Military families and retirees who rely on the commissaries at Keesler Air Force Base and the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Mississippi to buy groceries expressed consternation over the news that that the Pentagon might consider closing stateside commissaries.
“We have heard lots of things bantered about and believe the system is working the way it is and don’t understand why time and time again the system seems to be under attack,” Candace Wheeler, spokesperson for the Coalition to Save Our Military Shopping Benefits, told the Sun Herald.
Despite declining budgets, “this is not a program that should be under attack,” she added.
Last month it was revealed that the Pentagon asked the Defense Commissary Agency to develop a plan to close U.S. commissaries as part of deliberations over the fiscal 2015 budget request. A proposal to close U.S. commissaries, which rely on taxpayer subsidies of $1.4 billion annually, would face stiff opposition on Capitol Hill.
“I disagree with the notion that closing base commissaries or raising charges to service members should be used to cut the budget of the Department of Defense,” said Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R).
No decision has been made yet to include a plan to close stateside commissaries in the budget, but a written statement from the Defense Commissary Agency continued to emphasize that all options remain open to close the budget gap. “The Secretary of Defense has made it clear on numerous occasions that all cost-cutting efforts need to be on the table in order for the Department of Defense to meet the spending caps associated with the 2011 Budget Control Act,” according to the statement.