Press Release

May 25, 2016
Cardin, 30 Senators Introduce NDAA Amendment to Block Commissary Privatization

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin, Barbara A. Mikulski ( both D-Md.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), today introduced amendment #4204 to the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would prevent the Department of Defense (DOD) from privatizing commissaries at five major installations until a study, requested in last year’s NDAA, to assess the costs and benefits of privatization is completed and properly taken into consideration by Congress.

The following members are original cosponsors of the amendment: Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Barbara Boxer (D-Cali.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), David Vitter (R-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).


“Our military members and their families sacrifice so much for our nation. The least the Senate can do on their behalf is to exhibit patience while we wait for results of a study regarding the possible privatization of the commissaries at military installations,” Cardin said.  “It is bewildering why some senators would rush to privatize a service so essential to our military families, who often struggle to make ends meet. My preference is that we focus our attention on how to reward their service to our country with better compensation, more support at home and overseas, and that we do all we can to keep their daily expenses to a minimum.”


“I’m fighting to protect our commissaries because service members and their families deserve the benefits they’ve earned and a government on their side,” Mikulski said. “Commissaries feed our troops. They help military families stretch their budgets, and they provide jobs to military spouses, teens old enough to work, and military retirees. And commissaries are the military’s most popular earned benefit. With this bipartisan amendment, we will keep commissary doors open to provide low-cost, healthy food to our service members and their families until we’re certain there’s a better alternative.”


“Our service members have repeatedly told me and Congress the importance of their commissary benefit, asking us to protect access to and savings at their commissaries,” Inhofe said. “Last year, my Senate colleagues and I fought to block language to privatize military commissaries until a study can take place to assess the impacts, costs and benefits of such drastic action. That study is currently underway, and once it is completed, Congress needs time to thoroughly review and consider the recommendations. This is why our bipartisan amendment to strike Senate language that, once again, prematurely sets into motion privatization is critical and should be given a vote during the Senate NDAA debate. I applaud the 30 Senate colleagues and 41 outside organizations already standing in support of our commissaries, and I urge veterans and military members to speak out and let us in Congress know how this benefit impacts your families’ household budgets and well-being.”


The Senate’s NDAA for Fiscal Year 2016, as passed out of committee on May 14, 2015, included language that sought to launch a pilot program to begin the privatization of military commissaries at five locations. Inhofe and Mikulski authored an amendment that garnered the bipartisan support of 23 Senators and over 40 organizations that sought to protect commissaries from being privatized until an assessment on such action could be conducted. Specifically, the amendment:

  • Required a study on the impact of privatization of commissaries on military families before a pilot program on privatizing could be implemented and was to look at modifications to the commissary system, common business processes, privatization in whole or in part, analysis of different pricing constructs, and impacts on MWR programs.
  • Required a Comptroller General assessment of the plan no later than 120 days after the submittal of the report.


The amendment was adopted on the Senate floor and included in the final NDAA signed into law by the president.

The requested study is currently underway but has not been completed at the time of this press release. This year’s Inhofe-Mikulski amendment would block language in the Senate bill that, once again, seeks to begin the process of privatization, and would restrict any such action until completion of the study and thorough review by Congress.

The following 41 organizations are opposed to the privatization language currently in the bill:


  • Air Force Sergeants Association
  • American Federation of Government Employees
  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Teamsters
  • American Logistics Association
  • American Military Retirees Association
  • American Military Society
  • American Retirees Association
  • American Veterans
  • Armed Forces Marketing Council
  • Army and Navy Union
  • Association of the United States Army
  • Association of the United States Navy
  • Fleet Reserve Association
  • Gold Star Wives of America
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
  • Military Order of Foreign Wars
  • Military Order of the Purple Heart
  • National Defense Committee
  • National Guard Association of the United States
  • National Military Family Association
  • National Military and Veterans Alliance
  • Military Partners and Families Coalition
  • Military Officers Association of America
  • National Association for Uniformed Services
  • Society of Military Widows
  • The American Military Partner Association
  • The Coalition to Save Our Military Shopping Benefits
  • The Flag and General Officers Network
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
  • The Retired Enlisted Association
  • Uniformed Services Disabled Retirees
  • United States Army Warrant Officers Association
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
  • National Industries for the Blind
  • Naval Enlisted Reserve Association
  • Reserve Officer Association
  • Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States

The American Legion