The director of the Defense Commissary Agency has announced he will retire March 31.
Bill Moore, who is winding up a 40-year career in government civilian service, has been at the helm of the worldwide chain of military grocery stores for two years and seven months. Just before arriving at DeCA, he served as the Army assistant deputy chief of staff, responsible for Army logistics plans, policy and programming.
“It’s been a true honor to finish my career leading DeCA in what this agency does every day to help military families better serve our nation,” Moore said in a statement announcing his retirement.
The commissary agency, headquartered at Fort Lee, Virginia, oversees 236 commissaries around the world. Moore outlined some of the strides it’s made during his tenure.
“I was given a mandate by the Department of Defense to bring DeCA into the 21st Century,” Moore said in the statement. “The example the department used was online shopping.”
When he arrived in August 2020, DeCA was running a program called Click2Go at five commissaries. It allows military customers to order groceries online and pick them up at the curb outside the commissary. Within 14 months, that program had expanded to all 236 commissaries worldwide.
Under his watch, the agency also began a pilot program at eight stores in which customers ordered online and the groceries were delivered directly to their doorsteps. By October, online sales at those stores had increased by 60%, according to commissary officials. Customers are typically spending $134 on those orders.
DeCA officials described the pilot as successful at that time, and said they were working to expand the program. However, they have not provided information to Military Times on the status of the pilot or any possible expansion plans. Moore alluded to that pilot program in his announcement.
“We’re working toward delivery,” he said.
During Moore’s tenure, the commissary turned the tide on a 10-year, 5%-per-year decline in sales, seeing a 3.2% increase in sales in fiscal 2022 and a 12% increase so far this year, according to the announcement.
Part of that increase is due to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s announcement in September that DoD would fully fund commissary operations in order to cut customer’s prices at the register, a move to mitigate the effects of inflation on military families.
DoD essentially added more than $255 million to the DeCA’s $1.2 billion operating budget. Part of that was accomplished by eliminating a DoD requirement — at least through fiscal 2023 — that the agency earn a profit of $135 million to help pay for operating costs.
The goal has been to increase customers’ savings by 3 to 5 percentage points and get overall average savings to 25%, compared to local civilian stores.
Customer service satisfaction numbers have increased, to 89%, Moore said. That’s up from 83.2% at the end of fiscal 2020. Moore credits the improvement to a change in commissary culture. There’s now more of a “patron focus, with a disciplined training approach,” he said.
As with other retailers, DeCA has struggled with supply chain issues since the pandemic, but navigating these issues has been the agency’s top priority, Moore said. “We are still struggling with getting the product to the loading dock, but we’re trending up,” he said.
Moore noted that commissaries can sometimes provide a kind of insurance during crises, such as continuing to operate during the pandemic and working with suppliers to get infant formula to the shelves during a worldwide shortage.
Information was not immediately available about whether the Defense Department has named an interim or new director to lead the agency, when Moore steps down at the end of the month.
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.