Military grocery operations would suffer a $221 million cut under the department’s fiscal 2017 budget request, but the Pentagon’s top financial officer said the proposal would not lower the commissary benefits enjoyed by military families.
“This year’s proposal is a different proposal,” Comptroller Mike McCord told reporters Tuesday. “A more modest proposal financially that only tries to get savings out of the business end, does not touch the benefits. So, that’s different in an important way, I think from the troops’ perspective to last year,” McCord said.
Last year, the department proposed slashing the Defense Commissary Agency’s budget by $322 million in FY 2016 — out of a total allocation of $1.4 billion — and $1 billion in FY 2017, but lawmakers restored much of that funding for the current year. The proposed cuts would have been accommodated by reducing days of operation and operating hours, laying off staff and closing some stores.
Officials, however, have not said how the cut proposed for FY 2017 what affect commissary operations. A source told Army Times the $200 million reduction could be the result of various operational changes carried out by the Defense Commissary Agency; for example, the agency is saving $40 million annually through a new means of supplying produce to stores in the Pacific.
“As long as it’s not affecting the benefit and they’ve made some efficiencies that reduce the [federal subsidy], we wouldn’t have any problem. But we’d like to see where the money is coming from,” the source said.
Stars and Stripes suggested the savings may result from plans to close a handful of European stores this year.
The Pentagon isn’t the only stakeholder looking to trim the taxpayer subsidy supporting military grocery stores. The FY 2016 defense authorization bill requires DOD to submit a plan by March 1 to operate the commissaries without federal dollars by FY 2018, while maintaining the customer benefit — an average savings for military families of about 30 percent over off-base groceries. The legislation allows the department to try out new approaches for meeting that objective.