The rumor mill has been circulating the same piece of information for months - that the Department of Defense plans to close all stateside base commissaries. However, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey is denying the Pentagon has such plans in the works.
Many media outlets reported recently that the Department of Defense asked the Defense Commissary Agency to develop a contingency plan that would close all of its stateside commissaries as a cost-saving measure in tough budget times.
Indeed, just last week, an unnamed military official told Military.com that the Pentagon is floating a plan to cut $1 billion from the commissary agency's budget over the next three years. The source said of the cuts...
"If DeCA's budget is cut to such a magnitude, it would ultimately require DeCA to close stores or change the way it delivers the commissary benefit.
"But those options would mean military families would have to pay more for their groceries, significantly reducing the non-pay compensation benefit provided through the commissaries."
American Legion national president Daniel Dellinger reacted strongly to the Military.com article, according to the Washington Post. Such cuts would reduce the number of commissaries from 250 to 24, argued Dellinger:
“Commissaries are extremely important to young military families who are just trying to make ends meet. The costs in both fiscal and human terms would be far higher than the temporary savings realized. It’s a bad idea, plain and simple.”
Just days after the Washington Post story ran, the American Forces Press Service reported Dempsey's denial that commissaries would be shutting their doors:
The Joint Staff did not ask the Defense Commissary Agency to come up with a contingency plan to close 100 percent of U.S. commissaries, senior military officials said.
Officials did ask the Defense Commissary Agency for a range of options, including how the system would operate with reduced or no taxpayer subsidies, the chairman said, noting that military exchanges work on this system and that the same potential exists with commissaries.
In the most recent year, the Defense Commissary Agency received $1.5 billion in subsidies.