House Panel Rejects Proposal to Trim Commissary Discount, Housing Allowance

The House Armed Services’ Military Personnel Subcommittee failed to adopt the Pentagon’s plan to reduce direct subsidies for military grocery stores and slow increases in service members’ basic allowance for housing (BAH), according to the portion of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill the panel is scheduled to mark up on Wednesday. 

The changes in military pay and compensation included in the administration’s FY 2015 budget request were the Pentagon’s latest attempt to stem the growth of skyrocketing personnel costs and mitigate the impact of the 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps.

In its budget, DOD proposed reducing the direct subsidy for commissaries by $1 billion over three years so that average savings on groceries drop from 30 percent to 10 percent. Instead, the panel’s measure calls for outside experts to review and assess the commissary program to identify efficiencies that could save money without compromising military family benefits.

The department also proposed slowing increases in the BAH until service members are responsible for a 5 percent out-of-pocket contribution. The subcommittee rejected other proposals to increase out-of pocket costs as well, including consolidating Tricare health insurance options into a preferred provider network that would have higher fees.

The draft legislation is available on the committee website.

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