President Trump tweeted Friday afternoon that Stars and Stripes, the military’s editorially independent newspaper, which has operated since the Civil War, will not be defunded.
His 2021 budget, however, did not include funding for the publication, putting it on course to end its 159-year-long run on September 30.
“The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to (Stars and Stripes) magazine under my watch,” Mr. Trump tweeted Friday. “It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!”
According to USA Today, the Pentagon had ordered the paper to shut down by September 30, the end of the 2020 fiscal year.
A memo sent by Col. Paul Haverstick Jr., Director of the Defense Media Activity at Fort Meade, Maryland, said the publication, which provides news to soldiers around the world, would be dissolved by September 15, with its last issue coming at the end of the month, reported USA Today.
The Pentagon’s decision to cut the newspaper came earlier this year, when the department stripped its funding in the Defense Department budget request submitted in February, Stars and Stripes noted.
“The last newspaper publication (in all forms) will be September 30, 2020,” Haverstick Jr. wrote.
Haverstick’s memo states that the president’s 2021 Pentagon budget allows the department to reallocate the money typically used for Stars and Stripes — about $15.5 million, or approximately 0.002% of the DOD’s over $700 billion budget.
As Stars and Stripes reported, a group of bipartisan senators sent a letter sent to earlier this month arguing that any decision should wait until lawmakers complete the Pentagon’s 2021 budget. The senators, four Republicans and 11 Democrats, urged Esper to maintain its funding.
“Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation’s freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom,” reads the letter. “Therefore, we respectfully request that you rescind your decision to discontinue support for Stars and Stripes and that you reinstate the funding necessary for it to continue operations.”
Stars and Stripes reporters took to Twitter about the news, asking readers to reach out to their representatives to help save the longstanding paper.
Despite the senators’ argument that shutting down Stars and Stripes “would have a significantly negative impact on military families,” the Defense Department announced days later that it reallocated funding for the paper in the 2021 budget because the money was needed elsewhere.
Military.com reported in February that Esper had told reporters that the paper is not a priority.
“We trimmed the support for Stars and Stripes because we need to invest that money, as we did with many, many other programs, into higher-priority issues,” Esper said. According to the news site, Esper said the money could be better used on weapons systems.
The Pentagon said the decision to defund Stars and Stripes was the result of a department-wide review of programs that Esper ordered when he.
The paper was expected to get a temporary reprieve, however, since Congress and the White House have agreed to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded and prevent it from shutting down before the November elections. Under a continuing resolution, funding is kept at current levels until legislation to fund the government for 2021 operations is passed. This would only keep the publication funded until the regular appropriations are enacted. The Democratic House has already restored funding, ignoring the memo, while the Republican-led Senate has yet to act.
The Pentagon’s memo states that “the last date of the paper will be determined” once the continuing resolution expires, according to reporting from USA Today.