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Commissary Agency Announces Reorganization

By Bonnie Powell
National Guard Bureau

FORT LEE, Va., March 11, 1997 – The Defense Commissary Agency is resizing from seven regions to four in the wake of a $48.5 million budget cut.

The agency is also studying possible personnel reductions at headquarters, the agency's Operations Support Center and regional levels. Richard E. Beale Jr., agency director, said he expects to decide geographic boundaries and headquarters locations for the three stateside consolidated regions by April. The commissary agency currently has Central, Northeast, Southern, Midwest, Southwest, Northwest-Pacific, and European regions. Plans call for the European region to remain unchanged.

Within 90 days the agency plans to announce how it will streamline its headquarters and support center, both at Fort Lee.

In addition to the consolidation, DeCA Chief Executive Officer Charles M. Wiker announced an agencywide hiring freeze on permanent staff positions. The fiscal 1997 appropriated budget is $916.4 million. The agency reorganization is not due entirely to the budget crunch.

Other factors include force reductions and base closures. Fiscal reality has made changes imperative, the agency officials said. The agency expects to be operating three CONUS regions by Oct. 1, 1999, but downsizing will start soon, they said.

"Our entire business system infrastructure is geared to six regions in CONUS, so we're going to have to make gradual changes," said Beale.

The changes also take into consideration future budget reductions occurring in recognition of DeCA's status since Oct. 1, 1996, as the government's first transitional performance- based organization.

"PBO gives us the chance to become more like a private sector business, run more efficiently and save money for the taxpayers and customers," said Beale. But many of the waivers DeCA needs to cut through red tape have yet to be approved. "Unfortunately, a $48.5 million budget reduction, before savings are realized, means we've already started out with one foot in the bucket."

DeCA streamlined its personnel and functions at headquarters in 1995. "In 1997, making the agency more efficient without breaking the system requires more flexibility in government rules, and that's where PBO comes into play," said Beale. "We don't have a great deal of overhead now -- less than 1.8 percent of our budget in terms of sales. That suggests we are already a pretty efficient operation."

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