January 15, 2016
On Wednesday, MOAA Deputy Director of Government Relations Brooke Goldberg testified before the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee regarding commissary reform.
The FY16 Defense Authorization Act specified any changes to the commissary system must maintain current levels of patron savings and satisfaction. Goldberg thanked subcommittee members for establishing these standards. She emphasized the commissary benefit is in the savings, and these are the right metrics to use in assessing any program changes.
Highlighting the compensation and retention value of the commissary, Goldberg told the subcommittee, “For an E-5 with 8 years of service and a family of four, grocery savings at the commissary are equivalent to a 9 percent pay raise.”
She went on to express concern about possible changes in the way savings are measured, noting that maintaining the same market basket measure is crucial to preserving the same savings patrons rely on.
Most of the legislators at the hearing appeared to agree with the witnesses. The value of the commissary benefit far outweighs the “hundredths of one percent of the military budget we can save [by cutting it],” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).
While the necessity of commissaries overseas is not hard to see, last year the subsidy that helps pay the cost of transporting fresh produce to stores in Asia and the Pacific was cut. This resulted in a cost increase to patrons, so the price of a bag of romaine lettuce skyrocketed to more than $10 at the commissary in Guam. Goldberg said, “Those sent overseas at the pleasure of their government should not be stuck with the bill for shipping resources to their location.”
Multiple studies confirm the commissary is one of the military community's most-valued benefits. It is a significant compensation, morale, and community factor for servicemembers and their families, enhancing military readiness no matter where they are asked to go.
Subcommittee leaders clearly agreed.
Chairman Joe Heck (R-Nev.) expressed his commitment to sustaining this important benefit. “If there's not enough savings, people are going to walk,” he said.
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