The future of Stars and Stripes, the militarys independent newspaper, is uncertain, despite President Trumps Hail Mary pass of a Friday Tweet vowing to keep the publication funded.
The paper had been ordered to cease publication by Sept. 30, by order of the Pentagon, according to the Associated Press. This crucial publication is an important resource for those in uniform and costs pennies on the dollar compared to other spending the Department of Defense engages in.
Nobody does what we do, Stars and Stripes ombudsman Ernie Gates told CNN.
According to The Hill, a Washington, D.C., publication, Stars and Stripes funding is about $15.5 million annually, or 0.000022% of the Pentagons $705.4 billion fiscal 2021 budget released in February.
And yet, the Defense Dept. deemed it dispensable in order to bolster funding for other programs.
To their credit, some in Congress stepped up and senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper urging him to reinstate the $15.5 million in funding for the paper to the departments budget.
Both Republicans and Democrats signed the letter, which read, in part, Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nations freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom.
Gates told The Associated Press on Friday that shutting the paper down would be fatal interference and permanent censorship of a unique First Amendment organization that has served U.S. troops reliably for generations.
The paper is published by the Defense Department but its real value is that it is editorially independent from the Pentagon, the importance of which was noted in the letter sent to Esper.
It was Stars and Stripes that revealed the Defense Departments use of public relations firms that profiled reporters and steered them toward favorable coverage of the war in Afghanistan, the letter read. Most recently, the paper brought to light the failure of schools on U.S. military installations to shut down during the pandemic, despite Japanese public schools doing so. These stories illustrate why Stars and Stripes is essential: they report on stories that no one else covers.
Cue Trump, who tweeted late Friday afternoon The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch. It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!
Unfortunately, its not that easy.
Ultimately, Congress is the arbiter of the budget, said Gates.
It has yet to finalize the the Pentagons 2021 budget the House plan calls for continued funding for Stars and Stripes, the Senate version does not. Those plans need to be hashed out and signed by Trump.
The publication has a rich history with its original incarnation being briefly produced during the civil war.
It was published in earnest during World War I and went dark at the end of the war before returning until in 1942 during World War II, providing wartime news custom curated for troops and by troops.
Let us hope that the letter to Esper can move the needle on this or that the Senate can do the work the House did to make the publication whole in the budget again.
Further, those with influence should exert it now to save the paper. A good example would be Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who wrote a separate letter to Esper. As a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value Stars and Stripes brings to its readers, it read.
They have the presidents support its time to complete the mission.
Read the original:
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