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Panic! At The Commissary — UPDATE

BREAKING UPDATE:

DeCA has just announced that commissaries worldwide will remain open in the event of a shutdown. This is the latest from their Facebook page, as of 8:30 p.m. ET today (April 8):

FORT LEE, Va. – All military commissaries would be operational in the event of a government shutdown, the Defense Commissary Agency announced late today. DeCA’s announcement that its stores would continue to serve military members and their families if a government shutdown were to occur, affects 249 commissaries in 12 countries and two U.S. territories worldwide. During a potential shutdown, commissary customers would be able to access the DeCA website, www.commissaries.com. However, that site would not be updated during the shutdown. Customers would be able to access the Department of Defense website, http://www.defense.gov/ for any breaking news that affects service members and government civilians.

However, during my latest visit to the commissary (which was, again, disappointing in it’s lack of excitement) a customer service agent told me that while they will for sure be open tomorrow, they may not be open any day thereafter.

So the confusion continues — at least a little bit.

In other good news, DoD has also released more information on exactly how a shutdown will impact specific family related programs. From the release:

You can find the rest of that release here.

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With commissaries around the world (except, maybe, in Japan and Korea) closing their doors tomorrow morning under the government shutdown, I headed out today to witness the grocery panic here on Fort Benning first hand. If people are going to throw punches over milk and bread, I want to be there to see it. I even had my video camera. (Maybe this makes me an ambulance chaser — but I know you are counting on me for this stuff).

What I found was a little disappointing — or maybe it was encouraging. Not only were there no fruit battles in the produce section, but it altogether seemed like just a normal Friday in the store. No one was rushing the canned goods. No one was stockpiling frozen pizzas.

The rest of this base has the same feel. There are a few comments on Benning’s MWR page asking about what may be closed starting tomorrow — but other than that, nada.

What this major lack of panic tells me is this: most people don’t yet know what’s going on or how it impacts them. The real drama, I suspect, will be tomorrow morning when customers hit the commissary only to find the doors locked.

As it stands here, the commissary will likely begin marking down perishable foods later this evening, a manger told me earlier. That means if you want to score cheap produce and meat, it might be a good idea to check-in with your commissary an hour or two before closing tonight to see if they, too, have marked stuff down. We might as well make the best of the situation.

As far as other base services such as the gym are concerned, it sounds like what’s left open will vary by installation. I’m told here on Fort Benning only one gym will remain open and the library will be closed — but that doesn’t mean everyone else will be doing the same thing. For example, SpouseBUZZ contributor John told me earlier that the only thing he’s been told that will close on his Navy base in Sasebo, Japan, is the library.

Update at 5 p.m. 4/8/11:

After reports that the commissaries wouldn’t be closed, then reports that they would, there are now (again) reports that they will not be.

This from the Defense Commissary Agency Facebook page:

UPDATE: As of Friday at 3:50, commissaries may be impacted in the event of a government shutdown. At this time, all overseas stores will be operational if a shutdown occurs. This includes stores in Puerto Rico and Guam. A decision on stateside commissaries will be forthcoming later this afternoon or in the early evening.

This, of course, does not jive with what I was told by a local manager here and reported above — that they would be closing.

Thanks to reader Claudia for the tip!

And, as always, keep checking back for more updates.

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.