The Pentagon has not decided to close military grocery stores, but officials are looking for savings anywhere possible to mitigate the impact of budget constraints, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday.
Officials asked the Defense Commissary Agency to assess the impact of reducing or eliminating taxpayer subsidies for the system, Dempsey said. Military exchanges do not receive a federal subsidy, and the same potential exists with commissaries, he noted.
“But we haven’t made any decisions,” the chairman said. “We’ve got to drive toward greater efficiencies, and this is just one of the potential areas.”
Dempsey’s comment followed a report last week that the department is considering recommending that funding for commissaries drop by $1 billion, or 71 percent, over three years as part of its fiscal 2015 budget request. A cut of that magnitude likely would lead to the widespread closure of commissaries, with stateside stores bearing the brunt of the impact.
In the most recent year, the commissary agency received $1.5 billion in subsidies, reported American Forces Press Service.
In response to last week’s news, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said he wouldn’t speculate as to whether the FY 2015 budget request would call for changes to the commissary system.
“I think he’s [Secretary Hagel] been very clear that we — he doesn’t want to close doors. We need to be looking at all manner of pay and benefits as we move forward. And I wouldn’t speculate with respect to commissaries specifically,” Kirby said Jan. 23.