ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department has awarded a $3 million contract for the public relations firm Susan Davis International to represent America Supports You, one of the last steps toward ending a controversial relationship with Stars and Stripes.

The Defense Media Center awarded the competitively bid contract on May 14, said Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a Defense Department spokesman.

Currently, Stripes administers a delivery order with Susan Davis to promote America Supports You, a Defense Department public affairs program that gives publicity to nonprofit groups that support U.S. troops.

The Office of the Defense Department Inspector General is conducting an audit due this summer that is looking at whether the newspaper was used to improperly convert money allocated by Congress into nonappropriated funds to pay for contracts for America Supports You.

Hicks said Wednesday that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, utilized the Stars and Stripes Contracting office for a variety of contracts including America Supports You, Web design and maintenance, and administrative contracts depending on a rage of needs and requirements.

"The value of these contracts ranged from $2-4 million per year," Hicks said, marking the first time the Defense Department has given an idea of the value of the contracts.

Defense officials and Stripes management have refused repeated requests to release any information on how much money has been transferred to Stripes for America Supports You.

A Defense official said Wednesday the contract with Susan Davis was the continuation of a competitively bid contract initially handled by the Army. Stripes entered into the current delivery order with Susan Davis International in July 2006.

No more work will be done on the delivery order after May 31, acting Stripes publisher Max Lederer said.

"Once we close out all the administrative activities, file invoices, then we’re done," Lederer said Wednesday. That process can take 30 days or longer, he said.

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