Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asked Charles Abell, deputy undersecretary of personnel and readiness, to determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to organize and operate the exchanges as a single entity.
Each of the military departments currently operates their own base exchanges, which are self-supporting stores that sell household goods, clothing, appliances and toys to military members, retirees and dependents on bases.
A single organization, the Defense Commissary Agency, already manages the scores of supermarkets on military installations throughout the world.
Even if base exchange operations are consolidated, "the look and feel of each store will maintain the service culture to which [members of the armed forces] are accustomed. The business processes that operate the system will be more efficient and effective, yielding a benefit that is not only preserved but enhanced," Defense Department officials said in a news release.
Wolfowitz said the reforms are part of the Pentagon's larger goal of transforming the business of defense, and "an essential step to maintain and even improve the value of exchange benefits for military personnel and their families now and into the future."