Personnel Committee Defers Action on Consolidation Plan for Commissaries, Exchanges

A plan to consolidate the military’s commissary and exchange system is not included in the portion of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill marked up by the House Armed Services’ Military Personnel Subcommittee on Thursday.

Chairman Joe Heck (R-Nev.) said the panel is not yet ready to address the consolidation plan, which the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission recommended in January. Lawmakers are awaiting results from a contractor study mandated by Congress in last year’s authorization bill, reported Military Times. The study is due in September.

The panel also acted to restore funds to the Defense Commissary Agency after the Pentagon proposed to slash funding for commissaries by $322 million in FY 2016. The agency’s budget would be set at $1.3 billion instead of $1.15 billion, under the subcommittee’s draft bill.

The department’s budget calls for U.S. commissaries to be operated more like a business, forcing the stores to reduce customer discounts, as well as trim staff, store hours and the days stores are open. The subcommittee, however, rebuffed DOD’s request for legislation allowing commissaries to raise prices in order to pay for some of their operating costs, according to the story.

Although the additional funding recommended for the Defense Commissary Agency would allow military groceries to avoid reducing store hours and days of operation, DOD still has the authority to implement such cost-cutting measures without lawmakers’ approval.

The subcommittee proposed more far-reaching changes to the military retirement system by incorporating a 401(k)-style plan to benefit personnel who serve fewer than 20 years.

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