WASHINGTON — Contrary to some news reports, there are no plans to close military commissaries, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
But Army Gen. Martin Dempsey added that the budget environment is forcing the department to look for savings anywhere possible.
The chairman first addressed this issue during his Facebook town hall meeting last month.
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.
“But we haven’t made any decisions,” the chairman said. “We’ve got to drive toward greater efficiencies, and this is just one of the potential areas.”
The Bipartisan Budget Act, which President Barack Obama signed earlier this month, alleviated some of the sequester pressure on the department through fiscal year 2015. But the Budget Reduction Act of 2011 is still law, and sequester-level spending cuts will be back in play in fiscal 2016, unless Congress changes the law.
Still, the chairman said, the department must find ways to ensure that service members are prepared to perform their missions.
“We’re well aware of the need for acquisition reform, as well as the need to reduce unnecessary infrastructure and retire unneeded weapons systems,” Dempsey said. “All of the institutional reforms are intended to produce a single outcome — the best-trained and best-equipped service men and women on the planet.”