Becca McCarthy with her daughter Kate, 2 months, hands her son William, 2, center, his signed picture of NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth, in back, who was signing autographs for the troops at the Travis Air Force Base Commissary Monday morning. (Daily Republic File)


Pentagon examines commissary budget cuts

By From page A1 | February 07, 2014

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.”

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.

Discussion | 3 comments

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  • PornacFebruary 07, 2014 - 7:24 am

    Close all stateside commissaries. They are a wasteful government boondoggle.

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  • Dave ShreeveFebruary 07, 2014 - 9:56 am

    They are hardly wasteful since they take up about 1/4 of 1% of the total DoD budget. There would hardly be any savings at all in the federal budget by closing the commissaries. Any decision to close, or raise the surcharge at the commissaries would be a political decision, not an economic decision.

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  • P.J.February 07, 2014 - 9:29 am

    I was once told by a friend who lives far away from a commissary that when the "Super Walmart" opened in Fairfield, I would not even care about the commissary anymore. Not true! I make a list of several items and I compare them frequently. That is easy because I live near Walmart. Yep! I do still save at the commissary, but...I do pay a 5% override, plus...someone bags my grocery, not the cashier, then I tip that person, maybe another 3 - 5%, depending how nice and helpful they are. A few will even help me get my groceries out of the cart onto the convayer belt. That is STILL a savings. But, the truth is, I could live without the commissary, if I had an increase in my income. (not likely, since I am 76 yrs. of age) Still! I absolutely do not like WalMart at all! If I need a few items, and especially fresh produce...and super incredible desserts! I simply go to my favorite store in all the world! RALEY'S! I totally love that store. I pay $1.00 more for their prepared salads, but I get much better and more fresh incredients, than I do at WalMart. I have also compared that....so, truthfully. If I watch the specials, I shop at RALEY'S . They are a CA store, and the family supports so many good causes that I just love that place!!!

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