf of industry, the DoD, DHS, and VA resale agencies and their patrons.” Steve Rossetti added, “We also will move aggressively to increase awareness and patronage of these benefits and work with our government partners to ensure policy makers appreciate the critical role industry and the agencies play in contributing to military quality of life.” Steve will begin his new role on July 4th.
On Thursday, June 4, 2020, the ALA Commissary Council conducted the first in a planned series of live virtual events to address the hot-button issues vital to DeCA sales growth.
Participants heard from Ret. Admiral Bianchi, Special Assistant for Commissary Operations at the Defense Commissary Agency; Tracie Russ, Director of Sales and Hector Granado, Director of the Marketing Directorate, both also from the Defense Commissary Agency; and Steve Rossetti, Legislative Affairs Advisor, ALA.
A copy of the PPT presentation is available for download: ALA Virtual Event – June 4 2020.
Face Masks for Workers in Commissaries
The Department of Defense and the Defense Commissary Agency issued guidance on April 5 and April 9, 2020, requiring the use of face coverings for all employees and patrons entering commissaries (DeCA NTT 20-52). The DoD Office of General Counsel has determined that DoD may procure and provide cloth face coverings to contractors that perform in DoD furnished facilities who are in proximity to DoD personnel, if available, because doing so will reduce risk of exposure of others to the virus. Also, the Department of Defense issued further guidance on face coverings and protective equipment on April 8, 2020 and April 13, 2020 ( Supplement 7 and Supplement 8).
Contractors are expected to bring their own face coverings. DeCA advises that masks are on order and the date for arrival at stores is uncertain. When masks are available in the commissaries, contractors will be able to access the Government supplied masks as a secondary source.
Commissary worker PPE, unified resale pandemic fight, consumer insights, business aid package update, manufacturer allocations falling short, critical infrastructure designation for grocery and transportation, CDC guidance on infected workers
By Steve Rossetti, ALA Director of Government Affairs
Protective Gear in Commissaries
ALA is working with DeCA to provide consistency among the five classes of workers in commissaries and make masks available to all workers. Consistency across work forces is imperative in order to ensure that all workers and patrons are protected. We are working on an announcement with DeCA.
ALA Publishing Listing of Commissary Restrictions
ALA is posting daily updates to restrictions being imposed at commissaries worldwide in the News section of our site.
Fighting the Pandemic—A United Resale Front
The resale agencies including DeCA, AAFES, NEX, MCX, and CGES have issued a joint statement on being taken to ensure that patrons and workers are protected.
IRI Consumer Insights
IRI, a leading consumer analytics company and ALA member, has released some consumer insights associated with the pandemic. Thanks to Christine Roussey with IRI for providing this information.
Paycheck Protection Act Update
Small Business Pandemic Best Practices Package
The ALA is working with the Defense Industrial Base Task Force to exchange information regarding challenges and solutions to issues raised by the pandemic. The Department of Defense has issued a Small Business Best Practices Package. The package includes: a best practices outline, template for Safe passage, Critical Workforce Infrastructure Guidance, identification of essential workers guidance and Defense contracting and pricing considerations.
DoD Billing Rate Guidance
Section 3610 of the CARES Act provides for reimbursement of certain personnel expenses associated with the pandemic. The Office of the Secretary of Defense has released their guidance and list of frequently asked questions.
Unique Military Requirements Demand Manufacturer Adequate Allocations of Product
ALA and DeCA are encouraging manufacturers to increase their allocations to the distribution centers. The military supply chain’s long-lead times to remote and overseas areas, often 50 to 60 days, make adequate manufacturer allocations essential. Commercial distributors are taking extraordinary efforts to get product to stores, but inadequate manufacturer allocations are impeding progress.
Coastal Pacific Food Distributor issued a letter to its industry partners on efforts being taken to maintain and increase product deliveries. MDV SpartanNash released a business status update to its industry partners and customers as well.
