Congress is constantly debating military benefits and the commissary is frequently at the top of the list. Every year when the Defense Bill reaches the floor consumers stand weary to see what will happen to their commissary benefits.
Congress claims they are looking out for service members, veterans and their families, but are they really?
Is Congress trying to save the commissary or looking for an excuse to close it down? If you listen in on any of the subcommittee meetings, you might not be so sure of the answer.
It might be hard to trust that lawmakers are on the side of military families. They are constantly talking about budget cuts and changes to military benefits. Service members and their families have sacrificed so much. They were promised benefits to compensate them for their service.
Over the years however, we have all watched as benefits are cut, diminished and altered.
What my dad was promised back in the 70s is not what he ended up with when he retired from the Army almost 30 years later.
Congress isn’t out to cause harm to military families by cutting benefits though and all changes aren’t bad either. I’ve witnessed some great changes in the last 8 years that I’ve been a Navy spouse.
You won’t find any of the committee members saying they want to do away with the commissary. They all pledge that they are working hard to keep the commissary going. It’s the business process they are trying to improve so that the commissary won’t depend on the government and taxpayers to it keep running.
The simple truth is they want military families to have the benefit of shopping at the commissary –they just don’t want to pay for it.
As so many things come down to it, it’s just about money. How can Congress cut the budget? If they truly didn’t care about the morale of families, they could simply vote to do away with the commissary. It really could be that simple.
Instead, they have taken extensive measures to dig into what can be done to save the commissary.
Congress hired a firm and spent nearly $4 million to research ways to make the commissary self-sufficient and competitive with commercial grocery stores.
They looked into privatizing the system, but that didn’t pan out.
They talked about what increasing the prices could do to level the playing field with commercial grocers and patrons balked at the idea.
They tested the idea of variable pricing by market and that resulted in some families coming out ahead while others found their pockets lighter.
Finally, the research team talked about creating a commissary brand private label. That had mixed results in discussion but this year it will be tested. DeCA will be introducing private label items by the end of the year. They are still in the process of seeking companies to put in proposals to create the private labels. Congress is waiting for the results of this idea.
We will be waiting to see what happens next, because that’s all we can do.
It’s another year of wait and see.
Will the commissary benefit continue or will Congress look at the price tag and decide to make significant changes? Unfortunately, only time will tell. In the meantime, take advantage of this benefit and do your shopping at the commissary.