Fate of Pilot Test of Commissary Privatization Still up for Grabs

A Senate effort to torpedo a provision in the fiscal 2016 defense authorization directing DOD to privatize up to five commissaries through a two-year pilot program appears to have been unsuccessful, leaving the issue to be settled in conference.

During its debate of the annual policy bill last month, the Senate passed an amendment intended to strip out the language calling for the pilot. The amendment would have required the department to assess the costs and benefits of privatizing military grocery stores prior to launching the test. But because of the procedure employed to pass the amendment, the original language remains in the measure, reports Military Times.

The amendment was offered by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), but it was modified to include the text of a related amendment from Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

With two conflicting provisions in the legislation, House and Senate conferees hashing out a compromise bill could opt for either one. The House version did not include language regarding the privatization of military grocery stores.

Some confusion still reigns over the issue, however, according to the story.

After the Senate passed the amendment in June, its two chief advocates, Inhofe and Mikulski, issued a joint statement praising the effort.

“This amendment puts all efforts to prioritize commissaries on hold, requiring instead an assessment on privatizing before we make significant changes to our service member’s commissary benefits,” Inhofe said. “There are too many unknowns as to whether privatization could directly impact military members’ ability to provide for their families as well as the potential for it to affect retention,” he stated.

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