BRUNSWICK — A defense bill passed by Congress last week includes a provision to continue operations of the Navy Exchange Service Command store at Brunswick Naval Air Station and the Defense Commissary Agency at the Topsham annex through next June.

The stores were scheduled to close in March 2011.

The provision was part of final passage of H.R. 6523, the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. The legislation maintains operations at the exchange and commissary stores until at least six months after the bill was enacted – and possibly longer, depending on the time it takes the comptroller general to finish a report on the stores and for the defense secretary to consider that document.

The legislation also gives the Maine congressional delegation, and users of the commissary and exchange, more time to convince the secretary that the stores should remain open.

“The Topsham commissary and Brunswick exchange are not only an important benefit for the active duty military personnel who are stationed in Maine’s Mid-Coast region, but also the many other patriots, including retirees, guardsmen and reservists, and the many families who have rightfully earned the benefit these stores provide for their service and sacrifice,” U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said in a prepared statement.

“The Mid-Coast region will continue to be home to many active duty service members, along with thousands of military retirees and their families,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, added. “These brave men and women have earned commissary and exchange benefits that should not be denied by the end of military operations at BNAS.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, noted that “our delegation is united in our commitment to this important issue. Inclusion of this provision in the final bill represents a win for the region and an important step forward in our efforts to preserve access to these facilities.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said “we owe active duty and retired personnel access to a commissary and exchange and the entire Maine delegation is going to keep fighting to keep those services available in the Brunswick area.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

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