Lawmakers have taken a first step toward privatizing commissaries, approving legislation that would require a pilot program to test the concept of private companies operating at least five commissaries at large installations.
The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the plan Thursday as part of its version of the 2016 defense authorization bill.
According to the committee, the legislation also requires a report on a plan to privatize the Defense Commissary Agency, entirely or in part, and directs the Government Accountability Office to assess potential costs and benefits of having private companies run the stores.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he fought hard against the provision in committee and plans to introduce an amendment on the Senate floor to reverse it when the the defense bill comes up for consideration by the full chamber.
“With all the good in the bill, one of my greatest disappointments was legislation that directs the Department of Defense to privatize military commissaries on a minimum of five major bases and sets into motion the potential for all commissaries to be privatized,” Inhofe said in a statement.
“It ignores recommendations made by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission in January,” he said.
That commission recommended consolidating some back-office operational functions of commissaries and exchanges, and allowing commissaries to mark up prices on items to help cover some operational costs.