Pentagon Calls for Plan to Close Commissaries in US

Friday, 22 Nov 2013 09:57 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The Defense Department has called on the Defense Commissary Agency to draw up a plan to shut all military commissaries in the United States, says a source with knowledge of talks between the Joint Staff and the Pentagon comptroller's office, The Army Times reports.

On the firing line are 178 commissaries, including stores in Alaska and Hawaii. The nearly 70 stores overseas are not being targeted.

The proposed cutbacks would likely mean higher prices for goods purchased by military personnel and result in a loss of jobs for military wives, who make up about a third of the U.S. commissary workforce.

The source, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that discussions to do away with the U.S. commissaries were included in preparations for the fiscal 2015 defense budget request due out in February.

Although the commissary agency was asked to draft a proposal, any closures would be still a long way off and would first have to be approved by Congress, where it is likely to be strongly opposed by a large contingent of lawmakers.

The move would also come under fire from the Military Coalition, which is made up of about 30 military and veterans advocacy groups.

The shutdown proposal is seen as an indication of the budgetary concerns the Pentagon faces because of budgetary sequestration, says the Army Times.

The military stores, which offer lower prices to the troops because they can order goods at reduced rates because of the sheer volume of the orders, receive $1.4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies.

Tom Gordy, Armed Forces Marketing Council president, said in written testimony to a panel of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that closing all or most of the U.S. stores would lead to higher prices overseas, which account for 16 percent of total worldwide sales, and at any stores remaining open in the United States.

Gordy, whose council works with 330 manufacturers, also said that closing U.S. stores "would eliminate the benefit for millions of families, breaking a commitment that has been made to every service member."

Steve Rossetti, director of governmental affairs for the American Logistics Association, slammed the proposal, saying that it was "very disturbing" and that commissaries are "one of the most valued benefits" to the military.

DeCA Director Joseph Jeu said that the agency has slashed its annual funding requirement by $700 million over the last 20 years, and that it would be hard-pressed to make further cuts. He added that any changes in the program would have "a great impact" on the military and their families.

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