April 10, 2014
By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret)
year’s budget submission includes a Pentagon proposal to cut commissary subsidy
funding. It is a backdoor way to slowly kill the commissary.
the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) operates 243 stores worldwide, with 178
stateside, and provides to servicemembers and retirees and their families groceries
at-cost plus a 5-percent surcharge.
provide a significant benefit to military families. The average family of four
who shops exclusively at the commissary saves up to $4,500 annually and sees
savings of up to 30 percent when compared to private grocery stores.
operations are subsidized to the tune of $1.4 billion a year. The proposal
would eliminate $1 billion in the subsidy over a three-year period of time.
reports that eliminating the subsidy will reduce the savings commissary
shoppers enjoy from 30 percent to 10 percent over the “high-priced private”
grocery stores and shoppers will see only “modest” savings over discount
“We are really changing the deal,” Sen. Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on
Personnel, said to DoD witnesses. “That 30 percent of groceries (savings) that
you were just taking away, that savings matters.”
the subsidy itself would significantly hit a family of four’s pocketbook — they
would lose approximately $3,000 in purchasing power annually.
real risk is patronage. Who in their right mind is going to drive past one Giant,
one Safeway, and one Kroger’s on the way to the installation on a Saturday or
Sunday to get a “modest” savings (which can be interpreted as less than a 10
percent savings)? You’ll waste more in gas than you’ll see in savings.
and commissaries and exchanges employ family members and retirees to the tune
of 40 percent, placing their jobs at risk.
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee
on Personnel, voiced a similar concern saying, “Structural changes do have a
ripple effect, and if the shopping becomes less at the commissary, eventually people
will be less likely to shop at the base or post exchange.”
couldn’t agree more. This fundamental change will have a serious ripple effect
on other family support programs on the installation: base exchanges and
especially morale, welfare, and recreation programs.
bottom line: MOAA believes cutting the commissary subsidy is a backdoor way to
slowly kill the commissary benefit. DoD, true to their word, said they are not directing
any commissary to be closed. Yet without patrons, commissaries will face the
ultimate “business decision” and will shutter and close.
Send your legislators a MOAA-suggested message on this issue:H.R. 4217 and S. 2075 – The
Military Commissary Sustainment Act. Rep. J. Randy Forbes’ (D-VA) and Sen.
Mark Warner’s (D-VA) respective House and Senate bills would
prohibit a reduction in funding for the defense commissary system pending the
report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.
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