The Pentagon is reversing course on plans to shutter the venerable Stars and Stripes newspaper following an order from President Donald Trump, officials with the paper said Thursday.
According to an email, Col. Paul Haverstick, the Pentagon's acting director of Defense Media Activity, announced that the recent direction to discontinue publishing Stars and Stripes content on Oct. 1 2020, and to dissolve the organization by Jan. 31, 2021, had been rescinded.
The Defense Department is making it official by drafting a new memo in coming days, Haverstick said in the email to Ernie Gates, the paper's ombudsman, and publisher Max Lederer. The email was shared with Military.com.
Gates applauded the assurance that Stripes' funding would continue in the near-term, but said more work needs to be done to ensure publication continues.
"That's a concrete act," Gates said of the rescinded shutdown order. "Next, it's up to Congress to be sure there is money in the fiscal 2021 defense budget to keep it publishing."
Haverstick said in the email that the DoD is also "tackling the best approach for FY21 funding since the budget is already on [Capitol Hill]."
Last week, Trump tweeted that funds to Stars and Stripes would not be cut under his watch after media outlets and lawmakers publicized the paper's impending closure.
"It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!" the president said Friday. That was hours after USA Today reported on a Pentagon memo that said Stars and Stripes would end its publication by Sept. 30. Earlier last week, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper to preserve the "historically significant publication," which only requires "a tiny fraction" of the Defense Department's annual budget.
"Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation's freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom," the 15 senators said in the Sept. 2 letter.
"Therefore, we respectfully request that you rescind your decision to discontinue support for Stars and Stripes and that you reinstate the funding necessary for it to continue operations."
The Pentagon in February proposed cutting all of the newspaper's funding -- roughly $15.5 million annually -- to reallocate those dollars toward other high-profile programs, such as space, nuclear and hypersonic systems, Esper said at the time. The Senate version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act does not contain funding for the paper; lawmakers will convene this fall to develop a joint version of the bill.
"We trimmed the support for Stars and Stripes because we need to invest that money, as we did with many, many other programs, into higher-priority issues," Esper said during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, following DoD's $740 billion budget submission to Congress.
Stars and Stripes is published in print and online.
Trump's announcement marked the second time the president intervened in roughly a two-week timespan to overturn proposed cuts to Pentagon programs.
On Aug. 17, Trump said he "totally rejected" a Pentagon proposal to slash $2.2 billion in spending to the military health care system; according to a story from Politico, DoD officials had proposed cutting health care as part of Esper's defense-wide review to redesignate funding.
"We will do nothing to hurt our great Military professionals & heroes as long as I am your President. Thank you!" he said.
-- Gina Harkins and Patricia Kime contributed to this report.
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.