In this era of tight defense budgets and cost-cutting, the latest target may be stateside base commissaries.
Reports continue to circulate that commissaries may be on the chopping block, including the one right here at Cherry Point.
We’re not sure that outright closure is a good thing. After all, many of our local Marines and sailors count on making ends meet because of the savings they can get by shopping at a base commissary versus retail grocery stores.
However, base commissaries rely on a $1.4 billion annual taxpayer subsidy to operate. Though we taxpayers are supposed to provide for the common defense, we’re not sure how a box of Macaroni and Cheese or a can of Campbell’s soup can be considered a primary mission of the Department of Defense, a department tasked with cutting $50 billion a year through sequestration.
We think it’s hard to justify cuts in military training or needed equipment maintenance to keep around a store that offers a can of beans 10 cents cheaper than one can buy at Walmart or Food Lion.
Don’t get us wrong. This has nothing to do with our appreciation for our military personnel. They deserve and have our utmost respect.
But in these times of tough choices, this is just another in a long list that must be made.
The commissaries do serve a role. They offer groceries at generally reduced prices to military personnel.
Still, some changes must be made to reduce the amount of tax dollars that support them while increasing their profitability. Prices could be raised or surcharges added, while wastefulness should be eliminated and some operations reduced.
Commissaries came about because access to retail grocery stores was limited decades ago. Now, as the retail grocery industry has grown, access to stores can be found right outside the gates.
Closure may be the best option, but if not, changes in operation must be made to ensure commissaries are not a drain on the taxpayer and defense budget.
Either way, the discussion is definitely food for thought.