Milcon Bill Becomes Vehicle for House to Block Cost-Cutting Measures

A new BRAC round wasn’t the only cost-saving measure House lawmakers voted to block last week during debate over the fiscal 2015 military construction-veterans affairs spending bill. The House also approved an amendment barring the Defense Department from closing any commissaries.

That amendment, passed by voice vote, was introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) in response to the Pentagon’s proposal to reduce the direct subsidy for commissaries by $1 billion over three years. The funding reduction would slash the average savings on groceries from 30 percent to 10 percent.

Even though the Pentagon’s proposal does not call for shuttering any commissaries, a senior DOD official acknowledged in March that some stateside stores could be forced to close if sales drop significantly following price increases.

The amendment barring funds from being used to propose, plan for or carry out a new round of base closures also passed by voice vote. It was sponsored by Reps. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Ron Barber (D-Ariz.); the same amendment passed on the House floor last year when Runyan offered it to the milcon spending bill.

“This amendment is so important because it protects the jobs and missions at bases across the country, including Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” Runyan said in a written statement after the underlying measure was approved.

The milcon spending bill (HR 4486) would provide $6.6 billion for military construction and family housing programs next year, a figure which matches the administration’s request but represents a $3.3 billion decline from the FY 2014 allocation. It would provide $270.1 million for the cleanup of BRAC sites, matching the Obama administration’s budget request, but representing a $181.3 million drop from current year funding.

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