Vets Advocate: Commissary Closings 'Wrong Place' to Cut Budget

Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013 12:49 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

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The proposal by the Pentagon to close military commissaries would be the "wrong place" to trim the defense budget and only a "short-term fix" to a bigger problem, veterans advocate Pete Hegseth said Tuesday.

"It is a short-term fix. If they were to close commissaries — military grocery stores, effectively — for military members, their families and retirees, they would be a casualty of Washington's unwillingness to constrain spending," Hegseth said on "Fox & Friends."

The Pentagon last month proposed closing all military commissaries in the United States to cut costs. The move would affect military personnel and families who shop at the 178 commissaries nationwide.

Hegseth, a combat veteran, is CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, an organization of U.S. military veterans and families that promotes policy initiatives. Hegseth lost a bid in the Republican primary for the Senate in Minnesota last year after failing to win the Republican endorsement.

The cuts are an attempt to control spending through smaller expenditures, like troop pay and benefits, because of a reluctance by the Defense Department to make decisions about big-ticket items, said Hegseth, a combat veteran who heads the Concerned Veterans of American, which promotes policy initiatives to help vets and active duty military families.

"We see proposals like getting rid of commissaries, and it's really a reflection of, if you can't make tough decisions about big-ticket items, then it rolls downhill," Hegseth said.

The reason for cutting military benefits is because troops do not have a lobby supporting them, as is the case with weapons systems, Hegseth explained. Targeting commissaries is "the wrong place to start."

"That private in the field doesn't have a constituency in Washington — a lobbyist there to protect their programs. But you do with big-ticket weapons systems, with contractors, with high-ranking officials," he said.

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