From the desk of the ALA President 12/3

People like me, who have been able to work from home, should count the blessings those people have bestowed on us every day — multiple times. More than that, we should be asking what we can do to make life better for them.  These individuals have been making sure that the rest of us had what we needed.  But you know all that, so how about a less obvious hero, like — did anyone have “supply-chain managers and operations chiefs” on their list? No?  Well, I did!  Because these   individuals have, without much praise and completely invisibly, been making sure that the rest of us had what we needed…  And then be thankful that you live in a time when you didn’t even have to think about it. The silent, unseen labor of people you never met, from shelf-stocker to c-suite, and a system that proved far more resilient than anyone could have dreamed, is the reason that you never even had to seriously worry that the holiday table would be bare. We shouldn’t just offer thanks in gratitude for all they’ve given us; we should bow our heads with a little bit of awe.

Megan McArdle, a columnist for the Washington Post. 

“A job with NEXCOM is like being part of a family 14,000 deep that stretches all over the world. We pride ourselves on our mission to serve those who wear the uniform, committed to the quality-of-life benefit, and have a culture of inclusivity with a genuine interest to cultivate creativity.”  Tonia Morgan, director of Talent Acquisition for NEXCOM. 

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance less.”  General Eric Shinseki, former Army Chief of Staff and Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“Those of us who understood the vulnerability within the supply chain, the pandemic only heightened it and made us aware of the amount of reliance we’ve had on our adversaries.”  We are “positioning our supply chains and capabilities in allied partners countries…that serve not just out military needs, but our commercial needs as well.”  Kim Arrington, Chief information security officer at the Department of Defense. 

Vaccine distribution.  ALA has learned that the DoD policy and plan for distributing vaccines to the Department of Defense personnel and families is in “final senior leadership coordination” and will be issued next week.  The policy is said to include guidance for contractor personnel at installations.  ALA and other associations representing the Defense industrial base are pressing for the vaccine to be available early to critical infrastructure locations.   The Chief of Naval Operations testified at the Senate yesterday and said that the Navy’s priority is “health care workers, emergency and safety personnel at the installations.  Those people are likely to come in contact with people who are infected.”  Next on his list were “strategic forces such as cyber operators and troops on missile submarines. “ “Then troops who are getting ready to deploy will get the shot.”

3610 extension.  ALA has learned that DoD is supporting the extension of authority provided in Section 3610 of the CARES Act (the first stimulus bill)Congress passed a continuing resolution that extends the authorization for agencies to reimburse contractors under Section 3610 of the CARES Act until December 11, 2020.The continuing resolution did not appropriate funds for Section 3610 reimbursements.

Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act authorized agencies, at their discretion, to reimburse contractors for the cost of paid leave incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to maintain their workforces in a ready state. Contractors may be reimbursed for any paid leave, including sick leave, for up to an average of 40 hours per week, that was caused by COVID-19. Section 3610 applies only to costs incurred for employee “leave.” Further, a contractor may only receive reimbursement if: (1) its employees or subcontractors cannot perform work on government-owned, government-leased, contractor-owned, contractor-leased facility, or sites approved by the government due to closures or other restrictions; and (2) the employee’s duties are such that they are unable to telework. For cost-reimbursement and incentive contracts, where allowable and allocable, costs may be recovered on unplanned costs due to COVID-19, such as those related to providing PPE to employees, additional cleaning of work areas, changes to workspaces to accommodate social distancing, and delays in delivering and/or receiving purchased materials. The reimbursement period began on March 27, 2020—the date the CARES Act became law—and was scheduled to end on September 30, 2020.

COVID base restrictions ramping up.  Two weeks ago, 61 percent of bases were restriction free, now only 48 percent do not have limits on who can visit bases.  ALA publishes on its website a consolidated list of restrictions by base that is assembled by DeCA.

The Defense Logistics Agency is planning a presentation on all of their business lines on December 17.  Also, DLA is planning small business seminars.  Here are links to the monthly DLA Small Business Outreach Calendar and the next monthly webinar on December 9.

o   https://www.dla.mil/SmallBusiness/Calendar/

o  https://www.dla.mil/SmallBusiness/Calendar/ModuleID/89896/ItemID/5091/mctl/EventDetails/

Base access.  ALA has raised several issues regarding base access to senior Defense leaders and we have learned that they are being worked at the policy level.  A front-burner issue are the family member ID cards.  Because of pandemic, DoD extended the expiration date for family member and other ID cards in order to reduce lines at the enrollment stations.  But word hasn’t gotten to all bases and some base guard haven’t gotten the memo.  So, there are some pockets of rejections.  Another issue is with Veteran identification with some Vets not having their latest certification on their card.  The issues are being worked at the DoD offices including OSD (P&R) and OSD (Intelligence).  Members should let us know of any other instances of impeded base access so that we can raise them to Defense.

Exchange privileges for DoD civilians on ice? ALA has learned that there are questions being raised in the Pentagon about expanding exchange privileges to DoD civilians.  ALA has been advocating for these privileges and for commissary privileges for civilians as well, arguing that they are especially important during emergencies such as the pandemic and that it provides an important convenience for civilian employees in support of the Pentagon’s total force philosophy.

November DeCA sales.  Fiscal year to date down 3.88 percent.  November sales down from last November 14.54 percent in Central Region, down 6.1 percent in Eastern Region, down 6.62 percent in West Region, down 2.35 percent in Pacific, and up 6.97 percent in Europe.

DeCA reaching out to industry to fill California shelf stocking void.  DeCA leadership and ALA have been working on many levels to fix the problem of getting product to the shelves.  This includes engagement at the ALA Commissary Council and between other senior ALA and DeCA folks to address issues at each point across the supply chain.  These issues include implementation of DeCA business systems, fill rates by manufacturers at the key commissary distribution hubs and working though issues associated with the multiple programs used to get product to the shelves once it arrives at the store.  As we reported, last week, we have learned that Prime Team, a vendor stocking company, has announced that it will no longer work in California.  The other vendor stocking company, Top Gun, has said that they have no plans to leave the state.  We expected a DeCA notice to the trade on this last week.  Now we learned that DeCA is sending emails to industry mentioning the passage of California’s Proposition 22 and asking Industry about their plans continue fulfilling their vendor stocking responsibilities in California.

