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decisions to increase their allowances, DoD and Congress abandoned the actu- al-cost system in favor of basing allow- ances on independent studies of housing costs by income for each locality. MOAA disagrees with the SASC plan, as do DoD leaders, for several reasons. First, it ignores the lessons of past


problems with such a system. Second, it effectively penalizes servicemembers who marry other servicemembers rather than civilians. Finally, it raises problems with dealing with military versus civilian roommates and military roommates of different grades. Under the Senate’s proposal, four military roommates of different grades each would receive one-quarter of the BAH rate applicable to their grade. MOAA and DoD both think each ser- vicemember should be entitled to the grade-applicable BAH in his or her own right, and it should be the servicemem- ber’s decision how to use that allowance, including election of military or civilian roommates, without requiring any DoD intrusion in those decisions.


Commissary T 34 MILITARY OFFICER AUGUST 2016


Fight in Senate The final Senate bill drops commissary-privatization plan.


he Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the FY 2017 Defense Authorization Bill


included a provision to test privatiza- tion of up to five commissaries, an effort repeatedly studied — and repeatedly dis- credited. But when the bill was brought to the full Senate floor, Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) offered an amendment to re- move the privatization plan. Thirty-sev-


en senators cosponsored the amendment, and dozens of organizations — including MOAA — provided their support. The amendment passed by a vote of


70-28. That news came as DoD released a


report outlining a plan to reduce the reli- ance on tax dollars for the commissary and the exchange system. Commissaries would need to increase


prices by up to 27 percent to become vi- able options for private companies to take over. The increase would lead to a projected loss of over $2 billion in sales as patrons shopped elsewhere. The loss of revenue would mean com- missaries would need to further increase prices, continuing until “the commissary system prices itself out of existence,” ac- cording to the report. The report addressed past efforts to


privatize the commissary system, along with the privatization of existing por- tions of the system like bakeries, delis, and sushi counters. Previous privatization efforts have gone


nowhere. According to DoD, “more than two-thirds of the commissaries serve mili- tary populations living in locations that are not profitable for private-sector grocers.” This reinforces a concern brought up


by Mikulski, that under a pilot program, private grocers might cherry-pick the lo- cations most likely to be profitable, which would make the pilot seem successful, when it is not reflective of privatization of the entire system. The report also reflects the intricacy of benefits tied to the defense resale system, including its relationship with Morale, Welfare and Recreation ac- tivities; employment for military family members; and scholarships for children of servicemembers. The report covered details on the vari- able pricing models that will be tested


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