From the desk of the ALA President

Resale Resurgence is the theme for this year’s ALA virtual annual convention to be held October 20 and 22.  Because of the rapid moving parts of the resale program, the agenda for the event is being assembled in real-time and will highlight all of the great efforts of commissaries and exchanges to weather the pandemic and boost business both during and after COVID.  Resale resurgence is real: There has been a surging emphasis on building sales at DeCA with DeCA leaders and business managers revitalizing the partnership with industry to get patrons back to the stores, boosted by increased activity of ALA’s commissary and exchange councils.  Exchanges are powering up their promotional programs as well.  The conference builds on joint business planning sessions already held by ALA and DeCA and other business building cooperative ventures between ALA and the exchanges.  And, as mentioned below, Congress and the Administration and Defense leadership are stepping forward, recognizing the contributions that these programs make and putting their shoulder to the wheel as well.  We’ll be discussing what is happening with business both inside and outside the gate both in the pandemic and post pandemic world.  Speakers are being confirmed but include leaders from the resale programs, DoD and the Administration, industry experts, base access experts, media and family advocacy leaders.  Registration details have been distributed.    An ALA membership business meeting will be held on October 19.  Contact Bob Ellis at bellis@ala-national.org .

Happy New (fiscal) Year…Continuing Resolution fund Government until at least December 11.  Commissary and exchange business will continue uninterrupted at least for a couple of months as the Senate passed and the president signed on October 1 a bill to keep the Federal Government open until at least December 11.  Appropriations for the Government expired on September 30 and unless the Congress acted, the Government would have had to shut down.  This didn’t happen.  This means that DeCA will be funded at last (fiscal) year’s levels plus another $34 million that was appropriated to DeCA in the first pandemic stimulus bill that passed earlier this year.  Exchanges get funding for transportation of products overseas and these funds will also continue to flow under the Continuing Resolution.  Exchanges and other NAF programs of the DoD are getting appropriations to cope with the pandemic, but these funds are being provided by the Services and DoD from money Congress allocated in the first pandemic stimulus bill, a move supported by ALA and endorsed by Congress.  $300 million was provided for the first two months of the pandemic and more funding from the first stimulus bill is in the pipeline.  Because funds were directly appropriated to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, they have to be “reprogrammed” to be provided to offset pandemic costs by the exchanges.  So far, the Navy and Marine Corps leadership have done with Army and Air Force funding reportedly beginning to flow.

$140 million provided to offset VCS losses.  The Continuing Resolution contained a major lifeline–supported by ALA–for the hard-pressed Veterans Canteen Service by providing $140 million to underwrite VCS operations and offset pandemic costs.  VCS has been struggling after the pandemic reduced patient and visitor flow to the VA hospitals around the Nation.  Ray Tober, head of the VCS will speak at the ALA’s Annual Conference and discuss their pandemic experience and the noble efforts of the VCS leadership and workforce to continue the great work of this organization.

House-passed bill includes $1.4 billion for exchanges and other Defense NAF programs. In a remarkable and welcome move, one that is endorsed by ALA, the House passed a massive pandemic stimulus bill called “Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for the Fiscal Year Ending 2021 and for other Purposes.” that includes $1.4 billion for helping exchanges and other NAF programs of the DoD to cope with the pandemic.  A press release from the House appropriators said:

$1.4 billion for salaries and other needs of over 55,000 base employees of childcare centers, lodges, food operations, exchanges and other recreational activities that are normally paid by revenue.” The legislators have asked the DOD for a plan how they to allocate the funding.

It’s far from a done deal.  Agreement by the Senate and enactment of the House bill is uncertain as negotiations between the White House and the Senate continue.  Regardless of how the bill progresses, it represents a clear and unequivocal statement by the Congress of the critical contribution that these programs provide to the National defense mission.

Here’s the paraphrased House legislative language providing the funding: SEC. 301. For an additional amount for ‘‘Operation 12  and Maintenance, Army’’, $400,000,000, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally: Provided, That such amount shall be used for necessary expenses, including salaries, cleaning, utilities and personal protective equipment, for recreational entities, childcare development centers and other entities affected by the coronavirus that derive funding from non-appropriated accounts: Provided, That prior to the obligation of such funds the Secretary of the Army shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate a spend plan on the use of funds made available by this section: Provided further, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985  The $1.4 billion breaks down like this: Army, $400 million; Navy, $400 million; Air Force, $500 million; Marine Corps, $100 million.  Besides the $1.4 billion for NAF programs, the DoD got $320 million in the bill for their operating accounts. 

Better together.  Congratulations to NEX and MCX on their new joint e-commerce website designed to bring both Navy and Marine Corps customers a world-class online shopping experience. The new co-branded site will officially launch with a combined marketing campaign called #BetterTogether. This campaign will kick off on the Navy’s birthday, Oct. 13, and run through the Marine Corps’ birthday on Nov. 10. This campaign includes a virtual concert series, virtual 5k and a kids’ baking competition, as well as a joint Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society fundraising effort. In-store signage will also announce the collaboration in both NEX and MCX locations starting Oct. 1.   October 1 marked the launch of the Navy Exchange (NEX) and Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) online retail and uniform stores transition to a new unified online e-commerce portal at myNavyExchange.com.

As part of the collaboration, myNavyExchange.com will undergo a design change to reflect the new co-branding, as well as add a new wealth of product assortments and an expansion in several areas including: Tactical gear, male and female Marine uniform assortments, sports nutrition, and  Marine Pride merchandise.

“We have always embraced the time-honored bond between the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, and we believe this joint partnership will forge a stronger, higher-quality experience for our online customers,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, CEO, Navy Exchange Service Command. “The decision to partner under one website will create better alignment and additional resources for our joint patrons.”  “The U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy are a combined force when serving our country, and we are thrilled to bring that spirit of partnership and collaboration to this strategic alliance,” said Cindy Whitman Lacy, CEO, Marine Corps Business and Support Services Division. “We are especially thrilled to be adding the option of order online and pick up at your MCX as an added convenience for our Marines and their families.”

All authorized customers who currently shop on the myNavyExchange.com site will be able to access the redesigned site using their existing accounts. MCX customers will need to setup a new account on the myNavyExchange.com site if one is not already established. Additionally, while both organizations will continue to promote the #BetterTogether initiative, MCX and NEX will still continue independent marketing and social media channels.

Best regards,

Stephen Rossetti

President

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