DeCA released a Notice to Trade today that was dated December 1.  The NTT said: “DeCA has been informed that Prime Team Services, Inc. a company responsible for processing vendor stocking payments, is notifying suppliers they work with of their intent to no longer provide services in the State of California.”   The purpose of this notice is to advise industry to continue fulfillment of vendor stocking responsibilities in the State of California and in all locations where DeCA has not converted to an alternative vendor stocking program.  Request industry notify DeCA in advance if vendor stocking responsibilities, as required in the Resale Ordering Agreement, cannot be met.” 

DeCA Vendor Stocking Initiative using direct contract labor currently covers the following stores and we have not heard of any other expansion plans.  The DeCA NTT says “Vendor stocking, for the purpose of the alternate third party program, is defined as those services for FDS products not currently provided by the DeCA commercial activity contractor or under DSD orders/deliveries.  The stocking of milk, eggs, chicken, and NIB impulse strip clips and racks are not included as part of this program.

2019 / Early 2020

Little Creek

Fort Myer

Fort Riley

McGuire AFB

Peterson AFB

San Diego

Imperial Beach

North Island

November 1, 2020

Fort Benning

Fort Campbell

Norfolk

Randolph

December 1, 2020

Anchorage

Jacksonville

Miramar

Nellis

Pensacola

Whidbey Island

Measuring the drapes.  The Pentagon says the transition to the incoming Biden administration is proceeding “in a professional, orderly, efficient and transparent manner,” with members of the Biden-Harris transition team getting a tour of their office spaces in the building and completing paperwork and credentialing.  “This week, the Transition Task Force is focusing on onboarding ART [Agency Review Team] members, including workspaces, processing of temporary badges, non-disclosure agreements and other administrative matters; preparing responses to the initial requests for information from the ART; and coordinating requested interviews between ART members and DOD officials,” said Sue Gough, a Department of Defense spokesperson.  “The Transition Task Force is also hosting and participating in ART requested meetings with DoD leadership across a broad spectrum of organizations, missions and programs.”

Section 889 for retail customers?  ALA has learned that the requirements of Section 889 may apply to items that are offered for sale in resale exchanges as well as electronic components that are purchased by the agencies for their own use.  ALA is arguing that the provisions of this law should not apply to NAFIs and exchanges because of their legal status and the nature of their business.  Also, we maintain that existing law and regulations governing NAFIs exempt them from the provisions of this section.  Application of this section to exchanges could affect over $1 billion in items stocked in the exchanges.  Also, it’s unclear if it applies to components used for electronic payment transactions, with possible wider effect across resale.  Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits the federal government, government contractors, and grant and loan recipients from procuring or using certain “covered telecommunication equipment or services” that are produced by Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua and their subsidiaries as a “substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.” Sec. 889(a)(1)(A) required the federal government, as of August 13, 2019, to not “procure or obtain or extend or renew a contract to procure or obtain any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunication equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.”   Sec. 889(a)(1)(B), which is slated to go into effect on August 13, 2020, will prohibit the federal government from entering into or extending or renewing contracts with any entity that “uses any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunication equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system.”  Section 889(a)(1)(A), which is already in effect has required that companies providing “covered telecommunication equipment or services” to the federal government reconfigure their supply chains to exclude Huawei/ZTE components in the final products or services. This regulation was put into place via an interim rule that was updated in early 2020.  Contractors are required to represent to the government annually whether the supplies or services they offer include covered telecommunications equipment or services. They are also required to report to the government when covered telecommunications equipment or services are used during contract performance.

Defense bill coming to a vote despite President’s veto threat.  The NDAA which contains several legislative provisions affecting military resale program is coming to a vote even though President Trump has threated a veto.  The House vote could come tonight, and the Senate has yet to schedule floor time.

CMMC update.  ALA is mobilizing to ensure that companies are compliant with the CMMC or Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.  We are working to see who this applies to, i.e., NAF programs or exchanges, the effect on companies with resale ordering agreements with DeCA and other implications.  We understand that if the CMMC applies, it will be at the Level 1 level and perhaps in some cases, Level 2.   ALA is working this issue through the Defense Industrial Base working group and with Defense Personnel and Readiness folks.  It may be the subject of an upcoming pop-up workshop for ALA members.

Telework policy changing.  Under a March 8 memo, DoD allowed civilian employees to telework while a dependent was present in the home as part of the agency’s efforts to provide flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. That flexibility was slated to end Dec. 31, 2020.  The new memorandum allows DoD components to continue to grant exceptions to the dependent care telework restrictions well into the new year, as the number of new COVID cases across the country has spiked in recent months.

Second stimulus bill gets new life.  Congress is moving to enact a second pandemic bill.  The original $2.2 trillion House bill included nearly $1.4 billion in funding for exchanges and on-base community programs.  The latest proposal being tossed around is for around $900 billion and the leader of the Senate says he wants $500 billion or so.  ALA is pressing to keep the exchange funding in the final bill.

Government shutdown update.  The Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee says that they will probably need to do a short-term funding patch until they can get agreement on a $1.4 billion Omnibus bill.  Appropriations for the running the Federal Government expire on December 11 unless Congress appropriates more money.  In case you missed it, ALA’s Annual Convention featured the Undersecretary of Defense for personnel Matthew Donovan and Representative Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who also received ALA’s 2020 Distinguished Service Award.  These gentlemen are playing a role in the effects of a potential government shutdown on resale programs for DoD.    Appropriators are in negotiations to get the job done but, just in case, Representative Wittman send a letter yesterday to Secretary Donovan saying that it is Congress’s “strong position commissaries should remain open during a government shutdown.”  Wittman’s letter also said: “Simply put, commissaries should be provided excepted status and excess balances in working capital funds can finance continued operations.’  Wittman also said that surcharge trust funds or non-appropriated funds generated from the implementation of business practices could also fund the commissaries during a shutdown.  (We reported last week that DeCA generated $84 million in funding from margin and other programs last year).  Wittman further said that closing commissaries during a shutdown would “deprive families of a subsistence source at the very time it is needed.”  And he pointed out that because of the perishable nature of items sold, “there are major logistical and administrative problems that arise when retail operations at the end of the supply chain precipitously cease to include disruption of the logistical synergy between major stateside locations and operations at remote overseas areas.”

