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Pentagon looking at controversial plan to close all stateside commissaries

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As a cost-saving measure, the Pentagon is taking a look at closing all stateside commissaries in 2015.

The proposal was part of recent preparations for the fiscal 2015 Department of Defense budget request that’s due out in February, and a sign of the budget pressures weighing on the Pentagon because of sequestration, the Military Times reported.

Pentagon spokeswoman Joy Crabaugh said that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “has made it clear on numerous occasions that all cost-cutting efforts need to be on the table,” according to the Times.

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The commissaries are grocery stores that offer food and other necessities at a discount to members of the military, their families and veterans, and are seen as a valued part of the total compensation package.

Commissaries are “one of the most valued benefits,” Steve Rossetti, director of government affairs for the American Logistics Association, told the Times. “For what this costs the department, they get a huge return,” not only in terms of the benefit itself but in other factors such as jobs for military spouses.

There are 178 commissaries in the United States — and 70 overseas — which receive a total of $1.4 billion in government funds, according to Fox News.

Closing these facilities would have an immediate effect on the families of those serving and brings to mind the actions of the Obama administration during the recent government shut down in that it ensures the full effect of sequestration is felt by the American people.

President Obama has made it clear that he opposes the cuts brought on by sequestration —  it was his proposal — and the pain that will be felt by closing the commissaries mimics the impact of closing open air museums during the shutdown, but in a much more personal manner.

The silver lining in all of this is that even if the plan was included in the defense budget request for fiscal 2015, it would have to be approved by Congress — if one dares to view Congress as a silver lining.

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Tom Tillison

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