In a never-ending drive by the government to cut the military budget, the Pentagon has proposed to cut the commissary budget for 2017 by $221 million. How would this budget reduction impact the every day consumer?
Commissaries will be closing. Not all commissaries; no need to panic. Stateside commissaries are safe for now. Those in Europe, on the other hand, are on the chopping block.
The first 2 commissaries slated to close are in Germany; they are the commissaries at Sembach and Illesheim.
In 2015, Sembach sales were $3.8 million and Illesheim was only a mere $2.5 million. Both of these commissaries have been in operation since the 1960s. They are small stores, with only 4 checkout lanes each. This puts them at the bottom third of commissary sales. There are 240 commissaries and these two just aren’t holding up to standards others are setting.
Officials are quick to say that closing these 2 commissaries isn’t a big deal for customers since they are within a 30-minute drive of 2 larger commissaries from Sembach and a 35-minute drive to the next commissary from Illesheim. Shoppers from Sembach could make that commute if they wanted to shop at Vogelweh or Ramstein Air Base. Those at Illesheim would have to drive to Ansbach for their next closest commissary.
A 30- or 35-minute commute might not sound like much to government officials in Washington, D.C., but it can be significant for families living abroad.
The commissary’s slogan, “it’s worth the drive,” might just take on a whole new meaning. This holds especially true for single service members who are use to just popping into their local commissary often.
If you are using either of these 2 commissaries as your main source for purchasing groceries, note that Sembach closes April 29. Illesheim’s commissary will close on March 31.
One good thing at least, there are sure to be great sales as they try to move inventory off the shelves.
Don’t make a sigh of relief yet if you’re stationed in Germany, but not near these 2 commissaries. There are more commissaries slated to close. The Defense Commissary Agency plans to meet budget cuts by consolidating down to one commissary per military community. Grafenwoehr and Kaiserslautern will be the only exceptions to this.
That means commissaries in Stuttgart will be part of the plan to close stores in Europe in 2016. Those at Patch, Kelley Barracks, Robinson Barracks and Panzer Kaserne will all see their final days this year.
A new commissary on Panzer is being built to compensate for this. Construction hasn’t begun yet and these commissaries will remain open until the new one is ready so you still have time to shop at your favorite commissary before the doors close for good.
The saying “you can never go back” keeps playing in my mind as I write this. I lived in Germany for 5 years. I truly will never be able to go back to Robinson Barracks where my family shopped regularly when we were stationed in Stuttgart. It’s a 20- to 30-minute drive from Robinson Barracks to Panzer for those that live in the area.
There is always a constant worry about losing military benefits and talk of commissary closures are a norm. This is one instance that rumors are true.
Hopefully families and service members that shop regularly at these commissaries will be able to adjust their routine grocery shopping trip accordingly knowing ahead of time that their stores are closing.