Inhofe Visits Altus AFB Commissary, Pledges to Defeat Senate Effort to Privatize Without First Studying Impacts

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, toured on Friday the military commissary at Altus Air Force Base, meeting with commissary employees and military families who depend on the commissaries benefit.

Inhofe’s visit took place on the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 (FY17) passing out of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday with a provision that would begin the process to privatize our military’s commissary benefit, despite a requested study on the impacts of privatization not being completed.

“There are too many unknowns as to whether privatization could directly impact a military member’s ability to provide for their families as well as the potential for it to affect retention. This is why in last year’s NDAA, I worked to stop an ill-advised provision to begin privatization until the Defense Department conducts an assessment for the potential costs and benefits of such action. That report has not been completed, yet the Senate’s NDAA includes language this year that takes another attempt at launching a pilot privatization program. I am committed to fighting this again on the Senate floor,” said Inhofe following his visit to the Altus Air Force base commissary.

Pictures of Inhofe’s visit to the commissary are available for use by the media and can be downloaded by clicking here.

When Inhofe fought this provision in the NDAA for FY'16, his amendment with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 23 additional Senators and garnered the support of more than 40 outside groups representing military, veterans, and their families. It was adopted by a voice vote on the Senate floor and was included in the final defense authorization signed into law. 

The provision prevents the DOD from privatizing commissaries at five major installations for one year and instead requires the DOD to first conduct an assessment and a review by the Comptroller General for the purpose of reporting to Congress the potential costs and benefits of privatizing commissaries. The study is underway and has not yet been completed.

In 2014, the Blue Star Families released the results of the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which found that 95 percent of service members are accessing the commissaries in order to purchase household goods to achieve needed savings in their family budgets. This benefit also received a 91 percent satisfaction rate. 

According to the Armed Forces Marketing Council, the average family of four who shops exclusively at the commissary sees a savings of up to 30 percent, which equates to more than $4,000 per year. 

The organization also reports that 60 percent of DeCA employees are military related and their jobs are transferable, allowing them to retain their positions and seniority when the military issues permanent change of station orders. 

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