Two defense budgets for 2022? President Trump is plowing ahead with plans to release this month a detailed Pentagon budget for the next fiscal year, plumping up proposed 2022 funding for its key defense priorities in what budget analysts say is an obvious and unorthodox effort to box in Joe Biden.  Most of the additional funds that administration officials at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, are demanding that the Pentagon add to its budget request, are “fabricated,” if not outright impossible given America’s modest GDP growth and growing national debt, said one defense official involved in crafting the budget plans who was not authorized to speak publicly. Biden will submit his own budget once he is in office, and the Trump administration’s will be mooted, officially.

Walmart is dropping its $35 minimum shipping threshold on online orders for its membership program Walmart Plus, a move that could make the offering more competitive with Amazon Prime. Walmart said Wednesday that orders for members on items such as electronics, clothing, toys and other merchandise shipped through Walmart’s fulfillment centers will no longer carry a $35 minimum to qualify for free shipping. But grocery orders delivered through its stores will still carry a minimum purchase requirement. Walmart debuted Walmart+, its $98-a-year subscription plan, in September. In addition to free next-day and two-day shipping, Walmart+ members also get 5-cent-per-gallon discounts on gasoline and the ability to scan items with the Walmart app while they shop in physical stores (and pay without waiting in a checkout line).

Pay raise for Federal workers in play.  A point of contention in the current appropriations battles is whether more than 2 million federal civilian workers will get a pay increase this year. In February, the White House proposed a 1 percent raise for the federal civilian workforce in 2021, which is what the House backed in its Financial Services spending bill.  But the administration now supports a pay freeze, OMB Director Russell Vought wrote in the Monday letter to appropriators. Vought wrote that “in the context of budgetary constraints and the recent, pandemic-related impacts on non-Federal labor markets,” the administration now supports the Senate’s no-raise position.

Curbside and shopping assistance in Stuttgart to aid in limiting virus exposure.  Commissary curbside service coupled with a “volunteer shopping” program is aimed at limiting customer exposure to the virus.  The Army Community Service-run program pairs volunteer shoppers with community members who cannot enter the commissary due to quarantine or other COVID-related circumstances.  ACS connects volunteers with customers to coordinate times to shop and receive goods delivered curbside or at their residence. Customers must be available for phone calls during the scheduled shopping time in case list substitutions need approval, and to provide credit card details to the cashier at checkout.

Leadership releases House schedule for 2022.  Convenes on January 3, 2021, will be in session for a week to include counting of electoral votes and will depart until Inauguration Day.  It includes an extra-long recess in August.

UPS shipping restrictions. As delivery networks get stretched, United Parcel Service Inc. imposed shipping restrictions on some large retailers including Gap, LL Bean, Nike, Newegg and Macy’s.  the Wall Street Journal reports that drivers have been told not to pick up packages.

Congratulations Bridgett.  Bridget Bennett, supervisory category manager for produce at the Defense Commissary Agency Headquarters, Fort Lee, is among the four national winners of the first-ever Retail Merchant Innovation Awards.

NEX/MCX customers in a giving mood.  In the spirit of giving, Navy Exchange (NEX) and Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) customers donated the highest amount since 2014 to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS). During the nearly month-long campaign, nearly 81,000 tickets were sold for a total of $404,709 by both NEX and MCX customers.
Customers supported their fellow Sailors and Marines by purchasing a NMCRS $5 benefit ticket. This joint campaign by the NEX and MCX provides their customers opportunities to help their brothers and sisters in arms. This type of Navy and Marine Corps joint effort is important around the holiday season in particular.

“Our customers look forward to being able to support the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and their fellow men and women in uniform,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, Chief Executive Officer for the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM). “NEX customers donated $315,974, an extraordinary amount especially during a pandemic. Their generosity is a true example of taking care of their shipmates. ” The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society is a very important resource for our Navy and Marine Corps families,” said Cindy Whitman Lacy, CEO/Director, Business and Supports Services Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. “This was the sixth year that the MCX participated in the benefit ticket program which allowed nearly 18,000 customers to donate $88,735 to help fund the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society to provide Sailors and Marines financial support when they are experiencing life challenges that could detract their attention from being mission ready.”

Federal contract spend jumps $89 billion.  Though the Defense Department’s actual numbers won’t come out until January, federal contract spending for fiscal 2020 is projected to land somewhere upwards of $600 billion — an $89 billion increase over 2019. Around $30 billion of that increase was COVID-related spending. With a vaccine still on the horizon, and a presidential transition now underway, projections on contract spending for 2021 are murkier than usual. That said, Kevin Plexico, senior vice president for Information Solutions at Deltek, said there are a few things that can be expected.

First, the top-line budget caps are already set for next year due to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019. They provide for modest increases in discretionary spending, which tends to lead to increases in contract spending. It’s worth noting as well that 2021 is the final year subject to the restrictions of the Budget Control Act. Second, Joe Biden has presented a seven-point pandemic response plan, which includes testing and tracing, as well as potentially $25 billion for vaccine development and distribution. It’s likely to include significant spending on personal protective equipment as well, and it’s possible he could invoke the Defense Production Act toward this end.

“But it would also be easy to see additional investments in telehealth and telemedicine for federal health care providers, as well as areas of medical investments in analytics and cloud computing to better equip our healthcare providers at the federal level, to deliver health care in a way that keeps people safe, especially those that might be most vulnerable,” Plexico said during a Nov. 17 webinar. “And we think all this can lead to increasing budgets, as well as growth and contracting to entrepreneurs. “And that’s not the only place where analytics, cloud computing, and similar technologies are expected to be represented in the new budget priorities.

“Biden has expressed support for sustaining funding for the military, yet increasing funding for emerging technology,” Plexico said. “We think this has a potential disruptive effect [if] we try to free up money in areas where we think it’s more traditional defense and invest in areas that might be more leading technologies, such as unmanned systems, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. And while we might have top line spending remaining relatively consistent, at the same time, we think this also could create some hotspots in the market for some of these emerging technology areas.”

Plexico said he’s heard calls for investments of up to $300 billion in research and development in these areas. He also noted that’s been a largely nonpartisan proposition in the past.  Another area Plexico said he expects to see increased funding prioritized is support for contract oversight. This would help ensure transparency in federal spending, which is expected to be a policy priority for the new administration.

