August 10, 2011

Panetta urged to keep commissary open

By Trevor Maxwell
Staff Writer

Maine's congressional delegation sent a letter today to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, urging him to reverse a decision that will close the Brunswick-Topsham Commissary on Oct. 8.

Since 1974, the commissary has provided low-cost groceries and other goods to military personnel and their families, ranging from active-duty armed forces to the Coast Guard, National Guard and retirees. Officials say the commissary serves more than 10,000 people.

The only other commissary in Maine is a much smaller store in Bangor. There is also a small commissary in Portsmouth, N.H.

In their letter, the delegation members asserted, "We believe this decision to be unjustified and imprudent, and urge you to continue store operations while reconsidering his [Under Secretary of Defense Clifford Stanley] recommendation," the delegates said in the letter to Panetta.

Stanley notified the delegates of the decision Tuesday.

Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, along with Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, said Stanley never responded to repeated efforts to discuss alternatives that could keep the commissary open.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office indicated that criteria used by the Defense Department to determine the fate of commissaries were "not clear," the delegates argued. Maine's delegates sent letters to Stanley on May 10, June 3 and July 21.

"Unfortunately, we did not receive a response to any of these letters, and yesterday was the first time that we have heard from Under Secretary Stanley on this issue. This failure to respond to our requests for a dialogue on a matter of such significant importance is troubling and unacceptable," Snowe, Collins, Pingree and Michaud said in their letter to Panetta.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon has not responded to a request for comment.


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