Subcommittee Chairman Appears to Favor Consolidation Plan for Exchanges, Commissaries

After gaining support among top DOD leaders, a plan to consolidate the military’s commissary and exchange systems now may be favored by a key lawmaker responsible for personnel policy.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), chairman of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, has been reviewing the report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which in January called for consolidating DOD’s three exchange services with the Defense Commissary Agency into a single Defense Resale Activity.

The commission concluded the move would generate $426 million in annual savings by fiscal 2020 by combining many of the activities’ back-end office and support functions such as logistics and staffing. The extent of Heck’s support may become clear on Thursday when his subcommittee marks up its portion of the FY 2016 defense authorization bill, reported Stars and Stripes.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, appears to be moving ahead with the consolidation plan at the same time it has proposed slashing funding for commissaries by $322 million in FY 2016 and by $1 billion the following year. The department’s FY 2016 budget request calls for U.S. commissaries to be operated more like a business, forcing the grocery stores to reduce customer discounts. DOD’s cost-saving reforms also would trim staff, store hours and the days stores are open.

Opponents of the proposed commissary reforms — including advocates for military shoppers, and manufacturers and suppliers doing business with base stores — last week told the armed services committees that DOD’s plan “will destroy the commissary benefit” and “severely impact young families and fixed-income retirees,” according to the story.

Significantly reducing the commissary benefit will eliminate tens of thousands of “much needed jobs for the military community,” according to the April 16 letter from the Coalition to Save Our Military Shopping Benefits.

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