President Donald Trump has decreed via tweet that Stars and Stripes, an independent military newspaper subsidized by the Pentagon, will not lose federal funding.
“The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch,” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon. “It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!”
The tweet came after the Pentagon notified Stars and Stripes that it’s final newspaper publication will be released this month. On Friday morning, USA Today reported that the Pentagon distributed a memo to the publication instructing the publisher to craft a plan to dissolve the publication.
The memo, written by Col. Paul Haverstick Jr., added that the publication’s last issue in all forms would be Sept. 30.
Stars and Stripes confirmed to Military Times it received the memo in August. Stars and Stripes Ombudsman Ernie Gates said in an email to Military Times earlier Friday shutting the publication “down would be fatal interference and permanent censorship of a unique First Amendment organization that has served U.S. troops reliably for generations” and urged the Pentagon and Congress to continue its funding.
The Pentagon revealed in February that its budget request would cut more than $15 million Stars and Stripes receives annually, totaling approximately $8.7 million in operations and maintenance funds and roughly $6.9 million in overseas contingency operations.
However, lawmakers voiced support for the funding. For example, the House’s version of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that passed in July includes the $15.5 million to fund the military newspaper, as does the House appropriations bill.
Although the Senate’s version of the NDAA that passed did not include a similar provision to continue funding, lawmakers in the upper chamber have pushed the Pentagon to preserve Stars and Stripes.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers spearheaded by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper imploring the Pentagon to continue funding the publication.
“Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom,” the senators wrote in the letter. “Therefore, we respectfully request that you rescind your decision to discontinue support for Stars and Stripes and that you reinstate the funding necessary for it to continue operations.”
“The $15.5 million currently allocated for the publication of Stars and Stripes is a only a tiny fraction of your Department’s annual budget, and cutting it would have a significantly negative impact on military families and a negligible impact on the Department’s bottom line,” the lawmakers said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expressed similar sentiments last month in a letter to Esper and wrote“as a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value that the Stars and Stripes brings to its readers.” Graham retired as a colonel from the Air Force Reserves in 2015.
As a result, Gates said dissolving Stars and Stripes this fall would “defy” the House and prevent full consideration from the Senate.
“There’s every reason to expect that the federal government will operate under a Continuing Resolution when the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30,” Gates said in an email earlier Friday. “Secretary Esper and the Defense Department should commit to continuing to fund Stars and Stripes under such a scenario – and when Congress completes the budget process, it should then make Stars and Stripes’ funding ironclad.”
The Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget did not respond to a request for comment from Military Times. The White House did not comment on the record to Military Times.
Stars and Stripes comes in online and digital forms, and publishes a newspaper Mondays through Thursdays along with weekend editions for overseas consumers. The publication says it distributed more than seven million copies of its U.S. Weekly edition last year, printed more than 4 million special publications in the U.S. and overseas, and delivered 38 million page views online in fiscal year 2019.
The newspaper traces its origins to 1861 when Union soldiers issued four one-page newspapers. The outlet was resurrected during World War I, and has been published consistently since World War II.