AAFES proposes self-storage units for deployed GIs
WASHINGTON — Exchange officials are considering a move to build self-storage containers at a handful of U.S. military facilities to provide less expensive, more convenient service for troops deploying overseas.
But members of Congress and industry representatives have frowned upon the idea, expressing concern that the move could hurt private companies already established in military communities.
“Post exchanges have provided no compelling evidence for more demand,” said Michael Scanlon, president of the Self Storage Association. “These plans would create a government-supported monopoly on base, and devastate the self-storage economy in local communities.”
Scanlon estimated an exchange-run storage facility could charge up to 23 percent less than private lockers because of AAFES’ tax-free status. That could mean big savings for troops, he said, but would be a major competitive disadvantage for off-base companies that do pay local taxes.
Officials from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said they have had requests from commanders about exchange-supplies storage facilities at five locations: Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Irwin, Calif.; The Air Force Academy, Colo.; Redstone Arsenal, Ga.; and Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
In a hearing before a House armed services subcommittee last week, AAFES Commander Maj. Gen. Paul Essex said surveys are being conducted at each of those installations to determine whether such facilities would be successful.
“It’s especially important now that large groups are deploying, and they need some place to put their things,” he said.
Earlier this year, AAFES began soliciting plans for construction of storage lockers at Fort Drum, N.Y., after an Army Family Action Plan noted that soldiers did not have “secure or environmentally safe storage facilities that are conducive for storage needs, especially during deployment.”
But after complaints from local storage groups and a review of available options, the idea was dropped.
Essex said AAFES’ goal is not to compete with local companies, but to fill in service gaps for troops. Officials said the other five locations considering building storage units all have expressed concern about the availability of storage in the nearby communities.
But members of the House Armed Services Committee asked for more data on the needs of troops and the availability of existing options before any storage units are built.
“We need to be sure we’re not doing undue violence to the private sector,” said Rep. John McHugh, chairman of the military personnel subcommittee. “Just because they have full capacity doesn’t mean the private sector can’t build more.”