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House bill would delay commissary budget cuts

Mar. 21, 2014 - 09:15AM   |  
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Another legislative proposal has been introduced to ward off cuts in commissary funding — at least until the commission that is studying all military compensation completes its work.

Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., introduced the “Military Commissary Sustainment Act,” which would prohibit the Defense Department from reducing the amount of monthly funds for operating the commissary system in fiscal 2015 below the average monthly amount used in fiscal 2014, until the date of the report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.

That congressionally mandated commission is scrutinizing all pay and compensation benefits for active duty and retired members, to include the commissary system, and is set to issue a report in early 2015.

The bill is identical to one introduced in the Senate by another Virginia lawmaker — Democrat Sen. Mark Warner — and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Both House and Senate proposals have been referred to their respective Armed Services committees.

The president’s budget included a proposal to eventually reduce funding for commissaries by two-thirds — gradually cutting $1 billion of their current $1.4 billion budget over three years. The cut in the first year would be about $200 million. Over time, the remaining $400 million in annual taxpayer subsidies would fund overseas commissaries and those in remote locations. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel emphasized that no stores would be directed to close.

“Such a cut would raise prices and reduce the savings to our military families,” said Forbes, in a new release announcing his legislation. “Reducing commissary services is essentially cutting the pay of those who volunteer to wear this nation’s uniform and is an unacceptable breach of faith with our warriors and their families. My legislation will prevent any such reductions in the coming year, removing yet another burden that our service members and their families would have to face.”

Commissaries would have to operate more like military exchanges — where prices are marked up, rather than sold at cost as they are in commissaries. Current law requires items to be sold at cost. Savings in commissaries average 30 percent.

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