Why are the commissaries under attack by the Department of Defense (DoD) yet again?
The FY 2016 defense budget proposal continues the plan to ultimately reduce the annual commissary subsidy by $1 billion.
According to a recently released report by the RAND Corporation, “Past and recent proposals to eliminate the subsidy, have been made in the name of reducing the DoD budget.”
The National Defense Budget Estimate for Fiscal Year 2016 is approximately $585 billion. With the proposed commissary cuts only saving .05% of the budget, why does the DoD continue to look at this “important non-pay benefit” as a cost saving measure? These cuts hurt the very people DoD needs to re-enlist at a time when retention is becoming increasingly challenging and those that have already sacrificed and devoted their entire adult lives in service to our nation: retirees.
DoD solicited the expertise of the RAND Corporation to review how price increases have effected grocery retailers in the private sector. RAND used this data to analyze how this might translate into changes in sales and revenue at the commissaries.
Guess what the RAND report said?
Commissary patrons typically buy more groceries than customers of comparable civilian supermarkets. They also travel greater distances to take advantage of this benefit and frequently remain on base to shop at the exchanges after shopping at the commissary. The report also found that half of eligible commissary shoppers are retirees and one-quarter are active-duty personnel, E-1 through E-3.
RAND’s conclusion was not surprising: “If the appropriation is eliminated, prices at the commissaries will likely rise and/or stores may no longer be financially viable.” The report went on to say that, “raising overall price levels will not be a successful strategy to cover the shortfalls in costs caused by the elimination of the annual Department of Defense appropriation.”
In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, MOAA President, Vice Admiral Norb Ryan, USN (Ret) said, “Congress should take a critical look at waste in the Pentagon’s acquisition programs. In 2013 alone, the Government Accountability Office reported that the Pentagon’s top 85 major defense-acquisition programs experienced overruns of nearly $411 billion. Reporter Andrew Tilghman of the Military Times observed that this amount in itself is almost enough to cover the entire cost of sequestration for the Defense Department.”
The $411 billion in acquisition program overruns would cover the entire cost of sequestration or pay for the commissary subsidy for nearly the next 300 years.
With the proposed cuts only saving the DoD very little, you need to ask your elected officials why the commissaries are repeatedly the target of DoD budget cuts, especially when they provide such a significant benefit that is highly valued by so many.