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Defense Commissary Agency Eyes Major Improvements, Expanded Services

Is something wrong with the Commissary system? Amidst multiple problems keeping store shelves stocked, complaints of poor quality, and, in some cases, a lack of basic options, plans are being made to boost Commissary utilization.

However, implementing those plans requires actions in addition to those taken to get groceries to Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) stores in the first place. What’s broken at DeCA, and how is the agency working to fix these issues?

Supply Chain Woes for the Defense Commissary Agency

Keeping groceries on the shelves is one of the most basic issues, but it also troubles some base Commissaries, especially those overseas.

DeCA has experienced supply chain problems that affect how military families can use the benefit. Reports of empty shelves, high prices, and common items like potatoes missing from Commissary options have plagued the agency.

Overseas commissaries, like those in South Korea, are sometimes troops’ only source of groceries without resorting to excursions into the local community where prices and availability of the same items may vary greatly.


Then, there are reports of what some believe to be cross-contaminated food. Military Times ran an article in April 2024 noting “…an issue with some boxed products, like cereal, which have tasted like soap and cleaning supplies.”

At a time when military recruiting and retention headlines still note the DoD’s struggle to recruit and retain soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardians, and Marines, having a problem getting basic foodstuffs to troops stationed overseas and in remote areas does NOT help.

DeCA says it’s working on these problems, but it’s tackling a lack of customer support at the same time.

Related: Commissary Delivery Service Expansion in 2024

“Half” Commissary Customers “Choose Not to Shop”

A Military Times article features a quote from DeCA Director John Hall, who went on the record saying, “Half of our customers are choosing not to shop” in spite of the commissary offering savings of up to 25% compared to civilian-run grocery stores.

DeCA is reportedly making concerted efforts to change this, especially in light of legislation that has given more financial power to the agency to further cut costs for items it sells.

DeCA created a wish list of options to offer customers stateside and overseas. This list includes a plan to allow Army and Air Force troops to purchase food at base Commissaries by using their DoD-provided meal cards, which are typically used in so-called “chow halls” and military dining facilities.

That, combined with another plan to offer more in-store pre-packaged or pre-prepared meals, could motivate troops to explore their Commissary options.

Expanded Commissary Delivery Services

DeCA has already taken steps to expand home delivery options for stateside Commissary users. Eight stores offered the service in April 2024, and most CONUS-based operations are expected to offer it by the end of 2024.

Another delivery-related option is offering ” third-site” delivery options to Guard and Reserve members who live far from a Commissary. Under the proposed option, military units can have Commissary products delivered at a “selected location” where troops can pick up the deliveries. This option may begin being offered in the summer of 2024.

Another expansion proposed by DeCA involves setting up pre-prepared food kiosks at Army bases. These DeCA-operated kiosks would offer breakfast food, sushi, sandwiches, and related items.

Supply Chain Study

DeCA is looking hard at its supply chain to resolve delivery time issues, especially at overseas Commissaries. DeCA wants to increase their “in-stock” rate to 98%. That rate is the metric DeCA uses to measure the percentage of grocery items available to customers at any moment.

The agency wants its suppliers to commit to restock times faster and to design the shipments to avoid shipping food with products that could result in cross-contamination. That sort of problem likely led to complaints about cereal and other groceries “tasting like soap” mentioned at the start of this article.

Who Can Shop at the Commissary?

You may qualify for Commissary benefits if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Active duty
  • Guard
  • Reserve
  • Military retirees
  • Medal of Honor awardees
  • Purple Heart recipients
  • Former POWs
  • Disabled Veterans
  • Eligible family members of all the above
  • Primary caregivers for disabled veterans

Related: Commissary Delivery Service Expansion in 2024

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.