The debate over privatizing commissaries isn’t quite over yet.
The uncertainty stems from a bit of confusion over two seemingly contradictory provisions in the Senate’s draft version of the 2016 defense authorization bill.
Neither provision appears in the House’s draft of the policy bill, which means lawmakers from both chambers will have to address the issue when they meet to iron out a single compromise version of the bill later this year.
And some sources are concerned that conferees could resuscitate the issue of commissary privatization at the negotiating table.
The original provision passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee required the Defense Department to develop a plan for private companies to operate commissaries, and test the plan for two years in at least five of the largest U.S. commissary markets.
That original privatization plan was rendered “null and void” after an amendment to block it was approved on the Senate floor by voice vote.
Yet in a classic example of how arcane legislative procedures can be, both the original plan and the amendment to kill it were passed by the full Senate as part of its draft bill.
Two Capitol Hill staffers told Military Times that the original privatization provision stayed in the bill because of technicalities related to how it was passed in the Senate, attached to another amendment.