A representative list of categories most impacted by vendor cuts is posted here. Categories include:
- Drinking water
- Toilet Paper and Paper Towels
- Cough & Cold product along with all medicines
- Hand Sanitizers, wipes and sprays
- Bleach and Cleaning Supplies
- Canned Vegetables
- Canned Beans
- Canned Soup
- Frozen vegetables and fruits
- Pasta and Pasta Sauce
- Dish, hand soap and laundry detergent
The Defense Commissary Agency issued an urgent communication to manufacturers here from Chris Burns, Executive Director, Sales Marketing and Logistics. In his communication, Burns implores manufacturers to consider the unique nature of the military and take extraordinary steps to ensure allocations are adequate to take care of this channel.
The Department of Defense Industrial Policy group in conjunction with the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce is examining all critical materials needed to fight the pandemic including forcing manufacturers to increase allocations of grocery items to the commissary distribution chain. This action is enabled by the Defense Production Act (DPA) and the accompanying Defense Priorities and Allocation System that “is used to prioritize national defense-related contracts/orders throughout the U.S. supply chain in order to support military, energy, homeland security, emergency preparedness, and critical infrastructure requirements.” A Defense memorandum on the DPA is here.
Grocery Workers, Truck Drivers “Critical Infrastructure”
The Department of Homeland Security has designated most workers in the food supply chain as “critical infrastructure”. The DHS guidance can be found here includes the following:
Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other retail (including unattended and vending) that sells human food, animal and pet food and pet supply, and beverage products, including retail customer support service and information technology support staff necessary for online orders, pickup, and delivery.
Food manufacturer workers and their supplier workers including those employed at food ingredient production and processing facilities; aquaculture and seafood harvesting facilities; livestock, poultry, seafood slaughter facilities; pet and animal feed processing facilities; human food facilities producing byproducts for animal food; beverage production facilities; and the production of food packaging.
Workers supporting or enabling transportation and logistics functions, including truck drivers, bus drivers, dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck stop and rest area workers, driver training and education centers, Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) workers, enrollment agents for federal transportation worker vetting programs, towing and recovery services, roadside assistance workers, intermodal transportation personnel, and workers that construct, maintain, rehabilitate, and inspect infrastructure, including those that require cross-jurisdiction travel.).
CDC Guidance on Treating Infected Workers
The CDC has published interim guidance on treating infected workers.
New House Bill Would Grant Gold Star Families Access to Commissary, Base Recreation
The families of fallen service members could gain access to on-base benefits such as the commissary and recreation facilities though a House bill introduced recently. “We need to continue to honor those services members who we have lost by fully supporting their families,” said Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla. “It should be a bipartisan issue.”
The bill was introduced last month and is cosponsored by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla. It grants access to commissaries, exchanges and MWR programs to surviving family members.
Safe passage package for companies in lock-down or quarantine areas, small business webinar, personal protective equipment, contracting with DoD for pandemic items
By Steve Rossetti, ALA Director of Government Affairs
Safe passage package for companies in lock-down or quarantine areas
Several ALA companies have reported difficulty operating in quarantine areas or lock-down areas.
ALA is on a DoD working group that is dealing with issues faced by industry conducting business across the United States and particularly in and around U.S. military installations.
During these working group sessions, we raised the issue of workers having difficulty transiting these areas. We obtained this guidance issued today by the Department of Defense Small Business Office that provides:
- A template that can serve as a memo to inform local authorities of the special responsibility to maintain normal work operation.
- Safe Passage letter
- A memo that we previously issued, Defense Industrial Base Essential Critical Workforce Infrastructure
- A memo regarding staffing and work schedules necessary to meet contract requirements and obligations for contracting officials.
Small business webinar today at 3:00 p.m. EDT
The Department of Defense Office of Small Business will be hosting a webinar for companies doing business during the pandemic and discuss resources available to Defense companies to cope with the pandemic.