On the subject of new policy positions from the incoming administration, Plexico had a little advice for contractors.  “I’ve seen new IP policy, new acquisition policy, new climate policy, obviously new tax policy, which has less impact on contractors, but certainly an impact on the nation. Those are the kind of things you need to understand,” he said. “And make sure that your messaging from your company for the products that you provide help demonstrate your connectivity to that and what they and what their new policies and priorities are going forward.”  Plexico also had another warning for contractors: Increasing compliance requirements and regulations are creating a barrier to entry in the federal market. He said the number of prime contractors in 2020 was lower than in 2015, 2016 or 2017. He attributed this to new government privacy regulations, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certifications and other cybersecurity requirements, and increased pricing compliance regulations.  At the same time, consolidation efforts like category management are reducing the number of prime contracting opportunities, meaning more companies are competing for those spots. Both of those things are creating incentive for some companies to partner instead of prime for certain opportunities, Plexico said.

Navy Pandemic restrictions up.  Nearly every U.S. Navy installation in the U.S. is tightening COVID-19 restrictions in an effort to curb the virus’s spread on bases and protect military families.  Installations across the country will implement more robust measures at Health Protection Condition Level Charlie, which is one step below the most stringent level, the Department of Defense announced.  The only installation exempt from the tightened measures is the Naval Air Station at Fallon in the remote Nevada desert.  The new measures could close some day care centers, eliminate community activities and restrict travel.  Additionally, while commanders typically make decisions about their bases, more personnel could work from home as a result of the new restrictions.  “These changes are based on authorities delegated in March, giving commanders the flexibility to respond in the best interests of their personnel while maintaining mission effectiveness,” Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Jonathan Hoffman said during a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday.  Some military bases began implementing COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of this month, as cases have hit record rates in civilian populations across the U.S. and military installations.  To date, the Defense Department has seen nearly 75,000 service members diagnosed with COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.

Pentagon COVID update.  The Pentagon gave an update on their progress in dealing with the pandemic.  Here are some of the highlights.

  • The Department of Defense has three main objectives for COVID-19 response.  The first is protection of the DOD workforce and their families, the second is safeguarding the department’s mission capabilities and readiness, and the third is the support to the whole-of-government and international responses for COVID-19.
  • There are over 20,000 National Guardsmen deployed in 52 states and territories providing COVID support.  DOD has military medical personnel on prepare-to-deploy orders, available to support state and local requests for assistance that come through FEMA and HHS within as early as 48 hours upon request.
  • Current support includes 62 medical personnel, that’s three medical support teams to support three hospitals in El Paso, Texas; 60 nurses and additional personnel to support local hospitals and long-term care facilities in North Dakota; and in Guam, we have 18 medical professionals for 24/7 telemedicine support for the civilian hospital on the island.  We also have a small critical care physician team being sent to a local hospital in Guam.
  • There’s been a significant transfer of personal protection equipment.  Since the spring of 2020, DOD transferred 20 million N95 masks, approximately over 7 million COVID test swabs, and almost a thousand ventilators to federal departments and agencies for COVID support.  On the research and development front, the department has spent almost $1.5 billion for COVID-19 research and development in F.Y. ’20.
  • Still at phase two of our Pentagon Plan for Resilience, so we’re not closing more portions of the Pentagon.  We are, however, particularly due to the holiday season, adjusting our workforce in the building, moving from a goal of 80% of the building, 20% telework, moving to a goal now of 40% to the building, 60% telework.  But we’ve been achieving about a 50-50 mix, really, since about the last several months, with about 50% of the workforce in the building.
  • Continued to execute tests above the department’s original estimates of 50- to 60,000 tests per week.  We’re now conducting over 70,000 tests each week and have — and have been for the past five weeks.
  • Department testing capacity has continued to expand greatly since the July update.  At that time, there were 125 department labs certified for COVID-19 testing around the globe with the capability to conduct about over 200,000 tests.  As of last week, we have 158 operational laboratories with the overall capacity to conduct nearly 300,000 tests per week.

Air Force retention up due to COVID.  More people are opting to stay in the Air Force than at nearly any other time in the past 20 years, choosing to stay put amid pandemic-era economic uncertainty. The Air Force wanted to grow by 900 Active-duty members to 333,700 Airmen in fiscal 2021. But by October 2020, the service had already hit the workforce goal it set for September 2021. The Active-duty force now sits at around 334,600 people, according to Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. Retention levels in nearly all career fields are “extraordinary” right now, he said. In the past two decades, the only time retention outpaced the current rate was after the 9/11 terror attacks, according to the Air Force.  Some of that probably reflects the economic challenges and things associated with COVID,” Kelly told reporters Dec. 1.

Bath & Body Works opens at Joint Base Lewis McChord.  The Lewis store is the first Army & Air Force Exchange Service Bath & Body Works location and sells soaps, candles, fragrances and gifts.“We’re excited to welcome Bath & Body Works to the Exchange family,” said Joint Base Lewis-McChord Exchange General Manager Michael Einer. “This gives our service members, retirees and family members more shopping options—and just in time for the holidays.”
The 1,130-square-foot Bath & Body Works is the latest store to open at the new Lewis Exchange shopping center. The Department of Defense retailer cut the ribbon on its first Petco location this month, and a Military Clothing Store, optical center, eyebrow threading studio, beauty salon, Starbucks, GameStop and GNC have opened in 2020. A base pharmacy, UPS, Patriot Tactical and several restaurants are expected to open in the coming months. The entire project will be completed in 2021 and will total about $70 million, $68 million of which was funded by the Exchange. (The $2 million from the services support the Military Clothing Store and the base pharmacy.)

A 14,000-member family.  “A job with NEXCOM is like being part of a family 14,000 deep that stretches all over the world,” said Tonia Morgan, director of Talent Acquisition for NEXCOM. “We pride ourselves on our mission to serve those who wear the uniform, committed to the quality-of-life benefit, and have a culture of inclusivity with a genuine interest to cultivate creativity.”  NEXCOM comprises six different business lines and personnel include civilians, military spouses, Veterans, reservists, retirees and active-duty Navy. Around half of all NEXCOM associates have some type of military affiliation, and most military spouses who are employed with NEXCOM have the ability to maintain their position at the next duty station. In fact, NEXCOM is a founding member of the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP). MSEP helps connects military spouses with hundreds of partner employers who have committed to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses.

