While changes are coming to how the department operates military grocery stores, they won’t be implemented in a haphazard manner, according to David Tillotson III, DOD’s assistant deputy chief management officer.
Tillotson, who has been charged with identifying ways to reduce the $1.4 billion annual subsidy Congress provides the commissary system, said any changes would be carried out deliberately and with mechanisms in place to ensure they don’t degrade the commissary benefit for military families.
“We’ll work on it a piece at a time, and that’s our intention,” Tillotson told the American Logistics Association, a group of manufacturers and distributors who serve commissaries, exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation facilities.
Privatization, for example, is not an “all or nothing” proposition, he said. It is possible that only some elements of commissary operations are handled by the private sector, reported Military Times. The main sticking point to privatizing commissaries will be overseas stores, Tillotson said.
“We are unequivocally certain that people are really, really going to choke on the overseas operation portion. We’re certain of that because nearly every conversation I’ve had chokes on that point,” he said.
Tillotson noted that the department was pleased that the Senate had removed language from the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill allowing DOD to privatize commissaries at five major installations.
The Pentagon already has proposed allowing commissaries to charge variable prices for items and to introduce private labels in an effort to reduce the annual subsidy.
In addition to looking for ways to save money in commissary operations, Tillotson said the deputy secretary of defense has asked him to find $10 billion in savings from other reforms across DOD over the next four to five years.