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Serviceman shopping for shoes at the Base Exchange (BX) at Scott AFB, Illinois

A Base Exchange (BX) (US Air Force terminology: also referred to as a Post Exchange (PX) on Army posts, Navy Exchange (NEX) on Navy installations, Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) on Marine Corps installations and Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) on Coast Guard installations) is a type of retail store operating on United States military installations worldwide. Originally akin to trading posts, they now resemble department stores or strip malls.

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

Service organization

Exchanges on Army and 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 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 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.


Exchanges sell consumer goods and services to active duty, Reserve, National Guard, retired members of United States Uniformed Services and their dependents. Authority to use these facilities is normally determined by presentation of the individual's military member or military family member identification (ID) card, either when entering the store or when paying for goods and services. 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. 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 continental 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.

AAFES operated Post Exchange (now closed) located at the old international airport in Mogadishu, Somalia (January 1994).

Exchanges play an important role for U.S. military and 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 new North American-made vehicles to assigned personnel in cooperation with the "Big Three" automakers (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

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]

See also

External links

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