The historic military newspaper Stars and Stripes has been ordered to shut down, according to a recent memo from the Pentagon. The memo outlines that the publication’s allocation of $15.5 million was removed from the Pentagon’s 2021 fiscal year budget in an effort to re-invest that money “into higher-priority issues” according to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. The memo states that the publication is to present a plan for dissolution by September 15, publishing to cease by the end of the month, a complete shut down of operations by the end January, 2021.
The 2021 DoD budget is expected to ring in at over $700 billion.
Stars and Stripes, which is an editorially independent newspaper and digital publication operating within the Department of Defense, dates back to the Civil War and has been circulated to fighting men and women through every major conflict since. The newspaper – which had a reported circulation of 7 million last year — publishes four daily print editions primarily for the consumption of service members overseas in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and South Korea. Stars and Stripes also has seven digital editions as well as an online audience of roughly 2 million readers a month.
In a statement to Forbes, Ernie Gates, the ombudsman for Stars and Stripes, described the shutdown as a “fatal interference and permanent censorship of a unique First Amendment organization.” A bi-partisan group of congressmen and women has come forward decrying the shut down and demanding for the publication’s continuance.
Included in that group is South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who reportedly sent a letter to the Pentagon last week calling for reinstatement of the funding. “As a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value that the Stars and Stripes brings to its readers,” Graham wrote.
Stars and Stripes is a uniquely structured organization. Officially a NAF (non-appropriated fund) outfit, the $15.5 million Department of Defense allocation subsidizes roughly half of the required operating costs. The remainder of the operating costs are earned through advertising and subscriptions. The publication is staffed by civilians as well as U.S. military senior non-commissioned officers.