More than 200,000 civil service employees of the Department of Homeland Security now have a new benefit: shopping privileges at Coast Guard exchanges.

“We welcome all DHS employees to CGX stores to enjoy their new shopping benefit,” said Capt. Bruce C. Brown, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Community Services Command, in a statement. “This is a historic expansion of this important non-pay compensation benefit for the entire DHS workforce.” Among other things, the CGX, which is similar to a department store, offers discount prices on brand name electronics, clothing, shoes and other products, and most purchases are tax-free.

Previously, in-store shopping privileges were limited to active-duty military and retirees, reservists and their dependent family members, and Coast Guard auxiliarists. The Coast Guard has also allowed current and retired Coast Guard civilian employees to shop with limited privileges — all products, except for tobacco, alcohol and military uniform items. That limitation also applies to this newly expanded group of DHS civilian employees. There are 64 CGX retail locations, as well as an online store,

Eligibility for Coast Guard exchange shopping privileges is not based in law, so officials can deviate from the Defense Department patronage policy, which is more restrictive for exchanges on Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force installations.

The other military exchange systems — Marine Corps Exchange, Navy Exchange Service Command, and Army and Air Force Exchange Service — are supportive of the Coast Guard’s expansion, according to a Coast Guard memo from Vice Commandant Adm. Charles W. Ray, in recommending the expansion.

DoD is currently considering expanding military exchange privileges to DoD civilians. Over the last several years, DoD has opened up eligibility to certain populations to shop either in military stores or online, including giving online exchange shopping privileges to veterans, and commissary shopping privileges to commissary employees. Veterans can also shop at the online CGX store.

The recommendation to expand the eligibility was approved May 7 by David P. Pekoske, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Coast Guard Exchange System is the only non-appropriated fund activity within the Department of Homeland Security, and like the military exchange systems within the Department of Defense, contributes part of its profits to its service’s morale, well-being and recreation programs.

All employees and agencies of the Department of Homeland Security are now eligible for CGX privileges, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration.

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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