Just give me a minute.  How would you like to make $150,000 a second?  Working with the increase in Bezos’s net worth, you can calculate what he makes per second this year. Bezos has added $67.4 billion to his net worth so far in 2020 as of Aug. 12 or over a span of roughly seven and a half months. He is making about $8.99 billion a month or $2.25 billion per week this year. Breaking the amount down more, Bezos is making about $321 million a day, $13.4 million an hour, $222,884 a minute, and $3,715 a second this year. The largest single day increase in Bezos net worth was achieved on July 20, 2020. He made $542 million per hour, $9.0 million per minute, and $150,463 per second that day.

Two base operations awards to KBR.  Kellogg Brown and Root Services Inc. got two contracts to operate at U.S. bases.  A near $20 million contact for support at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Redzikowo, Poland to provide labor, supervision, management, tools, materials, equipment, facilities, transportation, incidental engineering and other items necessary to provide the base operating support services.  KBR also got a $168 million contract to provide base operations services at Naval Support Activity (NSA), Kingdom of Bahrain to provide management, supervision, tools, materials, supplies, labor and transportation services necessary to perform security operations, galley services, unaccompanied housing, facility management, emergency service requests, urgent service, routing service, facilities investment, custodial, pest control service, integrated solid waste, grounds maintenance, utility management, wastewater, operate reverse osmosis water treatment system, and chiller and transportation.

How US Military Invented America’s Favorite Snacks.   From instant coffee to Cheetos, packaged cookies and energy bars, the U.S. military helped invent many of the snacks Americans love to eat.    The effort accelerated during World War II, when military scientists needed to develop compact yet nutritional ways to feed the troops.   “There was a tremendous need for the military to develop modern rations, and it ended up not only inventing a bunch of new food processing techniques but putting in place a food science research system that exists to this day,” says food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat”. “Out of that came a lot of new techniques and food, and after the war, those were incorporated into snack and convenience foods.” Those new techniques include high pressure processing, which makes uncooked food safe to eat. The process is routinely used in packaged foods like guacamole, salsa and hummus. Cheetos, one of America’s favorite cheesy, crunchy snacks, are made possible by the dehydration process the military worked on to remove the water from cheese. That gave cheese both a longer shelf life and made it lighter to transport to troops overseas.

Freeze dehydration, a process developed to preserve battlefield blood products so that medics could treat soldiers in the field, also made its way into the food chain.  “After the war ended, there was a little freeze-dehydration industry, but they no longer had a purpose and so the military took a look at that and decided to take the capability to develop food products,” Marx de Salcedo says. “So, of course, you have the beverages, you have freeze-dried coffee, tea, soups.” When NASA astronauts balked at the taste of freeze-dried foods — cubes that were the precursor to the modern energy bar — the military searched for a way to make rations more palatable.

Energy bars are a snack food that resulted from a long period of development to produce a small and nutritionally dense emergency ration. Military scientists discovered that pet food companies were working on a way to make the water level low enough to prevent bacteria and fungi from being produced, making the food safe.

“Once they figured that out, they were able to keep foods moist and chewy at room temperature and with regular packaging,” Marx de Salcedo says. “And in fact, that tactic is not only used in energy bars, it’s used in the bakery aisle. If you go into a grocery store, and you see moist and chewy cookies, those are all that same technique that comes out of the military research.”

The military also adopted a candy-coated chocolate snack found in Europe that service members could carry around in their pockets without the chocolate immediately melting. That’s how M&M candies were born. Today, some of the biggest military contractors continue to search for the perfect meltless chocolate that will be able to withstand extreme temperatures.

The Army hopes vacuum-microwave drying technology will allow them to put fruit and vegetables into rations. The vacuumed microwaved banana is about a third of its original size while still being springy and pliable. (Courtesy: US Army) The next known frontier in military food science has arrived in the form of mini-food that is shrunk to one-third of the normal size, resulting in foods that are small but still dense.  “They use microwave vacuum dehydration to reduce the water content of foods and what essentially that does is it miniaturizes the food so you get these little tiny carrots, but you can have a fresh carrot,” Marx de Salcedo says. “It still has the same amount of calories even though it’s small.”

Neighborhood grocery stores are aiming to become major providers of Covid-19 vaccinations.  Supermarkets are rushing to secure freezers, thermometers and other medical gear for administering shots. They are training staff and establishing online services for scheduling appointments. With a vaccine approval potentially weeks away, it isn’t yet known how federal and state authorities will distribute shots to the public, and grocers say they are unsure how many customers will seek immunization when it becomes available. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has signed on dozens of grocery and pharmacy chains to provide Covid-19 vaccines once the inoculations are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Among the re- tailers are Kroger Co., Albertsons Cos. and CVS Health Corp. These businesses are part of “Operation Warp Speed,” which also includes drugmakers, medical distributors and federal agencies. Grocers have emerged as providers of Covid-19 testing for employees and consumers during the pandemic. Many supermarkets have offered customers flu shots for years, but vaccine distribution will require more coordination with state and federal agencies. In addition to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide distribution, states will receive their own allocation of doses. Many of these details are still being ironed out.  K-VA-T Food Stores Inc., one of the grocers working with the government, began preparing for distribution about three months ago when pharmaceutical companies said work on Covid-19 vaccines was showing promising results. The company, which operates as Food City and runs more than 100 pharmacies in the Southern U.S., has purchased 30 medical-grade freezers for $500 each to store vaccines, said Mickey Blazer, executive vice president of pharmacy and fuel operations at the grocer. The supermarket chain also bought devices that monitor freezer temperatures, as well as dozens of containers that can store used syringes.

“We are communicating with states virtually on a daily basis,” Mr. Blazer said.

Food City and other pharmacies said they will receive doses directly from the CDC and will provide them at no cost for customers. The shots will be paid for with tax dollars, and pharmacies and grocers can charge fees for administering vaccines to private or public insurers, according to the CDC. The federal government is planning to pay for inoculations for uninsured people.  The first phase of distribution will likely focus on health-care professionals, essential workers and people with medical conditions that put them at special risk. Most grocery pharmacies are expected to step in after those shots are given, to administer vaccines to a wider group. Next month, a federal panel expects to decide which Americans should get priority for shots.  Grocers say they are well-positioned to provide Covid-19 vaccines because a large share of the population lives near one of their stores and their pharmacies regularly offer shots for flu, shingles and other illnesses. For supermarkets, pharmacy operations have historically been a way to bring in more shoppers. Many already have freezers and other tools in stores, as well as pharmacists trained to perform immunizations.

