Commissary officials have axed case lot sales overseas that were scheduled for May and have begun a worldwide hiring freeze in preparation for the possibility of sequestration-forced budget cuts, looming large on March 1.
Defense Commissary Agency officials decided to cancel the May sales in overseas areas "in deference to the uncertainty of today's budgetary environment," said DeCA spokesman Kevin Robinson, citing "high logistical costs" that include transporting the extra items overseas.
Case lot sales, generally held in May and September, offered savings of up to 50 percent on many items.
No decision has been made to permanently shut down case lot sales, Robinson said, noting that the specific decision to cancel the upcoming sale was supported by the fact that overseas areas often delay their case lot sales because of the high volume of permanent change-of-station moves in May and June.
Case lot sales at commissaries in the continental U.S. are not affected, Robinson said.
However, stateside stores will show a "responsible sensitivity to the current budgetary environment" and limit the scope of any logistical support required.
Meanwhile, like other DoD agencies, DeCA has put a freeze on all external hires. Defense officials authorized all agencies to start slowing down spending to prevent even more dire consequences if the massive, across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration take effect March 1 and trigger a $46 billion reduction in the defense budget over the last seven months of this fiscal year.
"Obviously, we would love for all of our stores to be fully staffed. However, if the freeze threatens our ability to operate our commissaries effectively, we can submit our request for an exception for outside hires to DoD for approval," Robinson said.
The hiring freeze does not apply to military spouses who work for DeCA and leave their jobs to move to another installation with their military sponsor on PCS orders; they are considered internal hires, Robinson said.
They are considered internal hires, he said "so we would not be prohibited from picking them up at another DeCA location," assuming there is a vacancy.
DeCA also has cut back on official travel for conferences and training considered "noncritical" to the agency's mission, he said.
If sequestration does happen March 1, commissary employees could be subject to furloughs for an average of one day a week for up to 22 weeks.
At press time, DeCA officials could not provide information on how they would implement the furloughs — for example, whether stores might close one day a week, or use rolling furloughs, with 14 percent to 20 percent of the workforce absent on any given day. Commissary operating schedules vary; many are open seven days; some are closed one day a week, others, two days.