UPDATED April 7, 2011 3:46 p.m.
NAPLES, Italy — It was unclear Thursday whether base commissaries worldwide would remain open during a government shutdown.
A spokeswoman for the Defense Commissary Agency in Europe initially indicated that all agency facilities would close beginning Saturday morning.
“We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause our customers,” spokeswoman Leslie Brown said in a statement.
Later in the day, however, the Pentagon said no decision had been made on the operating status of commissaries.
“We are in the process of identifying those missions and functions of the Department of Defense that may continue to be carried out in the absence of available appropriations,” said Maj. Monica Matoush, a Defense Department spokeswoman.
On Friday morning, most commissary managers in the Pacific still had no answers for customers, referring all queries to higher headquarters.
Only officials at Yokosuka Naval Base, near Tokyo, said the commissary there will remain open.
Commissaries are particularly useful for overseas military communities in Europe and Asia, offering hometown food favorites often at a more affordable price than similar fare found off-base.
At places like England’s RAF Lakenheath, the giant commissary is the only real grocery store in the area. If an airman is stationed on base and does not have a car, there are no British supermarkets within walking distance. A weak dollar to pound exchange rate also makes shopping at British stores more expensive.
AAFES officials said that, due to how they are funded, they would not be affected by a government shutdown and will continue with business as usual.
Meanwhile, Tricare spokesman Austin Camacho said a federal government shutdown wouldn't have an impact on them.
"Everything will be business as usual...Our beneficiaries will not see any loss in service or care," Camacho said.
Camacho said all of TRICARE's managed care contractors such as dental and medical are already budgeted for the year.
In a briefing Thursday morning, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said that in addition to activities necessary for national security, others that would be considered “excepted,” and thus continue, would include:
- Inpatient and essential outpatient medical care in DoD medical treatment facilities
- Emergency dental care
- Non appropriated funds activities including dining facilities and child care
- Legal activities and assistance for deployed DoD personnel
- Contracting and logistics in support of activities that are considered accepted
- Financial management activities to ensure control of funds
What do you think, readers? How heavily do you rely on the commissary, and what will you do if they do in fact shut down along with the rest of the federal government?