Senate Panel Passes on Pentagon Proposal to Reduce Commissary Subsidies

The Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee on Wednesday rejected some, but not all, of DOD’s proposed reforms to military benefits, as it marked up its portion of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill.

The panel ignored the administration’s plan to slash subsidies for military grocery stores by $200 million in FY 2015, but included the proposal to limit housing allowances below the rate of inflation, reported Stars and Stripes.

The lawmakers also rebuffed a plan to consolidate the Tricare health care system. They did, however, adopt the department’s request to limit pay raises to 1 percent.

The House version of the annual policy bill, being considered on the chamber floor since Tuesday night, rejects the proposal to slow increases in the basic allowance for housing. It does, however, retain half of DOD’s proposed $200 million cut in the annual direct subsidy for commissaries. The Pentagon’s plan calls for the government to reduce its annual subsidy for commissaries from $1.4 billion to $400 million over three years. The cut would slash the average savings on groceries from 30 percent to 10 percent.

Subcommittee Chair Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she hopes the move to slow the growth in housing allowances, along with a requirement for higher co-pays for some prescriptions, are reversed when the bill is heard in the full Senate.

“I want to be clear — the cuts included are required because the lower levels required by sequestration,” Gillibrand said. “I hope to be able to repeal some or all of these provisions once this bill is on the floor, and I welcome that debate.”

The full committee began marking up the legislation Wednesday afternoon and is expected to finish Thursday night.


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