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Defense Department proposes cutting funding to Stars and Stripes

The publisher of Stars and Stripes, the military’s editorially independent newspaper which covers issues relevant to members of the armed forces, said he was notified on Monday that the Department of Defense intends to eliminate some of the publication’s funding starting in 2021.

“Consequently, I have just begun to evaluate the impact to operations,” publisher Max Lederer said in a statement. “The loss of funding to support the Stripes mission around the world will definitely reduce the ability of the Stripes staff to gather, produce, and deliver the content needed and desired by the military community.”

Lederer added, “The men and women who sacrifice every day for the safety of our nation deserve the objective and balanced unique content produced by Stars and Stripes.”

Stars and Stripes was first produced during the Civil War by Union soldiers. It was later revived during the first World War and has printed regularly since World War II. Stars and Stripes said it distributed more than 7 million copies of its US Weekly edition in 2019 and served an online audience of 18.8 million unique visitors.

According to a story published Monday about the proposed funding cuts, Stars and Stripes receives most of its funding from sales, subscriptions, and advertising, but relies on government funding to back overseas reporting and distribution. A spokesperson for Stars and Stripes said approximately 35% of its budget is from the federal funding.

It was not immediately clear how much funding the Defense Department proposed cutting from the newspaper. A spokesperson for the Defense Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CNN Business.

But when asked about the proposed cuts on Monday, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Elaine McCusker said, “We have essentially decided that, you know, kind of coming into the modern age that newspaper is probably not the best way that we communicate any longer.”

Ernie Gates, the Stars and Stripes ombudsman, pushed back on McCusker’s comment.

“Stars and Stripes’ mission is not to communicate the DOD or command message, but to be an independent, First Amendment publication that serves the troops — especially deployed troops,” Gates wrote in a tweet. “So ‘we communicate’ misses the mission.”

News of the proposed cuts was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“The news came as a surprise,” editorial director Terry Leonard said in a statement to CNN Business. “There were no previous discussions with the organization before today’s announcement.”

The Defense Department has previously mulled cutting funding to Stars and Stripes. In 2016, Stars and Stripes reported that the Defense Department was considering cutting the paper’s annual funding of $12 million.

CNN

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