• Defense Committees Appear Open to Eliminating Support for Commissaries0

    Defense officials may be disappointed that the conference report for the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill rejects the administration’s proposal to slash federal funding for commissaries in the near-term, but a provision added in the House-Senate conference requiring the department to draw up a plan for eliminating taxpayer support for military grocery stores and exchanges indicates that lawmakers may be closer to embracing the cost-cutting reform than previously believed. The report, which calls for the Pentagon to craft a comprehensive plan for achieving “budget neutrality” for commissary and exchange benefits by the end of fiscal 2018, is primarily directed at military grocery stores since only 3 percent of the budget for exchanges is supplied by Congress …

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  • Defense Bill Offers Compromises on Military Benefits0

    The conference report for the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill offers a mixed bag for military families, trimming the basic allowance for housing (BAH) over the next four years while attempting to preserve discounts at commissaries. The compromise legislation adopts DOD’s proposal to slow the rate of increase in the BAH until rates cover only 95 percent of service members’ out-of-pocket costs, but eases the reduction into place by 1 percent increments over the next four years. Last year, leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees reached a compromise allowing the housing benefit to cover only 99 percent of rental and utility costs …

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  • DOD Readies New Plan for Trimming Commissary Subsidies0

    In the face of congressional resistance to its plan for phasing out funding for commissaries, defense officials are working on a new proposal that aims to preserve discounts for military families and protect employees from pay cuts, according to draft documents being prepared for the administration’s fiscal 2017 budget request. The new plan still is designed to make military grocery stores self-sustaining — as military exchanges are — but it would trim funding for commissaries more gradually than the administration’s FY 2016 proposal while testing variable pricing as a way to offset lower funding levels, reports Stars and Stripes. The plan also would prohibit commissary employees from incurring a pay cut while the stores are being converted to non-appropriated fund activities, which receive no congressional funding …

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  • Fate of Pilot Test of Commissary Privatization Still up for Grabs0

    A Senate effort to torpedo a provision in the fiscal 2016 defense authorization directing DOD to privatize up to five commissaries through a two-year pilot program appears to have been unsuccessful, leaving the issue to be settled in conference. During its debate of the annual policy bill last month, the Senate passed an amendment intended to strip out the language calling for the pilot. The amendment would have required the department to assess the costs and benefits of privatizing military grocery stores prior to launching the test. But because of the procedure employed to pass the amendment, the original language remains in the measure …

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  • Senate Removes Commissary Privatization Program from Defense Bill0

    The Senate on Wednesday stripped from the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill language directing the Defense Department to privatize up to five commissaries through a two-year pilot program. Lawmakers also passed a second procedural vote to end debate on the annual policy bill, setting up a final vote for passage which likely will take place Thursday. The 84-14 vote also signaled the Democrats’ decision not to filibuster the authorization bill over its reliance on DOD’s overseas contingency operations account to exceed the Budget Control Act spending caps. Instead, Senate Democrats will resume that fight over the defense spending bill. The party is expected to block a vote, which could come today, to debate the spending measure in the Senate …

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  • Pilot to Privatize Commissaries Should Be Postponed, Inhofe Says0

    A proposal to privatize five commissaries under a two-year pilot program should be stripped from the Senate version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill, according to a commentary by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) published in Military Times. Congress should complete an evaluation of the feasibility of privatizing military grocery stores before launching a pilot program, writes Inhofe, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “Privatizing military commissaries before conducting an assessment of the costs and benefits of such significant reform is irresponsible,” he states. “I want to know the cost and savings as well as the risks and benefits associated with privatization before any action is taken,” Inhofe says …

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