Albertsons, which owns Jewel-Osco and Vons, said it is coordinating with government agencies across the country and building cold-storage capacity for vaccines.  Though the CDC sees fewer cases of flu this year so far, more consumers have opted to get a flu shot, industry executives said. That demand is helping food retailers better prepare for various scenarios with Covid-19 vaccines.   “We have long aisles and lots of space that give us the ability to space people out,” said John McGrath, vice president of pharmacy services at Retail Business Services LLC, the services business of Ahold Delhaize.Ahold Delhaize and other supermarkets say they are looking to hire more employees, particularly pharmacist technicians who were cleared in October by HHS to administer Covid-19 vaccines authorized or licensed by the FDA. Pharmacist interns under the supervision of pharmacists can also give out Covid-19 vaccines.  Other retailers are training existing staff. SpartanNash Co. is training some pharmacy technicians but doesn’t know how many it should instruct since it hasn’t yet learned when and how many vaccines it might receive, said Eddie Garcia, director of pharmacy at the company. “Right now, it’s a wait-and-see game,” he said.  Many retailers are unsure how many consumers will opt to get vaccines once available. Some people might have reservations about getting the immunization right away partly because they believe the side effects are unknown, said Cindy Fong, director of pharmacy at Inc., a chain of roughly 130 stores in California and Nevada. Internally, roughly half of her staff said they would get the vaccine after it is approved.

Retail foot traffic cut in half.  U.S. shoppers went online to purchase holiday gifts and score Black Friday deals they once crowded into malls to grab, as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the years long remaking of the U.S. retail landscape.  Roughly half as many people visited stores on Black Friday as they did last year, according to research firms that track foot traffic. Meanwhile, online spending jumped 22% from a year ago, making it the second-best online shopping day ever measured by Adobe Analytics.   Sales hit $9 billion, up 22% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures 80 of the top 100 U.S. e-commerce sites. The gain was near the low end of Adobe’s forecast, which had projected growth of between 20% and 42% from last year. It was the second biggest online-sales day, after Cyber Monday 2019 when sales hit $9.4 billion, according to Adobe. The firm expects this Monday to set a new record, with online sales of at least $10.8 billion or growth of at least 15% from last year. Meanwhile, foot traffic to stores on Black Friday fell 48% this year from last year, said RetailNext, which provides cameras, software and analytics to thousands of U.S. stores and shopping centers. Sensormatic Solutions, another tracking firm with cameras in stores, said in-store traffic fell 52% on Black Friday compared with last year. Both companies said their data showed spending outpaced foot traffic because shoppers purchased at the stores they did visit. “Customers, if they chose to shop in stores, they chose to be a little more thoughtful about where they wanted to shop,” said Brian Field, a senior director at Sensormatic.  Spending at physical stores fell about 30% on Black Friday, estimates RetailNext, with apparel, footwear and jewelry all down more than 50%. In-store spending fell the most in the Northeast, down 52%, and least in the South, which fell 42%.

Commissary operations at State Department under stress.  A column by a State Department Foreign Service Officer gave a peek into a little-known government entity that operates stores and food service operations at diplomatic posts around the globe.  State Department commissaries around the world provide access to goods, and sometimes services, that are difficult or impossible to obtain at post—USPS stamps, Halloween candy, peanut butter, Comet cleanser, and the like.

State Department Foreign Service Officer Llewellyn Grame wrote: “The commissaries are operated by employee associations, volunteer groups of employees who come together to improve morale and provide whatever the membership needs or wants. Some associations have rental cars, others a gym or apartments for rent; some manage onsite cafeterias or gyms at the embassy or consulate. Associations can be a powerful tool to improve life overseas.

The store in Copenhagen had to close recently.  A State Department employee wrote an article lamenting the closure.  He said that as president of the 70-member American Embassy Employee Association (AEEA) I have had the painful responsibility of closing our commissary. We were losing money every month, and if it had continued, we would have lost the entire association and, with it, our reasonably priced cafeteria option. Given that the nearest restaurant sells $24 hamburgers, we need the cafeteria for reasons of morale.

Why are commissaries, and the employee associations that run them, under pressure? Is their eventual extinction inevitable? Here are some insights and suggestions based on our experience in Denmark. While it is, of course, unique to our time and place, I want to share this with the Foreign Service community as a cautionary tale.

Though we were unable to salvage the commissary, we were able to maintain our employee association, with a positive cash flow. Admittedly, it is only hundreds of dollars a year, but at least we are no longer losing thousands a month. And, had we acted sooner, we might be in an even better position today.

He cited four reasons for the demise:

  1. Changes in the Danish Economy.In the 1990s American food was rarely available in Denmark except in extremely pricey specialty stores. But starting about 2010, the larger grocery stores added specialty aisles: “Asian food,” “Mexican food” and even “American food.” Of course, much of what we consider American is found in the other aisles: tortillas and salsa in the Mexican, soy and sweet and sour in the Asian, and so on.

Further, because Denmark’s economy is only now climbing out of the 2008 Great Recession, meat prices in stores are comparable to those in the United States (though restaurant prices remain very high).

  1. Diplomatic Post Office.The DPO was started in 2003 and has rapidly spread throughout the world. DPO costs are lower for the department than the Diplomatic Pouch, and you can send liquids and small knives and can easily return items (among many other advantages for employees).

Where once you had to carefully husband your small stock of dark molasses, you can now get it shipped to you from the United States any time you want! The ease and speed of using DPO cannot be overstated. Since the service began, I have seen 50-pound bags of dog food and cases of toilet paper and paper towels—all items people used to need to get from the commissary—come through on a weekly basis.

  1. Frozen Out.Our commissary provided some things that could not be handled through the DPO, primarily frozen and chilled items (as well as the small number of things that are banned in the mailroom). At first, we thought we could make enough money on holiday turkeys and hams, along with frozen bagels (it’s still hard to get blueberry bagels here), burritos and really good Marie Callender’s chicken pot pies.

