As Stripes’ newsroom reported last week, shutting down Stars and Stripes is under consideration as the Pentagon faces the prospect of dramatic budget cuts. Silencing Stripes’ unique, independent voice is a very bad idea, even if the motives are pure – and that’s never a sure thing when money's on the table.
In the current fiscal climate, especially facing the continuing additional cuts from sequestration, a top-to-bottom review of DOD spending is to be expected.That's basic management. But it's also an environment that can invite a few well-placed people to work out their personal preferences. In Stripes' case, that could mean someone who doesn't like its reporting using the rationale of fiscal pressure to mask an entirely different intention -- to eliminate an irritant.
That shouldn't happen, but it's something to be watchful about.
Good intentions or otherwise, Stars and Stripes shouldn't be on anybody's elimination list. Its independent and focused coverage is highly valued within the military community, based on my talks with service members around the world -- in every service, at many ranks -- and with family members, commanders and people in public affairs. As ombudsman, I listen to all voices, including the relative few who think Stripes should either fall in with the command message or go away. But those are far outnumbered by the readers who look forward to Stripes and rely on its independence.
Stripes' free press mission has mattered historically, it matters today and it will matter in years to come. Sequestration shouldn’t be used as cover to shut it down (or shut it up).