Union: DoD cuts push commissaries into “death spiral”

Andy Medici, Staff Writer

The Defense Department proposal to cut funding for its commissaries would cause hardship for service members and threaten the livelihood of tens of thousands of civilian workers, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.

“The cut is a badly-disguised attempt to put the commissaries into a death spiral,” Beth Moten, the legislative director for AFGE, wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services personnel subcommittees March 20.

The proposed $300 million cut for fiscal 2016 would force the commissary to reduce hours of operation and increase costs for service members, according to Moten. The end result would be the “Walmartizing” of the commissary workforce, she wrote.

“The commissaries and exchanges are an earned benefit treasured by military families and an important contributor to their quality of life,” Moten wrote. “Commissaries would no longer be a convenient bargain for military families.”

The Defense Department eventually wants to cut the Defense Commissaries Agency by $1 billion, according to AFGE, even as DoD increases spending on service contractors. Defense Department spending on professional services contractors has grown by 116 percent since 2000, while spending on civilian personnel has only increased 25 percent, according to AFGE.

A proposal to convert commissary employees to “non-appropriated fund” (NAF) status would also result in dramatic pay cuts for those civilian workers, according to AFGE. In many areas NAF workers make 30 percent less than current commissary civilians – and even in the best case scenario make 10 percent less.

“These trends play out all over the nation, from locality to locality—prevailing rates for NAF employees are consistently lower than for appropriated fund employees. In other words, NAF-ing the [Defense Commissary Agency] workforce means a whopping pay cut for many employees for doing the same work,” Moten wrote.

The letter was addressed to Joe Heck, R-Nevada, chairman of the House armed Services subcommittee on military personnel, and Susan Davis, D-Calif., the ranking member. The letter was also sent to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate subcommittee on personnel, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the ranking member of the subcommittee.

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