SAVE STARS AND STRIPES
President Trump’s budget proposal for 2021 could kill America’s prime example of a free press. The military budget cuts funding for Stars and Stripes, the independent daily newspaper for the U.S. military community overseas.
The elimination of $15.5 million from the Defense Dept. budget represents about half of the paper’s annual budget, completely cutting Stripes’ ability to print and distribute newspapers to U.S. troops deployed around the world, especially in active war zones, including Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. It is the only independent news outlet for the servicemen and women, DOD civilian employees, and their families, who live on hundreds of bases in U.S. territories and foreign countries.
Stripes was born during the Civil War and has published a daily newspaper since World War II. Although officially part of the DOD, it is mandated by Congress to operate under First Amendment principles. I was a reporter and news bureau chief for Stripes on Guam and Okinawa for 19 years and can attest that it is a balanced and objective source of news and information for the U.S. military community. At times, I am sure, the brass wished we did not have free access to the bases and reported on matters they’d rather be swept under the rug.
During my 36-year career in journalism on six papers in Virginia, Indiana and the Far East, Stars and Stripes was absolutely the best. There was no political bias. The loss of Stripes to the American military community overseas would be a tragic loss, muting a crucial source of news for service members on the front lines. Although the paper manages a continuously updated online presence, the internet is often not available in many of the forward-deployed areas.
Please contact your representatives in Congress and express the horrible impact such a drastic budget cut would have in providing information to our troops overseas. The Trump administration has already successfully diverted funds for DOD schools and housing to pay for his ridiculous border wall. Let’s not add the demise of Stars and Stripes to the list,
This letter was originally published in the Anderson (IN) Herald Bulletin in April 2020.