WASHINGTON — The future of fresh produce for Pacific military bases hangs in the balance this month as Congress holds closed-door negotiations on the 2016 defense budget.
Starting this fall, the Defense Commissary Agency could slash shipping costs by hiring a new contractor to stock store shelves in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea and Guam with local fruits and vegetables.
The move could save taxpayers $48 million per year and expand a system already used in Europe. But some lawmakers say it threatens one of military families’ most cherished benefits and are pushing to stop DECA in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which could be finalized as early as this week.
“This is all about quality and cost for military families, and they should have access to the fresh fruits and vegetables they want,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said in a statement to Stars and Stripes.
He said the agency’s plan will guarantee that troops are stuck with higher-priced fruits and vegetables that might be of questionable quality at the 29 Far East commissaries that would be affected — a claim DECA disputes.