Trump administration orders a US military publication to close up shop — despite congressional opposition

Trump administration orders a US military publication to close up shop — despite congressional opposition
President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and U.S. Army Gen. Omar Jones participate in the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2020, in Arlington, Va. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The military newspaper Stars and Stripes is an institution in the United States, first found in 1861. Stars and Stripes has served as a steady stream of information for many in the military, funded through the Department of Defense but institutionally independent from its leadership. But now, under President Donald Trump, its existence is threatened.

USA Today’s Kathy Kiely reports, in an op-ed, that the Pentagon has sent a memo ordering Stars and Stripes to cease publication. The memo ordered its publisher to come up with a plan that “dissolves the Stars and Stripes” by September 15 and contains a “specific timeline for vacating government-owned/leased space worldwide.”

Col. Paul Haverstick Jr., who wrote the memo, told the publisher, “The last newspaper publication (in all forms) will be September 30, 2020.” The publication presently has both a physical newspaper edition and an online edition.

Kiely is highly critical of the decision to end Stars and Stripes after 159 years.

“As a publication that’s underwritten by the military but not answerable to the brass,” Kiely writes, “Stars and Stripes embodies that most American of values: the right to speak truth to power. As if an attack on the free press were not enough, the Trump administration’s rush to shutter Stars and Stripes also raises constitutional questions.”

Kiely continues, “The memo ordering the publication’s dissolution claims the administration has the authority to make this move under the president’s fiscal year 2021 Defense Department budget request. It zeroed out the $15.5 million annual subsidy for Stars and Stripes. But Congress, which under the Constitution, has the power to make decisions about how the public’s money is spent, has not yet approved the president’s request. In fact, the version the House approved earlier this summer explicitly overruled the decision to pull the plug on Stars and Stripes, restoring funding for the paper.”

Kiely, in her op-ed, describes Stars and Stripes’ launch during the Civil War, noting, “The first Stars and Stripes rolled off presses November 9, 1861 in Bloomfield, Missouri when forces headed by Ulysses Grant overran the tiny town on the way to Cape Girardeau. A group of Grant’s troops who had been pressmen before the war set up shop at a local newspaper office abandoned by its Confederate sympathizer publisher. Since then, Stars and Stripes has launched the careers of famous journalists such as cartoonist Bill Mauldin and TV commentator Andy Rooney.”

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