Protect commissary services at U.S. military bases from budget ax

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When a couple of news stories recently surfaced regarding a proposal to cut costs by eliminating commissary services at U.S. military bases by 2015, the potential human toll to service members and their families understandably was the immediate focus.

FORTUNATELY, THE two-year budget deal in Congress holds promise for avoiding such drastic cuts from the Pentagon. But sounding the alarm, even as a warning, highlights the damage such reductions could have for a segment of our society who often are least able to find jobs.

The Defense Commissary Agency operates 178 stores in the United States, including the commissary at Augusta’s Fort Gordon. Did you know that the shelves of Fort Gordon’s commissary are stocked by employees of Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA’s Good Vocations program, operating under a contract through SourceAmerica and Ability One? Those programs provide individuals with disabilities access to employment through placement in meaningful jobs at federal facilities across the country.

IN PLACE SINCE 1996, that commissary contract employs 27 personnel at Fort Gordon. In Fiscal
Year 2013, those workers stocked more than 540,000 cases of goods in the commissary, providing a valuable service to the men and women in uniform and to their families.

In addition, 35 other individuals perform custodial services under the Good Vocations contract, cleaning more than 1.1 million square feet of the Army facility each day.

Those workers, 80 percent
of whom have disabilities, earn an average of $11 per hour before benefits. In addition to allowing them to be productive members
of the community, this program helps these individuals to overcome their barriers to employment while learning valuable skills that they can use in seeking other career opportunities.

The defense budget cuts would have meant difficult choices across the country for service members and their families. But it would have devastated the employment opportunities for thousands of workers who already struggle to find meaningful jobs.

IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT to point out that after the recent government shutdown ended, federal workers received back pay. However, as contract employees, those commissary and custodial workers were not compensated for their lost time. That means those vulnerable individuals were hit with a substantial reduction in wages while Congress and the administration squabbled.

The two-year budget deal in Congress, then, is good news for both those in the service and for civilians whose labors support them. It averts what could have been a crisis of employment opportunity for a significant segment of our society.

ONCE AWARE OF these facts, citizens can help prevent further disruption by urging their congressional representatives to not only continue to work together to solve the nation’s problems, but on focusing their budget-cutting efforts on programs less likely to harm the military and their supporting network.

Your job, or your neighbor’s, might depend on it.

(The writer is vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA, and assistant vice president and financial advisor for Augusta’s Merrill Lynch Private Client Group.)

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/22/13 - 12:34 am
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Thanks

Thank you very much for giving us the information concerning Goodwill folks being employed by the commissary. I'll keep that in mind when I use the commissary. The threatened closure of commissaries goes into that category of promises made to people when they entered the military. We were told we would have commissary and PX privileges in addition to medical care for life.

Hey, there weren't lines to join the military. Those who joined did it for love of country, believing the country would honor its promises for the tremendous sacrifices they would surely be called on to give.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/22/13 - 09:04 am
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@ Bod

From a Nov. 26th story: "Members of the Defense Department’s Joint Staff recently asked officials at the Defense Commissary Agency to come up with a plan to close all stateside stores, military benefits columnist Tom Philpott and the Army Times reported last week."

Read more: http://spousebuzz.com/blog/2013/11/commissary-closure-plan-everything-yo...
SpouseBUZZ.com

teaparty
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teaparty 12/22/13 - 09:38 am
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Riverman1, bod never lets the

Unpublished

Riverman1, bod never lets the truth interfere with his comments. Hopefully Mr. York will take bod's comments for what they are a bunch of basis untruths.

DonH
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DonH 12/22/13 - 10:41 am
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Commissaries in the US

We really do not need the commissaries on most US military installations. There are better priced goods available from the local businesses. Only remote US bases should have a commissary for local support. Every US base does NOT need one!

deestafford
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deestafford 12/22/13 - 10:43 am
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Every time there is a panel....

Every time there is a panel set up to study military compensation and defense spending the panel always comes to a recommendation to close the commissary. Usually, the members of the panel have never heard a shot fired in anger and know little if nothing about military life.

Riverman is right about us who decided to devote our youth and to risk our lives to help keep the country free were promised commissary, PX, medical, dental, and eye care for life in turn for our service. These things were always touted to us as benefits in lieu of any increases in base pay. We no longer get the dental or eye care we were promised and we have to pay for our medical care. Granted it is smaller than civilian insurance premiums but it is a broken promise. The dental care not being available cost me $1200 last week for a root canal.

The politicians always love us when the bear is at the door threatening to eat them and their family, but when the bear is hibernating we are shunned to the wood shed.

The Obama folks can find billions for increases in welfare, obama phones, food stamps, medicare and other things not in the Constitution but not money for support of the military to the level required to defend the country as called for in the Constitution. Oh, pardon me. I forgot that Obama is against what the Constitution does in restraining the government...silly me.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/22/13 - 12:13 pm
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A commissary is not necessary

A commissary is not necessary to the defense of the country, what an absurd thing to say. In the old days, when bases and posts were in remote places it was necessary, but it's not needed any more. Even back in the 80's, there were a few things that were cheaper than on the economy, but if you watched the specials at the grocery stores, you could do as well if not better than the commissary.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/22/13 - 12:13 pm
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But where people really saved

But where people really saved money was on cigarettes and liquor- and I don't consider that necessary items.

deestafford
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deestafford 12/22/13 - 12:56 pm
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For the most part...

For the most part things are cheaper than the civilian stores.

No, it's not an essential for the defense of the country; however, it was one of the promises given when the country said, "Son, come fight for us and these things shall be yours for the rest of your life."

All of these things--base pay, housing, medical care, commissary, PX--were included as part of our compensation. Each time there was a pay raise some of it went into benefits such as housing and subsistence allowances so it would not show up in future years as part of the retirement package.

I might add that these benefits were earned by doing something for the country's freedom rather than some people just gracing the us with their presence and think they are entitled for benefits just by being in the country. Too much of the budget goes to people who have never done anything for the country other than propagate and breathe.

teaparty
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teaparty 12/22/13 - 02:47 pm
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"I might add that these

Unpublished

"I might add that these benefits were earned by doing something for the country's freedom rather than some people just gracing the us with their presence and think they are entitled for benefits just by being in the country."
Dee, You are 100% correct. The Marxists/communists running the democrat party are using handouts along with voter fraud to win elections.

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 12/22/13 - 08:40 pm
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Go For It All The Way

Dee/RM. There are a few that needs it to shove in their pipes and smoke it.

Darby
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Darby 12/29/13 - 06:30 pm
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No apologies on the way,,,,

As is often the case, the concept of closing the commissaries was floated as a trial balloon. If there had not been a loud outcry against the idea, you can be sure it would have been added to the liberal's chopping block.

There WAS the necessary hue and cry and so, therefore it's not gonna happen.

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