Defense Secretary Mark Esper wants to end federal funding for Stars and Stripes and re-purpose the $15.5 million to support the “Warfighter.”
When I worked for a logistics company we used the word “Warfighter.” It seemed a synonym for an ATM to me.
Esper’s reasoning is a joke because those funds represent 0.002 percent of the Defense Department budget. Elimination of federal funding represents about half of the news organization’s annual budget, according to Stars and Stripes.
One has to believe Stars and Stripes’ Congressionally mandated editorial independence from the Defense Department is the unspoken problem under the current commander in chief. Esper is a former Heritage Foundation chief of staff and Heritage is the lead agency in implementing movement conservatism in our government. It’s not hard to connect the dots.
I suggest defense money be diverted from development of new nuclear weapons we don’t need to maintain financial solvency of a newspaper first published during the Civil War. Stars and Stripes has been in continuous publication since World War II.
I ask politicians to audit the Pentagon as a first step toward fiscal accountability. I keep asking. If the president can gin up billions in defense budget excess to build the Mexican border wall, there is surely $15.5 million for an independent newspaper to be found in some boondoggle project.
Stars and Stripes was not a big deal to me when I served. We could buy it at the Post Exchange and received free copies only irregularly — mostly when we were on extended maneuvers in the Fulda Gap. If I wanted news, I listened to Armed Forces Radio, or walked down the hill from my quarters to the Mainz main railway station to buy France Soir, Le Monde, or the International Herald Tribune. Of those, only Le Monde survives in print edition today.
Esper’s military service occurred after mine and to be honest, I don’t know the role Stars and Stripes plays in military life today. Our military has access to the internet, and to some extent are able to access information like I can from my Iowa writing table. Our information infrastructure changes constantly, and Stars and Stripes should not be insulated from change.
If Stars and Stripes is a piece of nostalgia, I agree it should be tossed in the bin of history, something the proposed budget cut will ensure. The issue is the squelching of independent voices in our government. The relentless and systematic purging of differing opinions is a problem for us all.
We know the tune, but it is changing to Stars and Stripes Forever For a While under this administration.
~ A version of this post appeared in the Feb. 20, 2020 Solon Economist