Here’s the participation information
The conference begins at 3:00 PM Eastern Time on April 08, 2020; you may join the conference 10 minutes prior.
Option #1 (preferred): Join the conference on your computer.
Option #2: Dial into the conference: 1-877-369-5243 or 1-617-668-3633; Access Code:0533737#
International Dial In Numbers are available.
When you access the entry link above, you will be provided a choice – to install the WebEx plug-in for your preferred browser or to join the web conference using a temporary path. Either option is acceptable. For assistance with your audio, please dial 888-796-6118. For assistance with your WebEx, please dial 888-793-6118.
Personal protective equipment or PPE
ALA has been working with and raising concerns with government officials regarding the need for personal protective equipment. ALA has been releasing information to members since mid-February. Our message is: During the pandemic, the military resale supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link and measures need to be taken to ensure the entire chain—from source to shelf—is safe, secure and responsive.
The PPE issue has been given prominence in recent days prompted by CDC guidance urging wearing of masks and Defense guidance on masks. There also has been guidance from resale agencies to their workforce. ALA is publishing this guidance as we get it.
We are working with DoD and the resale agencies on gaining consistency in the application of PPE across the system both for industry and government workers in order to achieve some form of consistency in the supply chain and at resale locations. Just in the past week, there have been several instances of exchanges and commissaries closing because of the pandemic.
Grocery and retail stores are increasingly taking measures on PPE and sanitizing stores as incidences rise on workers getting infected. Albertsons Companies has partnered with the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) union in a national drive to get grocery workers classified as emergency first responders during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Under the effort, Albertsons and UFCW said Tuesday they aim to obtain a temporary designation of “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel” for supermarket associates. That classification will enable those grocery workers to be prioritized for testing and personal protection equipment as the country continues to battle the spread of COVID-19.
Resale distributors and manufacturers are taking extraordinary efforts to sanitize facilities and protect their workforce from the virus. We are examining gaps in the PPE area and working on consistency in application of PPE in various resale supply chain sectors to protect the supply chain and get guidance to the right officials to protect workers and patrons and keep stores from closing.
Contracting with DoD for pandemic items
The Department of Defense has issued guidance for companies that wish to contract with DoD for items related to the pandemic.
Stay up to date on all pandemic resale developments on Twitter @resalereaction.
Blue Star Families issues pandemic “Pain Points” poll results
Only 28 percent of military families say their finances have not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new figures in Blue Star Families’ Pain Points Poll. Thirty-seven percent of military spouses reported having lost their jobs or having their hours reduced, and 28% of veterans responding to the poll have reported the same.
For organizations dedicated to providing direct assistance to military families, “a worldwide pandemic is kind of like a very bad hurricane writ large,” said John Hopper, CEO of the Air Force Aid Society. Hopper joined other relief organization leaders and financial services professionals on Tuesday’s CMSI town hall.
Cari Thomas, the CEO of Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA), said her organization is using lessons it learned when Coast Guard members went without paychecks during the partial government shutdown at the beginning of last year. CGMA is “prepared for the long haul” as military families realize their needs and is even ready to help with funeral costs if necessary, she said. Army Emergency Relief has already supported three funerals, according to its director, Ray Mason.
The panelists urged service members to be open about what they need and to consider all their financial options. “So many of our military families are going to be using their credit cards to bridge this gap,” said Steve Lepper, president of the Association of Military Banks of America. “Bear in mind that unless you pay off your debt in the billing period, you’re going to have to pay some substantial interest payments. Don’t dig yourself into a hole you can’t get out of.”
Almost three in 10 Pain Points Poll respondents have or plan to use credit cards to help cover expenses during reduced income, according to the latest results.
Preserving the vital resale supply chain
By Steve Rossetti, ALA Director of Government Affairs
Defense changes policy on protective gear
DoD has issued new guidance on the use of protective masks. All DoD personnel, family members and civilian employees and contractors, are required to wear masks when they are within 6 feet of another person. Masks can include either provided masks or cloth face coverings. The DoD Policy is here.
