Military budget cuts have now spread to Stars and Stripes, the 150-year-old U.S. military newspaper that is slated to be kicked out of Washington, D.C. headquarters, finds Grumpy Editor.
Distributed worldwide, the newspaper started by 10 Union soldiers during the Civil War, has been ordered to move 30 miles from D.C. to the Fort Meade military base.
The cost-cutting effort was directed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who figures the move, affecting 80 newsroom and business staffers, will save $1 million a year in rent by leaving the National Press Building.
Moving operations to an Army base, staffers feel the location will cause loss of journalistic independence.
The distance from Maryland also will make it a bit difficult to cover Capitol Hill.
Over many years, the daily newspaper, now with an estimated 350,000 readers, has angered Pentagon and military leadership by printing beefs from military personnel.
Douglas B. Wilson, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said the decision to relocate the newspaper to Fort Meade “is not a matter of reducing independence for Stars and Stripes. It is a matter of reducing rent costs to the taxpayer.”
But raising his eyebrows, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Panetta. He said questions of editorial independence for Stars and Stripes were “well-placed, and should lead to a review of possible alternatives to this decision.”
Levin asked, “If this move is based on cost savings, were other alternatives considered, including other government spaces and other leased locations?
“If Stars and Stripes is moved to Fort Meade, what will the department do to ensure that the actual and perceived independence of the important service provided by Stars and Stripes is preserved?”