President’s Message/Washington Update 2/26

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February 26, 2021



From the desk of the ALA President

CBS News report:
Families helping to defend America in a bruising battle against hunger. In the first of a two-part series, military food crisis hits the national news citing a report of 40% of military families have problems with putting food on their table. A February 24 CBS Evening News segment “On the front line of a food crisis” featured military families and cited the case of an E-3’s family at Fort Lewis/McChord making $2300 a month. The report said that the local food bank serves 1,500 military families a month and experienced a 22% spike since pandemic began. Lieut. Col. JP Smith a Fort Lewis Chaplain said: “Take a spouse that is normally working unable to find work and lose that second income — that’s a blow on anybody.” The report said that when the family was transferred to Fort Lewi, their income plunged by half. Military spouse employment 22% to 35% according to the report. In San Diego, YMCA food assistance to military surged 500 percent during the pandemic. The Military Family Advisory Network has been tracking food insecurity and hunger in the military community since 2017. MFAN research “consistently shows that military families have been struggling, but we also know that they have been doing so quietly. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in eight of our national survey respondents was food insecure, and there are pockets of the country, like Washington State, where that number rose to one in five.” The second part of the series will air February 25 on Pentagon efforts to solve the problem. However, the first report in the series made no mention of any of the policies and programs instituted by the federal government and military resale to not only feed those military members in need but to also fill another major need that has arisen during the pandemic: putting military spouses to work after they have lost their jobs due to relocations. “We’re going to turn now to a shocking story … a largely unknown consequence of the pandemic … nearly 40% of military families have had trouble putting food on the table, and many are forced to turn to food banks,” said CBS Evening News Anchor Norah O’Donnell. Reporter Mark Strassmann spoke to an Army family that was down to its last $6, trying to survive with two kids on one salary: the $2,300 that the husband, an E-3 private, earns at his duty station at JB Lewis-McChord, Washington. The wife had worked, but lost her job when her husband was transferred to JBLM in 2020. She has been unable to find …





Winter storms close some commissaries, affect deliveries
Military Times
Like many civilian grocery stores, some commissaries have been closed because of the severe winter weather in various parts of the country, and customers are seeing some shortages on the shelves because of delayed deliveries to many commissaries.



Military bases in southern portions of US assess damage caused by winter storm
Stars & Stripes
As service members returned to work Monday at bases across portions of the south, officials are determining the full effects of last week’s winter storm.



Bisek & Company, Inc. Military Resale Distributing Agent and Broker
Understands how important the benefit of the Commissary and Exchange is to the active duty and retired military service personnel. We will work with a manufacturer to bring their variety of products to this unique market. Bisek & Company’s sales team is dedicated to doing what it takes to keep those special shoppers coming back to the Commissaries and Exchanges. Contact Bisek & Company so we may help you better understand what it takes to succeed in expanding your role in this very special benefit. Contact Brooks Wotring ( or Laurie Cust (



Military families on advisory boards would be a force multiplier for DoD policies
Military Times
When the public thinks of the military, they likely think of uniformed troops smartly marching or valiantly fighting.



Lack of Pentagon nominees could be harbinger of slow process
Defense News
A month after the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, nominations for dozens of top Pentagon jobs have yet to be announced — and it may be quite some time before those roles are filled with confirmed individuals.



DoD budget ‘bloodletting’ inches closer to reality
Breaking Defense
The head of the House Armed Services influential seapower subcommittee just stepped closer to the position of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that the Navy might be in line for a funding boost — and other services will have to pay the bill.



This week in Congress: Pandemic response remains lawmakers’ top focus
Military Times
House lawmakers expect to approve the latest coronavirus relief bill by the end of this week, with a goal of Congress finalizing the bill’s $1.9 trillion in spending — including a significant amount of supplemental funding on veterans programs — by the middle of March.



Pentagon spending may escape deep budget cuts, key senator says
The high price tag of taming the coronavirus pandemic and pressure from some Democrats to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget probably won’t force arbitrary national security budget cuts, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s new chairman said.



New Hicks memo sets acquisition, force posture 2022 budget priorities
Breaking Defense
The Pentagon will focus on shipbuilding, low-yield nuclear weapons, Central Command funding and force posture and building capacity in the Pacific as it rushes to write its 2022 budget, a memo obtained by Breaking Defense says.



Here’s some tax prep advice for military members, including COVID quirks
Military Times
While 2020 may be behind us in some ways, there’s still the matter of filing those 2020 tax returns, and there are, of course, some COVID twists to taxes.





Winter storm temporarily closes hundreds of Walmart stores and Amazon facilities, snarling delivery
Walmart said 456 stores and clubs are closed. Other retailers, including Kroger and Target, have been impacted as well. The severe weather has disrupted service at FedEx’s hub in Memphis and caused package delays across the U.S., the company said.



Target offering paid time off for COVID-19 vaccine
Star Tribune
Target will offer its employees free transportation and pay for the time taken to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and Target-owned grocery-delivery service Shipt will also offer stipends to its contract workers. All Target hourly employees who choose to get vaccinated will get up to four hours of pay — two hours for each dose — when they receive their vaccines, the Minneapolis retailer announced.