But these turned out to be the things we lost the most money on. Our commissary ordered from Ramstein Air Base (great people, and not at all responsible for our troubles), who marked up about 20 percent to cover their costs. The real kicker, however, was that the chiller unit on the truck added thousands of dollars to the cost to get the food from Ramstein to Denmark.

That, on top of our operating costs, meant that the markup went as high as 50 to 60 percent. If we had had a larger operation, the cost of the truck would be spread over a larger order, lowering the cost per item; but we are a medium-sized embassy. The reality is that it was just not possible to get a shipment of frozen items at a price people were willing to pay.

  1. Amazon Prime.Though it is a little unfair to single out Amazon as the final, and most relevant, reason our commissary collapsed, it has had a much larger impact than Walmart, Costco or Target. Just as Amazon has contributed to the loss of many small-town stores, I believe it was instrumental in the closure of our small-town commissary.

As a result of these factors, we were forced to cease commissary operations. At my last two posts, neither of which had a commissary, fellow board members and I struggled to maintain an active employee association.

Amazon logistics empire.  When the economy sputtered with the coronavirus pandemic’s spread this spring, unemployment surged as employers laid off workers by the thousands. Amazon took a different tack, hiring 400,000 workers to stow, sort, pick, pack and deliver goods from its warehouses across the country, and pushing its total employee count over 1.1 million people. It didn’t stop there, according ot the Wall Street Journal.  The e-commerce giant leased 12 Boeing 767-300 cargo aircraft, bringing its air fleet above 80 jets. It has added 220 package facilities since the start of the year, ranging from urban delivery stations to giant warehouses, according to an industry consultant.  Amazon used the crisis, when prices on things from commercial real estate to cargo jets plummeted, to amass an empire beginning to rival the U.S. operations of United Parcel Service and FedEx, long the most dominant logistics companies, which helped Amazon get its start. But its ambition reaches well beyond delivering parcels to its own customers, according to former Amazon executives. The company is building a logistics system to one day deliver packages for customers to compete directly against UPS and FedEx, something it’s already doing in the United Kingdom.  “They are building the world’s biggest package-delivery company,” said David Glick, a former Amazon logistics executive who serves as chief technology officer at Flexe, which helps retailers’ warehouse and deliver goods. “If you believe the carrier network is tapped out today, and it is, there is no other option.”

Amazon’s push into logistics echoes past moves into markets where longtime partners operate. The company has a long record of leveraging its dominance in one market, and the data it gleans from that hegemony, to dive into another. A House subcommittee that last month accused Amazon, along with Apple, Google and Facebook, of engaging in anticompetitive conduct found that the e-commerce giant “routinely appropriates seller data to benefit its own private-label and retail businesses,” a charge Amazon denies.

In the case of its newer transportation business, Amazon has long studied the shipping routes of its partners, digging into the economics of population density of urban markets, said a former Amazon executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The more dense a region’s population, the more lucrative the route is for partners like UPS. Drivers can deliver more packages in a shorter period and keep costs such as fuel consumption down. It’s why Amazon has left many of its costlier rural deliveries to other partners, primarily the Postal Service.

UPS often shared proprietary routing data with Amazon executives and gave them tours of its operations to sell them on its business, according to a former executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to speak on the matter. As Amazon’s shipping aspirations became clearer, UPS shared less. But then Amazon hired dozens of logistics executives to help it map out its own delivery strategy.  The key is managing the costs in the most expensive part of a parcel’s trip to customers, the “last mile.” Learning from its shipping partners, as well as its own shipping operations, Amazon squeezes costs by focusing on high-density markets and dotting urban markets with delivery stations that allow it to reduce its reliance on other shipping companies. This month alone, Amazon announced plans to open delivery stations near Atlanta, Colorado Springs and Syracuse, N.Y.  “I say they are building their own UPS because it’s not far from the truth,” Wulfraat said.

UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross called the carrier’s relationship with Amazon “mutually beneficial,” noting that other large customers  handle pieces of their transportation business.  “We are confident in our ability to compete and will continue to focus on opportunities that generate good financial returns,” Ross said in an emailed statement.

U.S. Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer declined to specifically address the Amazon threat but said generally that the agency competes by “providing reliable service at a competitive price.”

The company now says it has 1,700 delivery-service partners in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany. In total, more than 400,000 drivers deliver goods for Amazon, all of them either self-employed or working for other companies.  The company has moved quickly into airfreight, too. By 2016, Amazon had leased 40 jets to move its freight across the country. That same year, Amazon began tinkering with the prospect of taking on UPS and FedEx and began a pilot project in Los Angeles to soak up capacity in its shipping operations in off-peak times, a program it has since paused.

The company has created its own same-day services, offering Prime Now deliveries in many urban areas and grocery delivery from its Whole Foods Market.

In June, Amazon placed an order with Rivian, a Detroit startup that’s building electric vehicles, to build 100,000 delivery vans starting next year. That will more than double the roughly 75,000 vehicles in Amazon’s delivery fleet, according to MWPVL estimates. (In January, UPS agreed to purchase 10,000 electric vehicles from London-based start-up Arrival.) And Amazon also agreed to buy the self-driving technology firm Zoox, expanding its portfolio of technologies to automate the delivery of packages.

The company is making those moves to dial back its dependence on traditional carriers. It’s a stark difference from Amazon’s earliest days, when it relied on UPS to help it roll out its Prime membership business that promised to deliver packages in two days to customers who paid in advance for the service. UPS handled nearly two-thirds of all Amazon U.S. deliveries in 2015, according to estimates from investment bank Cowen.

Amazon also has reduced its reliance on the U.S. Postal Service. To offer package deliveries on Sundays, Amazon turned to the Postal Service in 2013, which agreed for the first time to deliver packages at regular rates on Sundays. Amazon still counts on that service from the post office, as well as deliveries to costly rural routes, though the agency has seen its share of deliveries slide, too.

Amazon executives recently pushed their counterparts at the Postal Service for clarity on rate increases that President Trump demanded, according to internal Postal Service documents obtained by The Washington Post from American Oversight, a watchdog group that requested the records under federal open records law. Postal Service executives fretted over Amazon taking business away if the rate increases were passed.

