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Committee Votes to Gut Commissary Program

A Senate Committee voted Wendesday to combine all base exchanges and commissary operations everywhere into one for-profit retail business, this Military.com story reports.

Whoa.

Before we get ourselves all worked into a tizzy, let’s step back and remember one thing: a vote in a Senate committee does not a law make. This measure will have to pass the scrutiny of at least the full Senate, if not an additional committee, before being made law. It then will face additional hurdles, such as passing the House and being signed by the president.

The Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee approved the measure  as a way of saving money to fund care for servicemembers and families stationed at Camp Lejeune and exposed to contaminated water. They believe it will save $267 million the first year it’s in place.

Exactly what a combined commissary and base exchange system would look like is not clear. Officials with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr’s office, who proposed the idea, declined to provide many details for the story, but did say this:

“Senator Burr intends for DoD to merge duplicative management functions without impacting service delivery for personnel and families. The potential cost savings in the first year would be $267 million.”

Fortunately for commissary lovers, this idea could very easily end up being a lot of hot air. As an official with the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) pointed out in the story, it sounds like those who have put it together don’t have a complete grasp on the key differences between the commissary and exchange systems to start with. As we know, the commissary provides goods at cost plus a small surcharge, while the exchange system provides them at a mark-up. Combining the two systems under the exchange model would absolutely raise the price of groceries and have a major impact on shoppers – which is exactly what the official with Burr’s office said they are not going to do.

This is a prime opportunity to let your military spouse voice be heard. You can use  Military.com’s legislative center to easily send a note to your legislators voicing your opinion on combining the exchange and commissary systems. Go here to make it happen.

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.