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Poll: Combine the Exchange Stores?

Giving lawmakers and Defense officials ideas and recommendations for what to do with the different retail systems like the commissaries and exchanges is all the rage these days. First you had the report from a congressional mandated commission that suggested dumping the commissary and exchanges into one big pot. Then Congress took up that idea, only to have parts of it ignored. Along the way there were a variety of suggestions on the same theme from other organizations and the DoD.

But now a not yet released report commissioned by lawmakers has a new suggestion: skip combining the commissaries with the trio of exchange companies, and instead combine just the exchanges.

Here's how it works right now: The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) and Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) all operate as separate companies. AAFES runs the PX, BX, shoppettes, gas stations, Class Six stores and concessions on Army and Air Force posts and bases. The NEX and MCX do the job on Navy and Marine Corps bases. The stores may all look similar, but they operate as entirely separate entities.

All of the exchanges hand-off a percentage of their revenue to Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. For example, NEXCOM contributed $46.6 million in 2014.

The newest yet to be released report, a summary of which was obtained by the Military Times, suggests that combining those three retail systems could bring some pretty heavy savings -- $175 million to $265 million, according to sources in the story, which is currently only available in print editions of the paper.

But some military retail supporters suggest that the price of consolidating may outweigh the savings doing so would bring. The report is unlikely to actually include a plan for consolidation -- just a proposal -- and no plan ever done has been able to show the consolidating would make the system better than it currently is or save money in the long run, said Tom Gordy, president of the Armed Forces Marketing Council, a lobbying group.

A plan recommended by a upcoming report would combine the different exchange companies into one. What do you think? Take our poll.

From a military spouse perspective, consolidation could cause employment problems for military spouses. The exchange systems employ huge numbers of military family members, and consolidating would mean big changes for company structures if not some job losses.

From a shopping perspective, Gordy worries, consolidating could result in price hikes while the companies pay for the cost of rolling their operations into one. Any cost savings would probably not be seen until much later.

What do you think? Should the three exchange systems be combined into one? Take our poll and then check out the results.

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