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article imageOp-Ed: Pentagon ends subsidy for venerable newspaper Stars and Stripes

By Ken Hanly     Feb 16, 2020 in Politics
Washington - US Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended the Pentagon's decision to remove all federal funding of the military paper Stars and Stripes in its 2021 budget request. Esper told reporters in Brussels that the independent paper was not a priority.
Stars and Stripes not a priority
Esper claimed that the slightly more than $15.5 million for the paper needed to be used for other priority issues. Esper listed space, nuclear programs, hypersonic missiles as among places the money could be reinvested. However, $15.5 million is a minuscule amount within the Pentagon's total $705.4 billion budget request.
The funding enables the Stars and Stripes to be printed and distributed to US troops deployed around the world even in such areas as Afghanistan. Iraq, and Syria. It keeps the troops informed about what is going on.
Stars and Stripes funding
This is the first time that Pentagon officials have noted that their budget request has completely cut out the federal subsidy.
The newspaper receives about $8.7 million a year in operation and maintenance funds and another $6.9 million in contingency operations funds according to Marine Lt. Col. Chris Logan a spokesperson for Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.
The subsidy is about half of the newspaper's annual budget. The other half of Stars and Stripes" revenue comes from sales, subscriptions, and advertising.
Last Monday on a briefing on the Pentagon's 2021 budget Comptroller Elaine McCusker confirmed that the subsidy to Stars and Stripes would be eliminated and said: “We have essentially decided that, you know, kind of coming into the modern age that newspaper is probably not the best way that we communicate any longer." However, it is not clear if the newspaper will be replaced by some other information source. No doubt some officials would like to see a propaganda outlet replace a respected independent news source but others may be content with there being no replacement.
Stars and Stripes
As described by Wikipedia Stars and Stripes is a US military newspaper that concentrates on issues that concern members of the US Armed Forces. It operates from inside the Department of Defense but is editorially separate from it. It has First Amendment protection that is protected by the US Congress to whom an independent ombudsman who serves the readers' interests regularly reports. Stars and Stripes is obviously not some official propaganda outlet but designed to provide information to its readers and serve their interests.
Stars and Stripes appeared first during the US Civil War and has been published continuously since the second World War. The news organization not only provided daily newspapers around the world but also operates a website that is updated 24 hours a day.
Stars and Stripes gains praise from official while he cuts funding
Logan acknowledged that Stars and Stripes had been of great value during its long seven decades of service to the US military community. Logan said: "Their hard work and dedication in reporting on issues that matter the most to the military community continues to be of value. However, as we look forward to the current budget proposal and beyond, the DOD must prioritize spending to support our war-fighters in the most critical areas of need. Therefore, the department has made the difficult decision that, beginning in fiscal year 2021, it will no longer provide appropriated funds to Stars and Stripes." Apparently it is not a critical need that the US military be informed about what is going on in the military and the rest of the world. This shows a disrespect for the military community.
Ernie Gates, the ombudsman for the Stars and Stripes noted that the newspaper provided independent , free-flowing information that they needed and was their right to receive as Americans. He said the paper also provided a little bit of home or a welcome diversion from tough missions..
Pushback against cuts
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPI) called on Esper to rethink his cuts in funding for the paper saying that the cut to the subsidy would be a huge disservice to the men and women who served the USA. He noted that service people especially relied on the newspaper in areas where there was no Internet. SPI president Patricia Newberry said that the Stars and Stripes had been a balanced and objective source of information. She said that the paper's ability to inform US troops about issues that were important to them should not be unhindered. Perhaps the balance and objectivity of the paper is what makes it a target of the funding cut. The paper provides some information to the military that authorities would rather remained under wraps.
Representative Ruben Gallego a Democrat from California who is himself a Marine veteran said that the paper was a link to home when he was in Iraq and Okinawa and said: "It's an A+ indie take on everyday DoD news, f*** ups, and Administration & General Officer BS. No wonder this President wants to cut it. He's got a fight on his hands." No doubt this critical aspect of the paper that could lead authorities to cut its funding.
Representative Gil Cisneros a navy veteran wrote that the paper provide a crucial voice on the Dept. of Defense and Veteran's Affairs and other military matters. He said its reporting was needed.
Another former official praised the Stars and Stripes. James Stavridis, who served both as EUCOM Chief and NATO Supreme Allied Commander from 2009 to 2013 said: "Every day in my office as commander [of] U.S. European Command, I would read Stars and Stripes..It was an invaluable, unbiased, and highly professional source of information which was critical to me in my role overseeing U.S. military throughout Europe."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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