ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense officials have launched a preliminary investigation into how Stars and Stripes and its former parent organization, American Forces Information Service, handled money for the America Supports You program, a Defense Department spokesman said.

This could lead to a formal investigation into America Supports You funding, said Cmdr. Darryn James.

The Defense Department Office of the Inspector General recommended such a move in December after finding that defense officials "inappropriately" transferred $9.2 million to Stripes for America Supports You, and that the newspaper used some of that money for its own needs.

James said the preliminary investigation, to be undertaken by Washington Headquarters Service, will look into possible violations of the Antideficiency Act, which limits how government monies can be obligated and spent.

The law prohibits government agencies from spending money in ways not authorized by Congress, said Scott H. Amey, general counsel for the watchdog group Project On Government Oversight.

The DOD IG report found that monies might have been siphoned to Stars and Stripes," Amey said. "If a violation is found, penalties can range from a reprimand to imprisonment."

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