President’s Message/ Washington Update 1/22

From the desk of the ALA President

2,500 troops, 18,000 contractors. The Pentagon employs more than seven contractors for every service member in Afghanistan, figures from U.S. Central Command show. More than 18,000 contractors remain in Afghanistan, a Defense Department report released this week said, after the Pentagon announced Friday it had reduced its troop total in the country to 2,500. Stars and Stripes reports About 4,700 of the contractors are Afghans hired locally, but nearly three-quarters come from outside the country, including about a third who are U.S. citizens, the data in this week’s report show. Many of the rest are from developing countries such as Uganda and Nepal.

ALA Foodservice Council. Several foodservice companies are joining ALA and the ALA Board has established a working council to represent the military nonappropriated and appropriated food service sectors. The need to address the concerns of manufacturers, prime vendor distributors and the military and government agencies, which are responsible for appropriated and non-appropriated feeding, is an underserved element which ALA seeks to provide advocacy and strength. ALA will be working to bridge the gaps that exist between industry and DOD general foodservice. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life of Servicemembers while enhancing business practices between industry and the DOD agencies.

Inside the Defense management shuffle. Here’s who the Biden administration has slated to fill some of the Defense Department jobs on an interim basis while it awaits either a Senate confirmed official or a permanent appointee. At the same time, the Pentagon released a long list of civilian holdovers who will fill key positions until Biden nominees are named and confirmed. The six-page memo lists career Pentagon officials who will step in on a temporary basis, either in an acting or PTDO [Performing the Duties Of] capacity. Norquist, formerly Deputy Secretary of Defense is now the Acting Secretary of Defense until the confirmation of Lloyd Austin. Austin’s confirmation could move quickly. The House will vote today on a needed waiver to allow him to serve as Secretary and the SASC could also vote today to confirm him. Veen Penrod is the Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Julie Blanks is the Acting Deputy Undersecretary and Tom Constable is the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for readiness. …




In win for Austin, top Senate Democrat agrees to back waiver


The incoming chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee said that he’ll back Lloyd Austin to be defense secretary and support a waiver for him to take the job, a victory for the nominee who still has doubters in both chambers and both parties. READ MORE



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 (

Senate confirms Biden’s intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official

The Hill

Senators confirmed Avril Haines to be President Joe Biden’s director of national intelligence (DNI), giving him his first Senate-confirmed Cabinet pick. Senators voted 84-10 to confirm Haines, who appears to be the only Cabinet official Biden will get confirmed on the first day of his administration. READ MORE


Gen. Mark Milley key to military continuity as Biden takes office

Military Times

In taking charge of a Pentagon battered by leadership churn, the Biden administration will look to one holdover as a source of military continuity: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President-elect Joe Biden will inherit Milley as his senior military adviser, and although Biden could replace Milley, he likely won’t.  READ MORE


Here’s who will be running the Pentagon when Biden takes office

Defense One

There’s a new team in the E-ring starting, newly detailed by close-hold Pentagon planning documents reviewed by Defense One. While news organizations have reported a number of these officials as being considered or expected to be Biden’s pick for the job, this is the most comprehensive list of who will be running the Pentagon when the president-elect is sworn in. READ MORE


After years of fighting, the military has started phasing out ‘widow’s tax’

A long-decried law dubbed the “widow’s tax” that reduced the amount of cash support some surviving military spouses could receive each month will begin a planned phaseout this month, a change triggered by a 2020 law. The so-called tax, officially known as the Survivor Benefit Plan offset, impacted surviving spouses who qualified for both SBP annuity payments and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) allowances from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  READ MORE


Biden names temporary VA leadership as his secretary nominee awaits Senate debate

Military Times

Veterans Affairs’ data and technology expert will serve as acting secretary for the entire department as the Senate considers the nomination of Denis McDonough to serve in the permanent Cabinet post. Officials from the new administration of President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that Dat Tran, principal deputy assistant secretary for VA’s Office of Enterprise Integration, will serve as acting secretary until McDonough’s confirmation process concludes. READ MORE


US Army Japan to begin vaccinating remainder of its healthy population against coronavirus

Stars and Stripes

The U.S. Army in Japan announced plans to begin inoculating the remainder of its healthy population, including service members, civilian employees and dependents, against the coronavirus. The Army is the first service branch in Japan to announce it is making the Moderna vaccine widely available to phase three beneficiaries, the last phase of a Defense Department plan to vaccinate its people. READ MORE

More than a million military retirees, spouses now eligible for COVID vaccination

Military Times

If you’re one of the more than 1 million Tricare for Life beneficiaries who are age 75 and older, you’re now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. Defense and Military Health System officials are making it available, but there’s a caveat. READ MORE

Gen. Mark Milley key to military continuity as Biden takes office

Military Times

In taking charge of a Pentagon battered by leadership churn, the Biden administration will look to one holdover as a source of military continuity: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President-elect Joe Biden will inherit Milley as his senior military adviser, and although Biden could replace Milley, he likely won’t. READ MORE


National Retail Federation tackles political unrest, COVID-19


The National Retail Federation reinforced its positions on diversity and political unrest during the trade organization’s annual show this week, where retailers met virtually to strategize the path forward amid COVID-19 challenges and unrest following the U.S. Capitol riots. READ MORE


Localizing inventory key amid digital transformations: Capgemini

Luxury Daily

A hyperlocal approach is “the next big thing” to hit the retail industry as retailers grapple with how to leverage data analytics and artificial intelligence to deliver improved shopping experiences. READ MORE

The role of community and referrals in online retail success

Biz Community

“No longer do brands have to worry about one consumer telling another about bad service, but rather one disgruntled consumer telling hundreds of others through social media,” says veteran marketer Chris Moerdyk about the new world of instant feedback between buyers. READ MORE



Alaska bases limit alcohol sale hours to curb drinking-related suicides

U.S. military commanders in Alaska have ordered alcohol sales to cease after 10 p.m. on two bases in an effort to control drinking-related mental health issues such as suicide. READ MORE


USO brings drinks, snacks and a ‘warm welcome’ to Guard troops at the Capitol

Military Times

As more than 25,000 National Guard troops have been called in to help law enforcement with security surrounding the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, a familiar face has joined them: the USO. READ MORE


Future of benefit: Commissaries set vision, refocus mission to be military’s ‘grocer of choice’ for 2021 and beyond


Defense Commissary Agency leadership came together Dec. 2-3, to create a new vision for the agency and refine the mission and direction for 2021 and beyond. Looking forward to the future and using lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the new vision will embrace ways to better serve the military community in line with Department of Defense direction. READ MORE


Army approves assistance for Commissary shoppers

Redstone Rocket

The Department of the Army has clarified a policy that will make it easier for some beneficiaries to use the Commissary. It allows them to designate a personal agent, who may not have access to the Commissary under other circumstances, to either shop for them or assist them while they shop. READ MORE


New year, new budget? Exchange delivers everyday savings for military shoppers


s service members, retirees, Veterans and military families plan their new year budgets, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is dedicated to helping heroes save. At Exchange stores worldwide and at, the military community receives tax-free shopping and military-exclusive pricing—benefits that make a difference every day. READ MORE

Ribbon cutting celebrates reopening of Express 3

An Exchange store is there if you need coffee, a quick snack, gas or a number of other little things that make life easier for the members of the Fort Polk community. READ MORE

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