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Long Lines, Cuts Possible at Commissaries Due to Hiring Freeze

(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Donna L. Burnett)
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Donna L. Burnett)

Commissary shoppers may see abnormally long lines as the Defense Commissary Agency starts to feel a staffing squeeze as a result of an ongoing federal hiring freeze, officials said.

DeCA officials have increased the hours of part-time employees to fill some staffing gaps. With more than 1,650 vacancies, of which 83 are management positions, and a 20 percent average employee turnover rate, an ongoing hiring freeze could eventually force officials to cut store hours, said Kevin Robinson, a DeCA spokesman.

"If the hiring freeze continues for an extended duration, we may eventually be forced to temporarily cut services or reduce days/hours if staffing problems occur," he said in a statement. "Cutting service or curtailing days/hours of operation will be our last course of action if staffing levels make those options necessary."

At issue is a federal hiring freeze ordered by President Donald Trump in late January. The 90-day freeze, set to expire in late April, affects all Defense Department civilian employees. Although commissary and exchange officials have requested clearance to keep their positions filled and services going, those exemptions have not yet been granted.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials said they have been forced to reduce hours at some operations at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; and Fort Bliss, Texas.

Some Marine Corps Community Services programs at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, including several marts, have had to reduce hours or close, officials there announced Feb. 24.

Officials with the Navy Exchange said they are not currently experiencing cuts or hour reductions.

Military child care services have also been impacted. Officials at Lejeune and Fort Knox, Kentucky, have shuttered hourly services, among other reductions. Officials at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, have ended their part-time programs, and Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, is planning to reduce hours starting later this month if hires are not made.

While child care hires are exempted from the freeze, base officials are still required to get clearance to fill the positions and the hiring process can be lengthy due to required background checks.

Officials with the DoD Education Activity, which runs schools on military bases worldwide, did not respond by deadline to requests for comment.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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