One sure way to tell that the Pentagon is preparing for another budget crisis is to look for a beloved program placed on the chopping block. This year, Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper that’s been published since the Civil War, is the alleged sacrificial lamb.
A report in Stars and Stripes says the Pentagon is considering eliminating the paper, which cost DOD a mere $7.8 million per year. DOD is also considering cutting the $51.6 million budget for the American Forces Radio and Television Service and the $6.1 million budget for the Pentagon channel. The cuts are being considered as the Pentagon faces budget cuts due to the sequester of $600 billion over the next decade.
The total cost for these three communications programs is just $65.5 million, a rounding error in an annual budget of more than $500 billion. But all three are very visible members of the military and their families. Stars and Stripes is distributed free at bases around the world. The radio and television stations' programs -- including sports, a morale booster for troops overseas -- are also broadcast on every base.
It's not unusual for popular programs like these to be used as leverage in budget negotiations. For instance, DOD recently floated the idea of cutting programs for veterans. While few believe these programs face steep cuts, simply introducing the idea gets the attention of lawmakers reluctant to cut troop benefits.
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But this is the first time DOD has floated the idea of eliminating Stars and Stripes, which supplements the $7.8 million it gets from DOD with advertising revenue.
DOD refused to comment on the report. "In this budget environment, we’re looking at everything,” Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, spokesman for the office reviewing Pentagon spending, told the paper.
Whoever leaked the possible elimination of the paper got the reaction they likely wanted from Capitol Hill. Lawmakers, when told of the possibility, slammed the idea.
"I think it would be a terrible mistake, I really do. The men and women who are serving get a lot of their information this way. It’s a great conduit to spread information to the men and women who are serving all over the world," Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) told Stars and Stripes. “Armed Forces Network, among many other things, does sports, which all of our men and women love. So I think it would be crazy.”
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