Proposed commissary cuts worry military families

| March 18, 2014

A Pentagon plan to slash taxpayer support of commissaries is meeting with widespread resistance from members of America’s career military, who say the budget-cutting move would cause their food costs to rise and compel them to spend a larger portion of their middle-class incomes on groceries.

The latest results of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveal that roughly two-thirds of military families in pay grades E-6 and above (that is, senior NCOs and commissioned officers) with household incomes of at least $50,000 identify commissaries as an important part of their current compensation as well as future retirement benefits. And three out of four respondents say that eliminating this taxpayer-subsidized benefit would negatively impact their families. Top concerns include:

  • Cost of food would increase (65 percent)
  • A larger portion of the monthly household budget would go to groceries (60 percent)
  • Grocery shopping would be less convenient (26 percent)
  • Would need to give up other activities (24 percent)

Notably, 18 percent of middle-income servicemembers worry that losing their commissary benefit would make it harder to save, which has been one of their top strategies for dealing with the coming wave of military budget cuts. When asked how they are preparing for sequestration, roughly one third of survey respondents (34 percent) indicated they are increasing the amount they are saving.

Worries over commissary cuts come at a time of increasing concerns over the broader impact of sequestration on household finances. When asked how sequester cuts are impacting their families, February survey respondents identified a number of compensation-related issues. The Index reveals that 31 percent say they are impacted by reductions in personal expense benefits, a broad category that comprises housing, clothing and food. That’s up six points from January.

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