Debate Renewed Over Privatization of Commissaries


By Debbie Gregory.

Some senators are resurrecting an attempt to turn over commissaries to private industry, which failed to pass last year.

Like last year, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK is vowing to defeat the effort. In 2015, Inhofe sponsored an amendment to the authorization bill on the Senate floor with Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to postpone a similar pilot program. It was adopted and included in the final defense authorization measure signed into law.

“There are too many unknowns as to whether privatization could directly impact a military member’s ability to provide for their families as well as the potential for it to affect retention,” Inhofe said, according to a press release.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has included a provision in the 2017 defense policy bill that would require a pilot program to test privatization at a maximum of five commissaries.

The test run would last at least two years.

As an added convenience, the test could include an online component in the areas around those commissaries, allowing online grocery shopping.

On the downside for commissary users, commissaries would be allowed to increase their profit margin in order to reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars used to operate stores. Currently commissaries sell groceries “at cost,” with no profit. A 5 percent surcharge is used to pay for construction and renovation of stores.

DOD spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson emphasized that the department is committed to preserving the commissary benefit for military members but also is exploring options for reducing the government’s cost of delivering that benefit.

“This is a Request for Information only. It is important to emphasize that NO decision has been made to privatize commissaries and the Department is NOT soliciting actual proposals for privatization,” said Sakrisson

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