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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 334-03
May 16, 2003

REVAMPED ARMED SERVICES EXCHANGE SYSTEM ANNOUNCED

The Department of Defense announced today that Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, initiated a multi-year effort that may culminate in the consolidation of the three Armed Service Exchange Systems into a single defense organization. Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles Abell will oversee this effort.

After reviewing recommendations from numerous studies and considering the views of the military departments, Wolfowitz has charged Abell to determine the most efficient and cost effective way to organize and operate the exchanges as a single entity. These actions will be transparent to the individual soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, or military family member. The look and feel of each store will maintain the service culture to which they 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.

In deciding to optimize the exchange system organization, Wolfowitz noted, "This is consistent with the secretary's goal to transform the business of defense. It is an essential step to maintain and even improve the value of exchange benefits for military personnel and their families now and into the future." The department will work with Congress throughout the process and will seek any legislative changes that may be required.