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 story reports.


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’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 the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

33 Comments on "Committee Votes to Gut Commissary Program"

  1. Sounds to me as though either that Senate committee didn't know what they are talking about when they thought it was feasible and to still not raise prices… or they are talking out of both sides of their mouths and promising two different things and not intending to deliver on one of them (most likely keeping prices the same).

  2. molliekathryn | June 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    If they switch to a for-profit model, where would be the benefit in shopping at the commissary? As it is now, it is possible to find some better deals when local stores offer sale prices or double or triple coupons. If the commissary prices are raised to be equal to those of local stores, who will shop there?

  3. shut it down and shop at walmart.

    • Im not driving 4x as far to go grocery shopping at WalMart. Especially since they arent cheaper than the grocery stores in the 2 towns I have to drive through to get there.

  4. Where's the "dislike" button when you need it? I'm wondering if this would include OCONUS commissaries as well and how they would handle that.

  5. soldiermom11 | July 1, 2011 at 10:24 am |

    It's maddening to me that those elite, who have never served, in their comfy Washington offices are the first to try to get one more ounce of sacrifice out of the ones who protect them. Secondly, where is all the info on the water pollution at Camp Lejuene? Why should military members have to pay for being poisoned where they work? Was there a hearing? Who was negligent? I will be doing more research on this and will be writing to Congressmen. This just smacks of more of the liberal anti war pablum wrapped up under the cover of trying to balance the budget.

    • Thanks for the comment! You can find more info about the water issue in the story linked to the blog post above. Hope that helps!

  6. Hello all,Thank you and those who are serving to protect the freedoms of all Americans.My Dad is a retired Vietnam era Marine and our family was staioned at Camp Lejuene twice during his career,we have also sufferd from the contaminated drinking water there.I get google alerts regarding news that reports on the tragedy and I got this one this morning.If anyone is interested in learning more about it they can visit The Few The Proud The Forgotten’s web site “TFTPTF”.Thank you once more for the sacrifices that your families are making,I know exactly how and what that truly means.
    Semper Fi! Mary Blakley

  7. When the OIL prices went up on the outside of military bases the outside service stations demanded that the prices on base be competitive resulting in fixed prices, which translated to the same as off base.. By removing the incentive to buy gas on bases removed the convenient visits to the commissary and exchange for shopping and the sales and prices went up including the Stop'n'Shop..

  8. My husband was stationed at Lejeune. I stand behind EVERYONE of our military personnel The VETERANS of Camp Lejeune DESERVE treatment the same as a veteran from vietnam , the gulf war, Iraq and Afganistan, the same as non wartime veterans. If you want more info, go to go to the Agency for toxic substances and disease go to Senator Raymond Burr’s Webpage.

  9. I live off-post, but generally get my groceries on-post, partly because it's cheaper, and partly because I rather keep the money in the "family". Around here, we have a HUGE retiree population, and most of them shop at the commissary. I wonder whether they will stop coming and instead go to Wally World if the prices rise…and I wonder what the commissary will do then, seeing how a lot of money will walk away…

  10. If you are really concerned about military benefits get out and vote during the next election. Make sure the people we put in congress have our best interests at heart.

  11. Nottingham72 | July 5, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    @Trick37MP….thank you for such an information rich comment and to Mike as well about getting rid of all the military benefits going toward all those illegals. Being originally from Cali' the illegals are completely mooching off the governement and there isn't much being done of it at all. I have a brother-in-law who did come over illegally, but he somehow can work and he does work. He works for minimal at the local McDonald's, but he works faithfully and is always early to work and I commend for it. One of the problems with welfare is that they cannot access the State Wide System which verifies income….the Dept. of Child Support (both are County agencies in California) can verify income, but the welfare dept dosen't have access to it. If they have the access, alot of fraud could be dealt with. Actions speak louder than words and I don't care if the President invites me to the White House for dinner, or what he says, I will not vote for someone who dosen't show me with their actions that they truly care about Military families and especially our wounded warriors and Veterans by their actions!

  12. M. Graves | July 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm |

    This is just the continuation of a trend that has seen the benefits of shopping at the exchanges eroded. It has been going on for many years. Most civilian discount prices are comperable or better. Adding the commissary to the exchange just helps to insure that many service members, particularly the lower ranks, will have one less incentive to re-up and will harm the recruiting effort. Even the quality of goods, particularly at the upper end, in the combined catalog is not what it once was.

  13. Rita Petty | July 5, 2011 at 7:45 pm |

    We always shopped in the commisary when we were in the militay except for one base where it was never stocked. Small base. However now living within an area with 5 supermarkets it is to my advantage to show off base. With the surcharge and the tip and the time it just doesn't pay. Add any more surcharges and you will find a lot more shopping off base. I have only used the BX when in Hawaii at the Navy Base. Too expensive and while it brings in money for the morale it didn't help mine as most of the goods is the higher priced Brand Names. We are a military family of five all having served inculding Mom in the AF. They shopped off base also. Thanks

  14. Gilbert Jennings | July 6, 2011 at 12:24 am |

    Walmart is the commissary's largest competor. Military families use the commissary out of loyalty and chances of meeting long lost friends. If this plan succeeds, it will be more condusive to go to walmart because it will probably be cheaper and old long lost friends will be shopping there too. Leave it to a politician to ruin everything that we as active duty and veterans have earned while they try to fix something that they themselves are responsible for breaking in the first place.

