WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The iconic military newspaper Stars and Stripes may be on the Pentagon’s chopping block due to potential budget cuts.
The Department of Defense (DOD) is considering a wide range of spending cuts and has enlisted the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office to review spending on all media products which include the newspaper as well as programming on the American Forces Network.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the spending review of all DOD.
“In this budget environment, we’re looking at everything,” said Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, spokesman for the cost assessment office.
According to Stars and Stripes, Ray B. Shepherd, the head of the Defense Media Activity, which oversees all three outlets, refused to elaborate on the study.
“We’ve been asked to look at everything,” Shepherd said to the newspaper.
The 2013 budget for American Forces Radio and Television Service was $51.6 million and the cost for the Pentagon Channel is about $6.1 million, Shepherd went on to explain.
The majority of the newspapers budget comes from staff-generated revenue, advertisements and newspaper sales. However, the DOD subsidy for 2014 was $7.8 million, Bill Murphy, the chief financial officer of the newspaper explained.
Publisher of Stars and Stripes, Max Lederer, said officials have asked for information including hypothetical cuts. He wasn’t told why the review was under way.
“When you get asked questions in a vacuum, you get concerned,” Lederer told the newspaper.
The newspaper has a civilian ombudsman who answers to Congress and under federal law maintains editorial independence.
Senators with the Armed Services Committee, who considers cuts to weapons programs and military benefits, were asked Wednesday if they had been informed of any review and said they hadn’t.
“I had just heard rumors,” Sen. John McCain said. “But 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.
“Armed Forces Network, among many other things, does sports, which all of our men and women love,” McCain shared. “So I think it would be crazy.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, also agreed with McCain on the issue.
“I don’t like the idea. I certainly acknowledge [the Pentagon has] some really difficult choices ahead, and I’d want to look at it, but I think an independent editorial voice like Stars and Stripes provides is pretty darn important for transparency and accountability and oversight in the military.”