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Military cuts could mean higher commissary prices

Shoppers at commissaries on military bases could wind up feeling the deep defense cuts in the check out line.

Right now, the Defense Department spends $1.4 billion a year to help keep prices low at commissaries. Under a new Pentagon budget proposal, that subsidy would be cut to $400 million. The stores would stay open but without a lot of the discounts.
A Defense Commissary Agency study says commissaries save shoppers an average of 30 percent a year compared to other stores off base. With the cut, those savings would drop to about 10 percent. 

Many of the people who shop at commissaries like the one at Corry Station say the discounts they get on groceries and other household items mean a lot.

"They're putting the burden on the wrong people," said Kay Hastings, whose husband retired from the Navy after more than 20 years of service.
Hastings and other longtime commissary shoppers say a discount cut would hurt.

"Right now my husband has a civilian job," Hastings said, "But he'll eventually retire and we will only have his military retirement and so that will make a very big difference for us."

"It's just another slap in the face," said Bob Ward, who served in the Navy in World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam War.

"My wife and I have been married 61 years," Ward said, "We've been shopping at the commissary ever since."
Ward says commissaries offer more than just savings, and although right now the Pentagon is not talking about closing them, he's worried about their future.

"I can find comparable prices on a lot of things at other stores in town," Ward said, "But...The commissary is cheaper overall. It's more convenient."
If it goes through, the discount reduction wouldn't happen all at once. Authorities say it would be phased in over several years.

The proposed commissary subsidy cut is not a done deal. It's part of an overall Pentagon budget request that will be formally submitted to Congress next Tuesday.