  15. OIF_to_USC | July 6, 2011 at 12:54 am |

    I remember just a few years back when certain officials at AAFES were complaining that Wal-Mart was lobbying Congress to take over AAFES operations. Apparently the proposal never got off the ground. However, Wal-Mart is also in the food business. Perhaps they are proposing a sort of "Super Exchange" modeled after the "Super Wal-Mart" concept. AAFES/BX/PX, MCX, CGX and NEX, as well as the Army administered Defense Commissary Agency would be a very prized feather in the cap of any outside entity that can entice the Congress to turn the massive Exchange System and DECA over to them. Don't think for a minute that the subject isn't being discussed around board room tables at Wal-Mart Headquarters. Every armed forces family, active and retired needs to be writing their congressional delegations and networking among themselves.

  16. OIF_to_USC | July 6, 2011 at 1:24 am |

    If anybody has any doubts about the benifits of shopping at the Commissary compared to the food isles at Wal-Mart, spend about a day and do a price comparison between the two. The Commissary prices are far lower in meats, produce, dairy, staples such as rice, pastas and coffee, and frozen foods. Wal-Mart may be competitive at best in so-called "center isle" products like boxed and processessed foods, chips, candy, crackers, sodas, and other unhealthy gedunk, but that is all.

    Even the Exchange stores are a better deal. For example, Exchange clothes like the quality 1775 brand and Ralph Lauren line of men's Chaps are cheaper than Wal-Mart's chincy and cheaply made Puritan and Faded Glory brands. For example, I can buy men's Chaps khaki pants for $17-21 each at the Marine Corps Exchange — the same price Wal-Mart charges for their cheaply made Puritan brand khaki pants. Childrens school uniform shirts and pants are likewise better made at the Exchanges and cost less than the cheaply made and poorly fitted versions at Wal-Mart. The only thing Wal-Mart has more of is Kool-Aid, and some people here are drinking it to excess.

  17. retired us army, just post these comments due do the soldiers today ask for everything, deal with what you got or get out.

  18. I’m hoping nothing comes of this. I drive about 45 min to the commissary and even with almost $4 gas its worth it. My husband used to question my commissary shopping until I had surgery a few weeks ago and he was the one running out to pick things up. He went to a local grocery store and for 2 bags of groceries spent close to $60. He no longer questions it. Frankly, I think the commissary will be and is one of the greatest perks and the thing I am looking forward to using even after retirement.

  19. marvin mobley | July 7, 2011 at 12:09 am |

    IMHO to maintain an all volunteer service, certain benefits to military folks will need to continue in place, as is now being done………When you start removing benefits, you will start losing volunteers,…….


  21. My husband, a Force Recon Marine, was stationed at Camp Lejeune in late 79 through 1983 and was diagnosed with brain cancer years later, dying at age 33 after five years of illness. Of course we cannot prove his brain cancer was contracted through the water at Lejeune. My daughters and I were given full commissary privileges as part of the death benefit. But now the POLITICIANS are going to try to take benefits away from us and our friends and the people who are sacrificing now with four and five deployments to war zones, in order to pay for what they should be paying for through some other pot of money???? I couldn't be more disgusted at the cheesy plan, obviously not well thought out….but I am also disgusted that the POLITICIANS cannot see how hurting the troops and their families in order to help the Camp Lejeune survivors (what about those of us whose loved one died prematurely due to exposure?).

    Yes, help the survivors, but don't take from the same budgetary pot, for goodness sake. And how about addressing the disparity in just $200-some million, when care for the Lejeune survivors is likely to be exponentially higher? Do the right thing CONGRESS. This is not the answer.

  22. One more thing: if this awful president Obama had his way, we'd ALL be paying for our own health coverage. He says let's pay for the illegal aliens, oh yeah, that's right….but military people "knew what they were signing up for." and should pay their own. Any military member or veteran who votes for this man again gets what's coming.

  23. Shortly after I came in the Army in 1978, they merged the old "Clothing Sales stores" and the PX. They assured us prices wouldn't go up for uniform items. They lied.

    Now they're not even maintaining the fiction. We're all going to pay more for groceries because the Navy didn't take care of their people at Camp Lejeune and the government is flat broke (actually, seriously in debt). Making us pay more is a bad solution, but given that the government won't stop handouts to the undeserving and unappreciative, making us pay more is about the only option left to them. Better get out that checkbook!

  24. The tinkerers in Congress need to sink this idea. Don't combine the Commissaries and Exchanges. If they want to eliminate duplication of management, they could consider making the Exchange Commands a joint operation by combining AAFES, NEXCOM, MCCS Exchanges, and CGX into one organization. Regardless, leave the the Commissary as DeCA organizations.

  25. Have you priced the outside food prices lately? It was so steep, it was shocking!

  26. Why should they care? They aren't the ones that have to suffer…



  29. How exactly will a mayor taking a pay cut help with your husband's injury/illness?

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