The House and Senate have approved their versions of the defense bill, and they don’t see eye to eye on the commissary.
The Senate unfortunately took aim at the commissary system in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senate lawmakers cut $322 million from the commissary budget. A cut this big will lead to increased prices, reduced operating hours and days of operation, and a reduction in store staff.
Also tucked inside the bill was language allowing DoD to increase prices in stores to cover costs.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sponsored an amendment to restore the $322 million funding and to strike language that would allow DoD to adjust commissary prices, but her amendment did not come to a vote.
Even though her amendment wasn’t voted on, as Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski rejected the commissary cut and provided full funding.
Civics 101: What does that mean?
Every year Congress works on two major types of legislation: authorization bills and appropriation bills.
Authorization bills tell federal departments (like DoD) and agencies what to do. Appropriations bills fund federal agencies. Appropriations bills distribute money to federal departments, agencies, and programs. These bills tell DoD how much they can spend and where the money will go.
Currently, the money for the commissary is in the Senate appropriations bill but the authorization to spend it is not in the Senate authorization bill.
The House passed its version of the authorization bill in May. In it, House lawmakers rejected the cuts to commissary funding. The House defense appropriations bill included full funding for the commissary in the budget.
The Senate is currently working on its version of the defense appropriations bill. Once passed, it will go to conference where differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved.
The defense authorization bill is also headed to conference. We are hopeful that funding for the commissary subsidy will be restored during this process.
Ultimately, without the funding, the cost of operating the commissary will slowly shift to you, the shopper.
MOAA thanks Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Mikulski (D-Md.) for leading the charge to prevent privatization of commissaries.