Defense Infrastructure:

Personnel Reductions Have Not Hampered Most Commissaries' Store Operations and Customer Service

GAO-03-417: Published: Mar 6, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2003.

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In response to concerns about the impact of proposed cuts in the Defense Commissary Agency's workforce, the House Armed Services Committee placed in its report on the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 a requirement that we evaluate the effect of the personnel reductions. Specifically, we assessed (1) the status of personnel reductions and how they have affected store operations and customer service, and (2) whether the agency uses a reliable methodology to measure customer satisfaction with its commissaries.

The Defense Commissary Agency's commissary operations and customer services have been maintained at the same level, and in some cases improved, despite the recent reductions in workforce. As of December 31, 2002, the agency had completed most of its 3,047 planned personnel reductions in full-time positions. It accomplished this primarily by achieving efficiencies or eliminating vacant positions in the stores. Only 122 employees have been separated and 341 retired as a result of the personnel cutbacks. A major focus of DeCA's personnel reductions, as outlined in its strategic plan, was to reshape the workforce and develop a more efficient organization. We found that commissaries are making greater use of part-time employees because of the reductions. This has allowed some stores to increase their operating hours to better meet customer needs. It has also given store managers more flexibility in meeting workload fluctuations. However, DeCA's strategic plan does not include specific goals for achieving a certain full-time/part-time workforce mix in stores. As a result, the planned percentage of part-time positions varies widely by store. A recent customer satisfaction survey showed that commissary patrons expressed high satisfaction with their overall shopping experience, as well as with such key indicators as time waiting in line and convenient hours. However, the managers of the smaller commissaries reported concerns over balancing workload and maintaining store operations. We found that the Commissary Customer Satisfaction Survey methodology is reasonable. However, some improvements in the analysis of survey data could ensure that the findings are more complete and consistent. Such changes could include adjusting survey results for the volume of sales at individual stores or for the number of shoppers who refuse to fill out the questionnaire. Furthermore, the current survey does not collect information on the number of, and reasons why, potential customers do not shop at their local commissaries.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in consultation with the Chairman, Commissary Operating Board, should require the Director, Defense Commissary Agency, to document the number of survey non-respondents and their reasons for not completing the questionnaire.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DeCA customer satisfaction survey administrators documented the number of survey non-respondents and the reasons for their non-response. The collection has allowed DeCA to determine the level of non-response, why patrons refuse to participate, and the impact non-respondents have on the survey results.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in consultation with the Chairman, Commissary Operating Board, should require the Director, Defense Commissary Agency, to adjust the customer survey results on the basis of sales volume and customer expenditure data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DeCA revised their methodology to incorporate a weighting system based on sales volume, beginning in the fall 2003, to better represent the commissary population by accounting for differences in small versus large commissary patronage.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in consultation with the Chairman, Commissary Operating Board, should require the Director, Defense Commissary Agency, to reassess the management reductions at small stores to ensure managers can balance their workload and maintain store operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DeCA's regional directors reviewed the management structure at their stores and increased management positions in Band One, Two, and Three level stores by 69 positions to balance their workload and maintain efficient store operations.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in consultation with the Chairman, Commissary Operating Board, should require the Director, Defense Commissary Agency, to update the strategic plan to include goals that identify the percent of the store workforce that is expected to be full- and part-time to achieve further efficiencies from reshaping the workforce.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OUSD (P&R) stated that they should not prescribe the full-time and part-time mix for stores. However, OUSD (P&R) said it would instead counsel those managers to make more aggressive use of part-time personnel, leaving the detailed plan to them.

    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in consultation with the Chairman, Commissary Operating Board, should require the Director, Defense Commissary Agency, to examine potential methods and analyses to periodically determine how many and why eligible personnel do not shop at commissaries, to identify ways to improve service and increase the number of potential customers using the commissary benefit.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Beginning in the summer of 2003, DeCA began using two Defense Manpower Data Center surveys to obtain information about DeCA's non-shopper population. The information gathered through the surveys about eligible non-shoppers allows DeCA to measure the impact of future programs that are designed to reach DeCA's non-shopper population.

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