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Stars and Stripes European, Pacific Editions May Be Joined

June 20, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congress may cut funds for the Stars and Stripes newspaper and recommend consolidating editions published for American forces stationed in Europe and the Pacific, a Capitol Hill aide says.

The cuts were recommended in a report by the General Accounting Office, the congressional investigating agency, released this week.

The GAO said it found that taxpayer financing for Stars and Stripes could be reduced by cutbacks in staff, raising the price of the European edition to 25 cents - the same price as the Pacific edition - and consolidating the newspapers.

The Defense Department objected strenuously to the report, arguing that the GAO did not prove consolidation would save money and that the local flavor of the publications would be lost if they were merged.

Despite those objections, lawmakers, struggling to find ways to save money, are considering the GAO recommendations, a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday.

″We’re not questioning the need for the newspaper,″ said the staff member, who asked not to be identified. ″There is a need. But under the present Gramm-Rudman (deficit-reduction) law, we’re making cuts where we can. And we think Stars and Stripes should be using a minimum amount of taxpayer support.″

In fiscal 1984, Stars and Stripes paid $58.2 million of its $67.2 million in operating costs and other expenses with money from its operations. The remaining amount, about $9 million, was paid with appropriated funds.

The European edition of Stars and Stripes began publishing on April 18, 1942, five months after the United States became involved in World War II. The Pacific Stars and Stripes followed on Oct. 3, 1945.

Initially, both newspapers were produced entirely by military members. Now, both are published and produced primarily by civilians.

The circulation of the European Stars and Stripes is about 130,000 copies a day, while the Pacific edition, which grew to more than 200,000 copies a day during the Vietnam war, stood at about 40,000 in 1984.

The Pacific Stars and Stripes began to experience financial troubles in the 1970s, as its circulation dropped and the value of the U.S. dollar declined in international markets.

The Defense Department twice considered consolidation of the European and Pacific editions during the 1970s, but, according to the GAO, decided to try other means of reversing the financial decline, including expanding the sale of advertising. The decision led to complaints from other commercial publications that the military newspapers had an unfair competitive advantage.

The Pentagon, in its comments on the GAO report, said it does not believe Stars and Stripes is ″competing unfairly with private companies.″

The Pentagon also objected to the GAO finding that the advertising was expanded for financial reasons, instead saying the ads provide an additional source of information on goods and services for military personnel.

But the main issue in the GAO report was consolidation. The agency suggested that Stars and Stripes might be produced similarly to USA Today. The news could be gathered in Europe or the Pacific, as it is now, sent to a main office in the United States or Europe and transmitted back via satellite to existing facilities for printing and distribution. Several pages would be dedicated to news from the area.

The Defense Department objected.

″The local character of a newspaper is maintained by its being a part of the locality ...,″ the department said. ″Designating several pages as local news ... does not automatically retain the local flavor of the news.″

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