Best Buy cutting store worker jobs, hours as digital shift continues
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
Best Buy Co. Inc. successfully moved much of its business online last year as Covid-19 sharply reduced in-store traffic. Now the retailer is reportedly cutting back on store personnel, signaling that the trend may outlast the pandemic.





Army & Air Force Exchange Service launches American-made products search
Convenience Store News
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is ramping up its efforts to recruit businesses with American-made products through its first Vendor Submission Campaign. During the Vendor Submission Campaign, which runs from Feb. 11 through March 5, the Dallas-based retailer is seeking vendors with American-made camping products, sporting goods and linens.



Shopping program offers camp for military family children
Meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on, organizers of the Procter & Gamble Military ProCamps held a virtual kick-off event Feb. 16 to launch the program that hosts football camps for military family youngsters worldwide. The kickoff for the program’s ninth season signaled it’s time for commissary and exchange patrons to make the camps happen in their locations by shopping.



Winter storms close some commissaries, affect deliveries
Military Times
Like many civilian grocery stores, some commissaries have been closed because of the severe winter weather in various parts of the country, and customers are seeing some shortages on the shelves because of delayed deliveries to many commissaries.



‘Salute to Excellence’: Commissaries’ Freedom’s Choice Enhanced Water earns more industry honors for taste, label design
Defense Commissary Agency
The Defense Commissary Agency’s Freedom’s Choice Enhanced Water received the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s 2020 Salute to Excellence Award virtually through the PLMA’s Private Label Week event Feb. 1-5. DeCA’s commissary store brand product emerged as a winner in the water category out of over 700 product submissions from 55 North American retailers in 68 categories.



NEX Guam welcomes ship’s visit with overwhelming support
When USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulled into port at Naval Base Guam at the end of January, NEX Guam was ready to ensure the crew had what it needed to make the visit enjoyable. “The NEX is always ready to support a ship or crew when it pulls into port,” said Lisa Ballejo, General Manager, NEX Guam. “With the on-going pandemic, how we assist a ship and her crew has changed and increased because of the importance of keeping everyone healthy. We are happy to help in any way possible.”



Winter weather takes hold of Hood
Fort Hood Sentinel
Winter weather has tightened its grip over Fort Hood during the past week. Three separate storms and bone-chilling temperatures clenched all of Central Texas beginning Feb. 11, causing empty store shelves, gas shortages, cars slipping and sliding, and most of all, power outages and other structural issues.



VCS records nearly $335 Million in FY20 sales
In a year where the pandemic forced the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) to adapt its focus to the situation at hand, the canteen service registered $334.75 million in sales serving Veterans, their caretakers and hospital personnel.Although fiscal 2020 sales were 34.68 percent less than the prior year, the VCS successfully navigated itself though significant revenue reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the leadership of Executive Director Ray Tober, the canteen service was able to weather a 52-percent reduction in customer traffic by modifying its business model while continuing to support VA medical centers across the country.

Tober is set to retire on Feb. 26, and while the search for a permanent director is ongoing, VCS Chief Operating Officer (COO) Jim Leahy will take over as executive director in an acting capacity, continuing to steer the canteen service in the right direction as pandemic protocols continue to shape operations.

Under extremely trying circumstances brought on by the pandemic, the VCS managed to accrue $334,752,510 in sales, with Retail and Food pacing this activity.

Based on flash sales provided by the canteen service, retail produced $198.93 million in activity, a 23.39-percent dip from the $259.66 million that this area produced in fiscal 2019. Food amassed $85.60 million in sales, a 41.15-percent drop from the $145.46 million total of a year earlier.

Again, due to pandemic protocols that impacted the way the VCS does business, other areas also underperformed when compared with the prior year, but performed admirably in the face of the pandemic.

Coffee ($16.52 million, -60.85 percent), Vending ($9.09 million, -31.65 percent) and Services ($24,62 million, -52.56 percent) each performed as well as could have been expected under COVID-19 protocols that were in force in VA medical centers.

During the American Logistics Association (ALA) Convention held last October, Tober put it all into perspective.

“There was no way we could have prepared for this. But we are in a better position today than we wee in mid-March. … We could not have done it without our vendors. There will continue to be challenges as we continue to meet the business needs of the organization.”


VCS FY20 Sales Performance Versus Prior Year, By Sales Category

Sales Category   Fiscal 2020    Fiscal 2019     % Change
Retail    $198,925,942     $259,661,199    -23.39%
Food    $85,600,784     $145,457,840    -41.15%
Coffee    $16,516,780     $42,188,687    –60.85%
Vending    $8,088,234     $13,295,842    -31.65%
Services    $24,620,770     $51,893,581    -52.56%
Total     $334,752,510    $512,497,149    -34.68%

Source: VCS FY20 Flash Sales Reports




Date Event More Information
October 17-19 ALA Annual Convention 2021 Norfolk Waterside Marriott

Specific information on upcoming ALA events is posted regularly on the ALA website.


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