ALA is raising the face mask issue with the Department of Defense and is seeking to identify sources of professional grade personal protective equipment, including masks to industry personnel in the supply chain and in the stores. Protective gear is in short supply as National priorities are to get it to health care workers. Currently, this gear must be paid for by individual companies but ALA is trying to get a common source available at the store level so that both industry and Government workers have professional –grade protective gear available. Until this time, workers must fashion their own face protection from cloth.
Distributors are notifying truck drivers of the new policy which may require drivers to not only wear the protective masks, but lower the masks when clearing security upon entering the bases.
DoD working group, ALA pandemic communications group, ALA supply chain strengthening efforts
ALA is participating in a Department of Defense working group that is examining pandemic issues, including fast tracking acquisition, use of personal protective equipment up and down the supply chain, and working with manufacturers to get more product to the system via the Defense Production Act and its associated Defense Priorities and Allocations Systems Program.
ALA established a Coronavirus communications working group on February 28 and is pushing information to resale entities on developments in both the government and commercial retail and grocery world.
ALA has been working with suppliers up and down the grocery supply chain to determine chokepoints and areas of fragility in the supply chain and relaying this information to the Department of Defense in order to remedy problems.
Senator Kaine urges Defense to move on securing the exchange and commissary supply chain
In an April 2 letter, Senator Tim Kaine, ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, wrote to the Secretary of Defense to let Congress know what authorities and supplemental funding is needed to secure the consumer products supply chain.
Kaine commended DoD for efforts to reimburse the exchange and commissaries for added costs associated with the pandemic. He also urged support for added costs placed on the industry side of the supply chain including labor and added costs at distribution centers that he said amounted to an additional $10 million a month, saying that these costs are over and above normal operations and are needed to ensure the smooth flow of products to military families.
Noting the difficult conditions in the stores, he urged DoD to recognize industry workers and cited commercial chains that were providing additional pay and personal protective gear for their employees. He also urged the Department to consider “utilizing aspects of the Defense Production Act or associated authority of the Defense Priorities and Allocations System (DPAS) to ensure distribution centers have adequate product allocations from manufacturers to fill consumer demand at the military stores.”
Mission essential exchange operations need support as losses escalate
Major impact on exchange programs may require appropriated fund backstop
The Department of Defense is examining the impact of the pandemic on the nonappropriated fund programs of the DoD and is considering underwriting the program with appropriations.
Already the one-time impact is north of $100 million with recurring monthly costs higher yet. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s that bad news doesn’t get better with age. Just like in the private sector, food is selling, grocery stores are operating but retail is getting hit…and hit hard. Associated with the carnage that is occurring outside the gate as large and small retailers shut down, the exchanges are doing all they can to cope and survive the pandemic. The impact on exchanges is exacerbated by the global nature of the exchange business and the demand that they continue to operate when stores outside the gate would scale back or close.
And, for military families, the exchanges are often the only source of life sustaining consumables and services.
The exchanges normally operate without appropriations from Congress. That’s why they are called nonappropriated fund activities. DoD is considering what and how much to reimburse the exchanges from appropriated funds to assist in mitigating the impact.
And there’s a cascading effect. MWR programs that the exchanges underwrite have their own set of problems with closures of programs at the base level and the Armed Forces Recreation Centers shuttered.
We’ll be reaching out to policy makers throughout the legislative and executive branches of Government to recognize that the vital food chain for our military needs to be shored-up and that the exchange programs be supported to preserve their vital capabilities to take care of our military both during the pandemic and the reconstitution that will take place after this pandemic is conquered.
Along with shoring up the vital grocery chain, ALA is urging action to include establishment of a major appropriated fund reserve to support and backstop severe financial impact being experienced by exchanges. Providing emergency appropriations to underwrite exchanges is not unprecedented. Current DoD policy allows emergency finding.
