The Senate on Tuesday voted 70-26 to remove language from the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill allowing the Defense Department to privatize commissaries at five major installations until a study to assess the costs and benefits of privatization is completed.
The amendment rekindles a similar effort on the Senate floor last year to postpone the launch of a pilot privatization initiative at military grocery stores.
Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) sponsored this year’s amendment after a provision allowing DOD to launch the privatization program was again included in the FY 2017 authorization bill. The study, which initially was requested last year, is under way but has not been completed, according to a press release from the two lawmakers.
“Privatization at this point in time, when the impacts have not been fully assessed and evaluated by DOD and Congress, would jeopardize those benefits,” Inhofe said. “The strong, bipartisan vote in the Senate clearly demonstrates the importance of preserving the commissary and the benefits that it provides to our servicemen and women.”
“Commissaries are the military’s most popular earned benefit. With this bipartisan amendment, we will keep commissary doors open to provide low-cost, healthy food to our service members and their families until we’re certain there’s a better alternative,” Mikulski said.
Last month, DOD issued a request for information to help determine the feasibility of privatizing all or part of the commissary system, based on interest from the private sector. The responses will be used for the congressionally required study, reported Military Times.