The logistics buildup, and Amazon’s changing relationships with carriers, has led to Amazon handling the shipping of two thirds of its package deliveries in the United States by the end of this year, according to MWPVL.

“That 67 percent is going to go north to 85 percent” in 12 to 18 months, Wulfraat said.

Compare that with 2015, when UPS, the Postal Services and FedEx delivered more than 97 percent of Amazon’s packages in the United States, according to estimates from Cowen.

The number of warehouses, sorting centers and distribution facilities Amazon owns or leases in the United States grew 46 percent by October, to 697 facilities, says MWPVL, which tracks Amazon’s footprint. At the end of last year, UPS owned or leased more than 1,000 U.S. logistics facilities, with roughly 80 million square feet of space, the company disclosed in its annual regulatory filing.

Olsavsky said during the earnings call that Amazon’s overall square footage will climb about 50 percent by the end of the year, and half of that will be in the company’s transportation facilities.

One of Amazon’s new facilities is a candy factory in the beachside Boston suburb of Revere, Mass., that sat idle for nearly two years, after the 170-year-old New England Confectionery Co. shut down its Necco Wafers plant. In July, Amazon transformed it into an 800,000-square-foot distribution center.

That facility, and massive distribution centers near Denver and Chicago that also opened in July, reduce the time it takes Amazon to get packages to customers in those regions.

It’s not just space that Amazon has amassed this year. The 400,000 jobs it has added since the pandemic started, all of them permanent, some of them part time, are part of the surge in front-line staff that has also led retail rivals such as Walmart, Target and CVS Health to add tens of thousands of workers to their payrolls this year.

At Amazon, those workers unload products from manufacturers and third-party sellers, stock them in the shelves of their massive warehouses and pick the goods from those shelves to pack orders from customers. Its giant warehouses often are near airports, and sometimes close to other logistics hubs run by such carriers as UPS.

The hiring binge at Amazon, where the starting warehouse wage is $15 an hour, has fueled a jump in pay across the industry, said Brian Devine, a senior vice president at Prologistix, a warehouse staffing firm that competes with the e-commerce giant to  hire workers. Prologistix’s average wage is $15.68 an hour, up from $14.02 a year ago, Devine said.

Amazon’s spending on workers, vehicles and warehouse buildings will give it an advantage this holiday season over competitors that will be relying on shipping companies that are already stretched thin.

Shipping capacity among the major carriers for this holiday season is largely tapped out by now, said Carson Krieg, co-founder of Convey, which provides digital technology to retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot to help them select the best shipping options. FedEx and UPS are adding surcharges for business shippers during the holiday surge.

Many of Convey’s customers are turning to regional carriers, including Lasership or Ontrac, and finding that even those options are limited.

The capacity constraints from carriers are likely to lead online retailers to move deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery earlier in December than they have in previous years to prevent customers from being disappointed. Amazon’s network may allow it to ship later in the month, as well as deliver last minute with its two-hour Prime Now delivery network in major markets.

Amazon’s burgeoning logistics operations may lead to the company competing directly with UPS and FedEx, shipping packages for customers beyond its third-party sellers. It has debuted Amazon Shipping in the United Kingdom to deliver items for e-commerce customers there.

The primary impediment to doing that right now: Amazon’s retail growth. The company’s retail operations, with its products as well as third-party merchant sales, will continue to soak up the shipping capacity it creates with its own logistics operations, especially during the pandemic.

“There has always been an eye toward” building a carrier that could handle shipping for business customers, said the former Amazon executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “But with covid, they have enough growth.”

How US Military Invented America’s Favorite Snacks.   From instant coffee to Cheetos, packaged cookies and energy bars, the U.S. military helped invent many of the snacks Americans love to eat.    The effort accelerated during World War II, when military scientists needed to develop compact yet nutritional ways to feed the troops.   “There was a tremendous need for the military to develop modern rations, and it ended up not only inventing a bunch of new food processing techniques but putting in place a food science research system that exists to this day,” says food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat”. “Out of that came a lot of new techniques and food, and after the war, those were incorporated into snack and convenience foods.” Those new techniques include high pressure processing, which makes uncooked food safe to eat. The process is routinely used in packaged foods like guacamole, salsa and hummus. Cheetos, one of America’s favorite cheesy, crunchy snacks, are made possible by the dehydration process the military worked on to remove the water from cheese. That gave cheese both a longer shelf life and made it lighter to transport to troops overseas.

Freeze dehydration, a process developed to preserve battlefield blood products so that medics could treat soldiers in the field, also made its way into the food chain.  “After the war ended, there was a little freeze-dehydration industry, but they no longer had a purpose and so the military took a look at that and decided to take the capability to develop food products,” Marx de Salcedo says. “So, of course, you have the beverages, you have freeze-dried coffee, tea, soups.” When NASA astronauts balked at the taste of freeze-dried foods — cubes that were the precursor to the modern energy bar — the military searched for a way to make rations more palatable.

Energy bars are a snack food that resulted from a long period of development to produce a small and nutritionally dense emergency ration. Military scientists discovered that pet food companies were working on a way to make the water level low enough to prevent bacteria and fungi from being produced, making the food safe.

“Once they figured that out, they were able to keep foods moist and chewy at room temperature and with regular packaging,” Marx de Salcedo says. “And in fact, that tactic is not only used in energy bars, it’s used in the bakery aisle. If you go into a grocery store, and you see moist and chewy cookies, those are all that same technique that comes out of the military research.”

The military also adopted a candy-coated chocolate snack found in Europe that service members could carry around in their pockets without the chocolate immediately melting. That’s how M&M candies were born. Today, some of the biggest military contractors continue to search for the perfect meltless chocolate that will be able to withstand extreme temperatures.

The Army hopes vacuum-microwave drying technology will allow them to put fruit and vegetables into rations. The vacuumed microwaved banana is about a third of its original size while still being springy and pliable. (Courtesy: US Army) The next known frontier in military food science has arrived in the form of mini-food that is shrunk to one-third of the normal size, resulting in foods that are small but still dense.  “They use microwave vacuum dehydration to reduce the water content of foods and what essentially that does is it miniaturizes the food so you get these little tiny carrots, but you can have a fresh carrot,” Marx de Salcedo says. “It still has the same amount of calories even though it’s small.”

Best regards,

Stephen Rossetti

President

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