Pandemic impact mirrors what is taking place outside the gates. And, the Administration and the Congress have moved to backfill employees and businesses. We don’t want the exchanges to fall through the cracks. And these are some big cracks.
Exchanges are seeing major sales declines and their workforce and operations are paid with sales. Yet, exchanges can’t close as most commanders depend on them to sustain their military operations. The exchanges are struggling to adapt, closing concessions and scaling back food operations to take-out only. Some retail outlets are closing and scaling back hours. Base access policies are changing, limiting sales from off-base patrons.
And, sales declines reverberate across all exchange operations, with financial impact on logistics, real estate, financial, credit, and information technology. Also, there are major costs due to the need to keep the workforce on board to man on-going operations.
Exchanges have operated for years sustaining mission essential programs for the Department of Defense, often using dollars generated from the troops to underwrite the Defense mission. As the pandemic impacts exchange operations, it is time for the American people to reciprocate with funding to support these programs so that they can continue to support the Defense mission after the pandemic has passed.
VCS and CGX heavily impacted
The Veterans Canteen Service is unique in that it operates in hospitals. VCS retail has been heavily impacted and management reports they can’t close down operations because of the vital VA hospital mission and the need for VCS to operate food service for patients and staff.
The Coast Guard Exchange has been heavily impacted as it copes with store closures, limitations on base access and limitations placed on patronage by base commanders. The impacts on workers are growing as the pandemic stretches on. Management reports that they are working to keep employees on despite major reductions in hours and sales.
Pandemic commissary closures, need for more manufacturer allocations, and Federal funding to underwrite added industry costs
DeCA employees are getting paid and the commissary program is intact…something that we never have and shouldn’t take for granted. Just over the weekend we are aware of a commissary closure caused by virus exposures in Osan AFB and exchange and commissary closures at Whitman AFB in Missouri. ALA is advocating for funding to shore-up the supply chain, including come non-traditional Federal funding to shore-up the supply chain at commercial distribution hubs to include payments for extra employees and equipment expenses not reimbursed, additional hazard pay for some workers, and personal protective gear. ALA and DeCA are urging major manufacturers to come forward with additional product allocations for the military because of the long-lead times for shipment and the isolation of military families. This builds on the March 20, “One Family, One Mission” message signed by all Defense exchange systems and DeCA. Right now, distributors are getting less than 50 percent of what they need to ship to stores.
Speaker of the House gives a peek into Stimulus 4 and even Stimulus 5
The current stimulus bills provide $11 or $12 billion to the DoD and ALA is urging a portion of that funding be provided to relieve the strain on commissary and exchange operations and the supply chain that supports them.
In addition to asking the DoD to support resale programs with existing funding, ALA is planning to support relief in upcoming Stimulus packages that are in early stages of development in the Congress.
Most of the pandemic relief legislation originates in the House of Representatives and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has called for another pandemic stimulus package in addition to the $2 trillion package that just passed Congress.
She backed away from House Democrats’ plan to include hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure funding in Congress’ next coronavirus relief bill, instead calling for a simpler package that further extends unemployment insurance and small business support. She called for more rounds of employment support.
“Right now, we need a fourth bipartisan bill. And I think the bill could be very much like the bill we just passed,” she added, including more unemployment benefits and extension of relief measures for business.
Republicans are lukewarm to another stimulus bill so quickly after the last one, but the fast moving pandemic and the severe damage to economy could cause a shift in Republican attitudes.
Pelosi suggested such a relief package could move quickly through Congress. Both chambers plan to return to Washington on April 20. “We don’t need a long time to figure out what we need to do next,” she said. “We know. And we have a model.”
AAFES CEO Tom Shull issued a message today to all patrons of The Exchange detailing efforts to ensure a safe shopping experience. AAFES is supporting not only military communities around the globe, but AAFES associates as well. Read Mr. Shull’s entire message here.