Approval expected soon for DoD civilians to shop in military exchanges (2024)

Defense Department civilian employees would be able to shop at military exchanges, under a policy change working its way through the final stages of the approval process, officials said.

Officials expect it would bring about 575,000 new eligible customers into exchanges, said Berry Patrick, who works in the DoD Office of Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Nonappropriated Fund Policy, during a virtual conference of the American Logistics Association Tuesday.

He said it will probably be after Election Day before the initiative gets final approval. There are about 796,000 DoD civilians in the U.S., but about 221,000 of those employees already have exchange benefits resulting from another beneficiary category such as retiree or military spouse, he said. The new benefit would apply to both appropriated fund and nonappropriated fund employees, he said.

The employees would use their Common Access Card for the benefit.

Commissary access for DoD civilian employees is not under consideration right now, he said.

Patrick said officials believe the benefit will be used more by the civilian employees than by disabled veterans, who were granted commissary, exchange and some MWR benefits as of Jan. 1, 2020. The usage by that population has been less than expected, he said, largely because of the pandemic which has forced restrictions on access to many installations. In addition, many of the 4.2 million newly eligible disabled veterans don’t live near an installation.

DoD civilians are on the base every day, he noted. Based on projections of buying patterns, he said, they estimate exchange sales could increase by about $287 million a year, with a potential increase of $48 million in profits going back to support the services' MWR programs. DoD has been deliberating the policy change for about three years.

One indicator of the popularity of the benefit among DoD employees was the situation in March, when DoD gave base commanders temporary authority to give commissary and exchange privileges to DoD civilians and contractor employees considered mission critical. Many people misinterpreted that to mean that every DoD mission-critical civilian employee automatically got those privileges, and DoD officials were getting phone calls from those potential customers, he said. But it was up to each installation, and some commanders gave the privileges while others didn’t, for various reasons such as concern about the strains on the supply chain’s ability to provide enough products for the stores.

Patrick said as the new benefit rolled out in January to disabled veterans, caregivers and others authorized by law, everything was in place within the resale community, MWR and for installation access. A post-implementation assessment showed there was no negative impact on the facilities, he said.

But COVID came along, resulting in impacts from a variety of reasons, to include some installations limiting access to their installations. Those issues have ebbed and flowed, he said. Currently only about 200,000 in this population of 4.2 million are using their benefits, and exchanges and commissaries have the capacity to take on larger numbers, Patrick said.

Through Sept. 30, commissaries logged about 503,000 transactions from the newly eligible population, and the exchanges estimated about 1.2 million combined transactions over that time period, he said.

He asked for attendees' help in continuing to promote the benefit to the newly eligible population. “We have a long way to go to get from 200,000 to the 4.2 million” extra disabled veterans and others who can use the benefits now, he said.

About KarenJowers

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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Approval expected soon for DoD civilians to shop in military exchanges (2024)


Approval expected soon for DoD civilians to shop in military exchanges? ›

The Department of Defense announced today the expansion of access to military exchange

military exchange
Exact terminology varies by armed service; some examples include base exchange (BX), and post exchange (PX), and there are more specific terms for subtypes of exchange. › wiki › Base_exchange
s. Starting May 1, 2021, DOD and Coast Guard appropriated fund and nonappropriated fund civilian employees are authorized to shop at military exchange stores in the United States and the U.S. territories and possessions.

Can DoD civilians shop at military exchanges? ›

Army & Air Force Exchange Service HQ

DALLAS – More than 500,000 Department of Defense and Coast Guard civilians and retirees now have access to the largest Exchange in the world, tax free, at DoD and Coast Guard civilians were granted in-store shopping access May 1 after a change in DoD policy.

Can DoD civilian employees shop at NEX? ›

Active, Retired Department of Defense, Coast Guard Civilian Employees Now Have NEX Online Shopping Access. Active and retired Department of Defense (DoD) and Coast Guard civilian employees now have access to shop online at per a DoD directive.

Can DoD civilians go to the commissary? ›

Luckily for active-duty service members, DOD civilians, and their dependents, your privilege to shop in military stores is almost always covered under the agreement too. But there are some restrictions. Learn more about how SOFA can affect your military commissary and exchange privileges.

Can anyone buy from a military exchange? ›

You can shop at the exchange if you're in one of these groups: Active, reserve or retired uniformed services members. Medal of Honor recipients. Wage marine personnel and retired wage marine personnel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Can DOD Civilians shop online at the Exchange? ›

To authenticate active and retired DoD and Coast Guard civilian and retired employees for online shopping, data coding had to be updated in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, which has now been completed.

Are DOD civilians considered military personnel? ›

A DOD civilian does not serve in the military but is instead appointed to the federal civil service. DOD civilians work for the military departments (i.e., Army, Navy, and Air Force) as well as other defense agencies and field activities (e.g., Defense Health Agency).

Can federal civilian employees shop at the exchange? ›


After a change in Department of Defense policy, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is opening its doors to DoD and Coast Guard civilian employees at Edwards AFB, starting May 1. The DoD announced the policy change April 29.

Are DOD employees considered federal employees? ›

The Department of Defense (DOD) has a vast number of job opportunities across a multitude of career paths and geographic locations. As a current or prior Federal employee, there are many options for finding your fit with DOD.

Can DoD civilians stay at on base hotels? ›

Overview. With 89 locations worldwide, Air Force Inns' mission is to ensure the resilience of their guests by providing a clean, comfortable room to guarantee a good night's rest and a pleasant stay. They welcome active duty, retirees, NAF or DOD civilian employees, and sponsored guests.

Can I use my CAC card at the commissary? ›

Using Your Card

This application, along with the surrender of DD Form 1173-1, will allow dependents to receive the DD Form 1173. This card is needed to gain access to medical benefits and continued access to commissary, exchange, MWR, and other privileges.

What ID do I need to shop at a military exchange? ›

You don't need to apply, but you'll need to have the right kind of ID at checkout. You can show your Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) or a letter from VA along with your passport or driver's license. If you have questions, you can call us at 800-827-1000.

What is the difference between the military exchange and the commissary? ›

The exchange services operate department like stores, gas stations, military clothing stores, convenience stores, food courts and liquor stores on military bases around the world. Unlike the commissary system, goods are not sold at cost. However, they are tax free.

What is the difference between PX and commissary? ›

Commissary is a food store like Safeway PX is a department store like Walmart. Think of the PX as a convenience store and the Commissary as a grocery store. A PX (Post Exchange) and a commissary are two different types of retail facilities available on US military bases.

Can DoD employees shop at the Navy Exchange? ›

Active DoD and Coast Guard civilians are now able to peruse the aisles of the NAS Patuxent River Navy Exchange (NEX) following a recent DoD directive extending them shopping privileges.

Can government employees shop at Aafes? ›

Starting May 1, DOD and Coast Guard Civilians will be allowed to shop at all Army & Air Force Exchange Service facilities in the U.S. The authorization extends to equivalent Navy and Marine Corps military stores as well. The change in policy was announced by the Department of Defense on April 29.


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