The Pentagon is reportedly ordering the shut down of the venerable military newspaper Stars and Stripes, with President Donald Trump seeking total defunding of the 159-year-old independent publication, according to a report in USA Today.
USA Today contributor Kathy Kiely cited a recent Pentagon memo that ordered the Stars and Stripes publisher to present a plan by Sept. 15 for the dissolution of the newspaper, both print and online, and a “specific timeline for vacating government owned/leased space worldwide.” The memo, written by Col. Paul Haverstick Jr. according to USA Today, says the “last newspaper publication (in all forms) will be September 30, 2020.”
The news comes as Trump is denying an Atlantic report that the president has called U.S. troops killed in battle “losers,” sought to prevent disabled veterans from taking part in parades and denigrated John McCain after the senator’s death. The report, as well as Trump’s denials, has been picked up by the military newspaper.
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Haverstick’s memo, USA Today reports, asserts that the administration has the authority to defund the publication under the president’s fiscal year 2021 defense department budget request, specifically the $15.5 million annual subsidy for Stars and Stripes – a tiny fraction of the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget.
Congress has not yet approved the request, and a House-approved version of the budget would restore Stars and Stripes’ funding. While the Senate has not yet voted on the matter, the Hill reports that a bipartisan group of senators recently wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper objecting to the “proposed termination of funding” for Stars and Stripes, noting the “significantly negative impact on military families” such the closure would have.
Trump ally Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also has opposed the shutdown, writing a letter to Esper in late August describing Stars And Stripes as “a valued “hometown newspaper” for the Armed Forces, their families, and civilian employees. Graham wrote that, “as a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value that the Stars and Stripes brings to its readers.”
Stars and Stripes, a military publication independent of Pentagon editorial control, was first published in 1861 and has published regularly since World War II with a current readership of 1.3 million.
In a tweet following USA Today’s report, Stars and Stripes reporter Steve Beynon assured readers his work would continue. “I read Stars and Stripes on a mountain in Afghanistan when I was a 19 year old aspiring journalist,” Beynon wrote in a tweet that was later retweeted by the official Stars and Stripes twitter account. “Now I work there. This doesn’t stop the journalism. I’m juggling 3 future news stories today.”
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