FAIRFIELD — An Air Force Times article citing Pentagon sources says that proposals to reportedly cut $1 billion from the annual commissary budget over three years may not involve closing stores, but may increase how much customers pay.
The official word on what the Department of Defense plans to do won’t be revealed until early March, when its fiscal 2015 budget request is released.
The Air Force Times article stated that the Department of Defense is centering its planning on keeping commissaries open while increasing prices.
This is a big change from rumors in late fall that the Department of Defense planned to shut down all U.S. commissaries, which caused anxiety among military families who depend on the commissaries to make ends meet. Commissaries are reported to save their customers 30 percent on the average compared to civilian supermarkets.
In response, the American Forces Press Service quoted Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy John Molino in December as saying, “the department is committed to maintain a commissary benefit.”
Changes being looked at, according to the Air Force Times, include raising the 5 percent surcharge customers pay at the register, increasing prices on products or a combination of the two.
The 2014 budget for the Defense Commissary Agency was $1.4 billion, which pays employee salaries, store utilities and for shipping food to overseas commissaries. The 5 percent surcharge on sales pays for construction and maintenance.
The possible cuts have generated concern on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., introducing a bill Wednesday that would prevent the Department of Defense from closing or reducing operations of commissary stores and exchanges through 2016. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who represents both Travis Air Force Base and Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, was the sole Democrat among the bill’s 10 co-sponsors.
“Our military men and women rely on commissaries and exchanges on base to be convenient providers of essential, affordable groceries for their families,” Griffin said in a release. “Closing these stores – which represent only three-tenths of one percent of the defense budget – would be a poke in the eye to our armed forces.”
Garamendi, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, voiced similar sentiments, saying in the release, “the commissaries are a necessary benefit for our military personnel, veterans and their families, and I am opposed to any effort to shut them down.”
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