Sept. 4 (UPI) -- A Pentagon memo sent this week orders the dissolution of the military news source Stars and Stripes, calling for an end to publication by Sept. 30.
The memo demanded a "specific timeline for vacating government-owned/leased space" by Sept. 15, with the last day of September scheduled as the newspaper's final issue.
Stars and Stripes is underwritten by the Defense Department, with annual funding of about $15.5 million, but is editorially an independent voice and meant to inform U.S. soldiers around the world of military matters, particularly those without a reliable news source. It has a circulation of about 7 million, with an online presence as well.
The funding was eliminated in the $704 billion military budget of Fiscal Year 2021. Defense Secretary Mark Esper noted that the money spent on the publication should be reallocated to higher priority issues. A House appropriations bill restored the funding, but the Senate has not yet acted on it.
"It will continue to be a wonderful source of information for our Great Military," Trump said.
Stars and Stripes' ombudsman Ernie Gates called the effort to end the newspaper a "fatal interference and permanent censorship of a unique First Amendment organization." A letter, objecting to the closure of the newspaper, was signed by 10 bipartisan senators and sent to Esper on Wednesday.
"Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nation's freedom of the press that serves the very population defending that freedom," the letter says in part.
A separate letter by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was sent to Esper on Aug. 28.
"As a veteran who has served overseas, I know the value that the Stars and Stripes brings to its readers," Graham, a retired Air Force colonel, wrote in part.
The newspaper was founded in 1861 during the Civil War. Regular publication began during World War I, and ended with the armistice, but was restarted in 1942, during World War II. It has been published continuously since.