Trimming the commissary benefit as part of an effort to lower defense spending would harm service members, the military’s top enlisted members told lawmakers last week.
“I personally think it’s ridiculous that we’re going after something that saves a young lance corporal $4,500 a year,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal Barrett told the House Appropriations’ Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, reported Army Times.
Service members save an average of 30 percent at commissaries compared to prices at off-base grocery stores, according to studies by the Defense Commissary Agency.
Other witnesses tried to point out ways to cut costs without cutting benefits to service members.
“I’ve been told it’s the most heavily regulated organization in the Department of Defense,” Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler told the panel. Commissaries, for example, cannot sell generic or private label items, limiting the stores to name brand goods, Chandler said.
The Pentagon is proposing to reduce the annual direct subsidy to commissaries by $1 billion over the next three years, according to the preview of the fiscal 2015 budget request presented last week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. After three years, the lower funding would reduce the average discount for military families from 30 percent to 10 percent.