Newspaper Used as Slush Fund for Pentagon PR?

Allison BarberThe U.S. Defense Department Inspector General's review of the "America Supports You" (ASY) program has widened to include the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes. "Both America Supports You and American Forces Information Service -- the parent organization for Stripes -- are headed by Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs," reports Stars and Stripes. In July 2006, the paper awarded a $499,000 purchase agreement to Susan Davis International, the PR firm for ASY. According to the agreement (PDF), the PR firm engaged in "scripting, taping and programming with celebrities, regional and national sports organizations, and specific business sponsors," public service announcements and other outreach activities. A description of ASY's dog tag program mentions the firm's "considerable corporate outreach." Stars and Stripes' top editors said the agreement raised "extreme concern among editorial staff," and promised to conduct a review of the paper's reporting on ASY. "We were aware of some interaction between S&S marketing department and ASY, but were appalled to learn the degree of involvement and the use of Stripes finances to fund the Pentagon's public relations campaign," they added. Previous to the 2006 agreement, a Stars and Stripes contracting officer awarded $100,000 for ASY dog tags and arm bands. ASY has also been criticized for its involvement with evangelical programs.