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Oct 31, 2022

Feeding the Forces

Sponsored Content provided by Randy Chandler - Federal Business Development, Morehead City & Strategic Industry Professional, Subsistence, North Carolina Military Business Center

Subsistence purchasing has come a long way since Napoleon Bonaparte stated, “An Army moves on its stomach.”  Understanding the importance of nutrition for his Army and Navy, Napoleon commissioned prizes for suppliers who could develop a means to preserve food. That challenge led Nicolas Appert, a French Confectioner, to invent the means to can and preserve foods to supply the military. George Washington also understood the need for a well-nourished Army. At the very formation of our Nation, he organized the purchasing of subsistence for the Army and Navy by appointing General Joseph Turnbull (as the first) and later General Nathaniel Green as Commissary General. 

Since that time, the responsibility for purchasing and providing retail subsistence sales to military personnel, their families and other beneficiaries has moved from the War and Navy Departments, to the individual military installations, to the separate military services and now to both centralized resale commands (military exchanges) and a single command (commissaries).  Purchasing food for troop feeding facilities is performed by other agencies, and will be highlighted in a future article.  

Military Exchange oversight is provided by each branch of the military, which has separate headquarters in many locations: the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), is located in Dallas, TX and is responsible for the operations of both Army and Air Force Exchanges; the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), is headquartered in Norfolk, VA; the Coast Guard Exchange System (CGEX) operates from Chesapeake, VA; the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX), is located at Quantico, VA; and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), is headquartered at Fort Lee, VA. 

Napoleon’s first recognition of the need to provide provisions for his troops, has today become a business that exceeds 10 billion dollars in annual sales, and one that includes not only subsistence, but everything a military family could need. 

Exchanges sell goods that are similar to what the military community can find in department or specialty stores, and also provide other outlets such as convenience stores and gas stations.  The centralized service headquarters each have the responsibility for the procurement of all items that are sold in these outlets at their respective locations.    

Commissaries are comparable to community grocery stores, providing groceries, produce, meat and dairy products, as well as household goods to its patrons.  DeCA has the responsibility for the procurement of all subsistence sold at the commissary on every military installation in the US and overseas, regardless of the branch of service. 

Each Exchange Service Command, as well as DeCA, has differing requirements and processes for purchasing to fit their mission and customer.   

Here in North Carolina, we host six DeCA commissaries, thirty-two MCX retail locations, twenty-five AAFES retail locations and two CGX stores. These facilities sell over $380 million dollars of subsistence annually. Much of it is sourced from North Carolina suppliers in multiple categories including meats, produce, milk, bread, water, soft drinks, and snacks. 

Not only do North Carolina suppliers furnish supplies to the outlets within the state, but also provide products to commissary and exchanges across the country. For example, last year North Carolina farmers supplied 4 million dollars worth of produce that shipped to commissaries in multiple states on the east coast.  

Recognizing the great potential for North Carolina suppliers, the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) has designated a Subsistence Strategic Industry Professional to provide assistance to businesses in understanding the requirements and processes of doing business with these agencies. 

Mr. Randy Chandler, based at Carteret Community College, Morehead City, is available to assist North Carolina businesses statewide with information on how to explore the opportunity of becoming a federal subsistence supplier.  These agencies have a mission to those who serve the most deserving – perhaps you can too! 

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