The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which is expected to become law before Christmas, included some surprises for those of us who follow this stuff closely. Despite lawmakers saying that they rejected a plan by the Defense Department to cut commissary funding, lo and behold they made cuts anyway.
Here's the deal: early this year the DoD rolled out a plan to slash the commissary's budget by two-thirds over several years. We broke that story and you can read all about it here. Since there's no way that the commissary could operate like it does on such a small tax-payer fueled budget, lawmakers would've had to allow the agency to make some serious changes like closing stores or raising prices.
Since the commissary is a part of the "non-monetary" package that makes military life doable for many people, such a cut was seen by advocates and many lawmakers as a major benefits cut. Lawmakers rejected the proposal, instead saying they would wait before making any decisions for the recommendations of the MCRMC, a committee formed to study potential cuts, expected to come in February.
But as it turns out they didn't reject the proposal completely. Because there, sneaky like added to the line-item spending tally in the budget, is a $100 million cut.
This cut is being seen in the military advocacy community as a signal of more coming betrayal.
"SURPRISE! It just keeps getting better. Commissary cuts. This wasn't included in the NDAA briefing. Was that because they knew it would enrage military families, or because it's inconsistent with their rhetoric that they're 'waiting for the MCRMC,'" the military benefits advocacy group Keep Your Promise posted on Facebook.
DeCA is currently silent on just how they are going to come up with this $100 million savings next year. They don't comment on legislation until it has actually passed, so we can expect news from them on this after it becomes law.
The funding cut isn't the only news in the bill on the commissary front. Thanks to an included measure, the commissary will soon be permitted to sell generic products under a "DeCA" label.
That could mean a big savings for consumers who currently trot off base to buy those types of products at, for example, Walmart.
But to make it happen the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) will have to come up with money to launch such a label. That includes everything from manufacturing costs to shelf stocking costs. And if they are already $100 million short for the year ...
We'll be keeping up with this story like it is our job (well, it is) so you can expect updates on exactly how this cut and any new branding will benefit (or hurt) you as soon as the information is available.
Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.