When this plan was initially announced earlier this week, I had more than a few qualms about it. The proposal in question involved ending the publication of the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. The paper has been around for as long as I can remember and back in the day it was one of the only news sources available for many military members, particularly those in the Navy. So why shut it down now? And more to the point, whose idea was this? According to NPR, the decision came from the office of the Secretary of Defense, but it was caused by the failure of the Senate to include funding for the publication in next year’s defense budget.
The Pentagon has ordered the closure of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, despite its popularity among many military members and bipartisan congressional efforts to provide continued funding.
A memo signed by U.S. Army Col. Paul Haverstick said the newspaper would be shut down by Sept. 30, the last day of the government’s 2020 fiscal year. The memo gave no reason for closing the publication other than saying funding was not in next year’s budget request.
The office of Defense Secretary Mark Esper “decided to discontinue the publication of States and Stripes as a result of the defense-wide review as outlined in the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2021,” the memo said.
I’m guessing this was little more than a clerical oversight in the Senate version of the appropriations bill. The cost of producing, printing and distributing Stars and Stripes inside the military doesn’t even add up to a rounding error in the total military budget. They spend significantly more on coffee. As it turns out, however, our men and women in uniform probably don’t need to worry about it. It seems that nobody informed the President of this decision, and when Trump heard about it he quickly slammed the door on the idea
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020
.Predictably, the New York Times pounced on the story as being part of Donald Trump’s “war on news media,” including government outlets covering the military.
President Trump said late Friday that he planned to reverse Pentagon budget cuts that would have permanently closed Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper that has both informed and spoken for American troops over the decades.
Under Defense Department spending plans, the paper would cease print and online publication by Sept. 30, a move seen as expanding the Trump administration’s war on news media to include those paid by the government to cover the military.
Yet, while the demise of Stars and Stripes had been in budget cuts first proposed by Mr. Trump’s Pentagon in February, the president announced the paper would continue to publish.
Notice how the decision is being described as having been part of budget cuts proposed by “Mr. Trump’s Pentagon.” Can you be any more obvious? They make it sound as if someone from the Defense Department goes to the Oval Office and reviews every single line item in a budget package that’s roughly the size of entire Encylopedia Brittanica in its printed version. Anything to get in a quick shot at the Trump administration, I suppose.
I would hate to see the Stars and Stripes go away, personally. I still recall my days in the Navy when we were out at sea and the only fresh reading material that showed up on a daily basis was the Plan of the Day. (Basically, a flyer that detailed all of the duty events and upcoming exercises scheduled for the next 24 hours. It was about as gripping as watching paint dry, which we also did a lot of.) That monotony was broken up by the regular arrival of the Stars and Stripes, assuming the mail plane didn’t break down.
The great thing about Stars and Stripes was that it covered plenty of the news of the world, but it targeted stories that were directly applicable to and/or of interest to service members. And it wasn’t always just rah-rah cheerleading for the branches of the service, either. When service members raised issues or had complaints about policies, the paper would regularly cover them and frequently got results by getting the leadership to reconsider unpopular dictates.
Hopefully, the Senate can get this squared away relatively quickly and keep the Stars and Stripes in production. It’s a lot of value for not all that much money. And does the President really want to come off looking like he’s kicking the military right before an election? Trump is far smarter than that.