Defense bill revives Stars and Stripes newspaper after near dissolution

The U.S. military publication Stars and Stripes will survive another year after its operation was almost killed in September, according to the compromise defense policy bill released Thursday. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would keep funding for the editorially independent military newspaper at its fiscal year 2020 levels, said the compromise, known as a conference report.  

The NDAA would also require the Defense secretary to submit a report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees “detailing a business case analysis of continued operation of Stars and Stripes.”

The provision, which came from the House version of the bill, comes after President Trump in early September reversed the plans of his own administration and spared the publication weeks before it was scheduled to shutter. 

The Pentagon had ordered the newspaper to stop publishing on Sept. 30 and dissolve by the end of January after it moved to cut $15.5 million in funding for the publication from the Defense Department’s budget.

Former Defense secretary Mark Esper at the time said the proposal was part of an effort to invest that money “into higher-priority issues.”

And Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s acting comptroller, said the department “essentially decided coming into the modern age that newspaper is probably not the best way we communicate any longer.” 

But Trump on Sept. 4 tweeted that his administration “will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch.” 

Lawmakers had also supported funding the paper, with a coalition of Republican and Democratic senators calling it “an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom.”

Stars and Stripes was first published by Union soldiers during the Civil War and has been in print consistently since the 1940s, serving as a source of coverage for military news around the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. The newspaper reportedly distributed 7 million copies of its U.S. weekly print edition in 2019. 

Sales, subscriptions and advertising account for the majority of the paper’s money. However, the revenue is insufficient to cover the costs of its coverage priorities, making Congressional funding crucial to stay afloat. 

Tags Donald Trump Mark Esper NDAA Stars and Stripes newspaper

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