Base Exchange

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An NEX store in August 2002.
An NEX store at NAB Little Creek in August 2002.
Shoppers at an NEX store in August 2002.
U.S. Navy sailors shopping at an NEX in August 2002.

An exchange is a type of retail store found on United States military installations worldwide. Originally akin to trading posts, they now resemble contemporary department stores or strip malls.


Exchanges are known as a Base Exchange (BX) in the U.S. Air Force, whereas they are referred to as a Post Exchange (PX) in the U.S. Army, Navy Exchange (NEX) in the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) in the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Over the next few years[when?], every exchange operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) will be rebranded simply as an Exchange (X) to simplify differentiation between the similar sounding BX and PX names.[citation needed]


Exchanges on U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force installations are operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), while those on Navy bases are operated by the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), and those on U.S. Marine Corps installations are part of Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS), which also runs the rest of Marine MWR operations. The Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) operates a handful of stores on U.S.Coast Guard installations. Exchanges on joint installations are generally served by the exchanges already operating upon the joining of the existing installations, though some smaller exchanges may close when they can no longer benefit the installation.


An AAFES-operated Post Exchange (now closed) located at the old international airport in Mogadishu, Somalia in January 1994.
A U.S. Army soldier shops for shoes at the Base Exchange (BX) at Scott Air Force Base in May 2008.

Base Exchanges sell consumer goods and services to authorized patrons such as Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, Retired Members of the U.S. Uniformed Services and their dependents. Honorably Discharged Veterans certified 100% disabled by the Veterans Administration, Recipients of the Medal of Honor, Military Transition Personnel, U.S. Civilian DoD Employees when stationed outside the U.S, Contract Surgeons, Red Cross Personnel who are U.S. citizens, assigned outside the U.S. with the Military Service. Authority to use these facilities is normally determined by presentation of the U.S. Uniformed Services Privilege and Identification Card, either when entering the store or when paying for goods and services.

Limited Base Exchange privileges are extended to Members of the Officer Reserve Training Corps and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps when visiting installations under orders as part of a Service orientation program. Civil Air Patrol Cadets may purchase uniform items when Civil Air Patrol membership card is shown and all food and beverages sold at exchange locations, if consumed on post. Members of the Naval Sea Cadets attending two week training course, if occupying Government quarters on a Military installation. Coast Guard Auxiliary Members. Foreign National Active Duty Officer and Enlisted Members, when visiting U.S. Military Installation for unofficial business. Merchandise is restricted to quantities required for personal use. At many overseas locations Exchange privileges are determined as part of the local Status of Forces Agreement.

Shopping privileges are also generally extended in overseas locations to U.S. federal government civilian employees and their dependents who are assigned overseas. Shopping privileges can vary overseas according to applicable status-of-forces agreements with host nations. A typical exchange is similar to a department store, but other services such as military clothing sales/uniform shops, barber shops, hair care, beauty, laundry/dry cleaning, gas stations, fast food outlets, convenience stores ("Shoppettes" or "Mini Marts"), beer and wine sales, liquor stores ("Class Six" or "Package Stores"), lawn and garden shops, movie theaters and even vehicle maintenance and repair services are commonly available. Most (but not all) sales by exchanges are free of state and local sales or VAT taxes as the sales take place on U.S. military reservations (exceptions include gasoline sales in the U.S. and sales by concessionaires licensed by the exchange).

Unlike commissaries (military grocery stores), exchanges, for the most part, do not receive significant appropriations from the federal government and must operate on a for-profit basis. With the exception of military personnel assigned to duty with the exchange services, exchange service employees' salaries are paid from revenues generated from sales of merchandise, except for annual raises from funds appropriated by Congress. Exchanges are deemed Category C non-appropriated fund (NAF) activities, meaning they are designed to not only be self-sufficient, but generate a profit.

Of course, exchanges are normally located on military reservations and, as a result, do not pay rent or tax for the use of land. Exchanges' tax-exempt status (as instrumentalities of the U.S. Government) also reduces certain operating expenses. While exchanges must pay for the cost of transporting goods within the contiguous United States, Congress appropriates funds to subsidize the transportation costs of American merchandise to overseas exchange locations so that such items are available and affordable to personnel stationed overseas.

Exchanges play an important role for U.S. military and federal government personnel assigned overseas as they are often the only local source for American retail merchandise, such as clothing, electronics, books and magazines, fast food, etc. Exchanges also supply gasoline at prices roughly approximating those in the U.S., normally on a rationed basis, to overseas personnel for personal use, since fuel prices in most foreign countries (where U.S. military are stationed) are normally much higher due to local taxes.[citation needed]

Overseas exchanges also sell to authorized personnel new US Specification vehicles made by Ford and Chrysler, as well as Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Until 2006 General Motors-made vehicles were also sold, but have since then been discontinued.

AAFES and NEX have also established smaller field exchanges to provide military personnel with comforts and everyday items while deployed, even in combat zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. NEX also operates small exchanges, known as "ship's stores," onboard seagoing vessels. They are managed and operated by sailors in the Ship's Serviceman rating.

Most profits earned by the exchange services, after paying operating expenses, are used to support community activities aimed at improving morale among service members and their families.[citation needed]

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