Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Did $1.5 Billion Spent On Military Music Actually Boost Troop Morale?
The military spent more than $1.37 billion between 2012 and 2016 on salaries and allowances for active-duty musicians in bands, a government audit reported on Aug. 12.
The active-duty components of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force spent another $157 million on operating costs, such as travel, instruments and uniforms during relatively the same period, the Government Accountability Office said.
Military bands have long been used in an effort to enhance troop morale, provide music for ceremonies and promote goodwill among the American public and citizens of foreign nations.
None of the services, however, have developed measures to assess whether their bands are succeeding in their missions, “such as inspiring patriotism and enhancing the morale of troops,” the GAO concluded.
Military officials cited demand for band performances, command support and anecdotal accounts as evidence of mission success, but such approaches “do not include measurable objectives or performance measures that have several important attributes, such as linkage to mission, a baseline, and measurable targets,” the GAO said.
Congress has scrutinized the costs of maintaining military bands during the past decade, particularly after it set caps on defense spending in 2011, also referred to as sequestration.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., complained during a House committee meeting in 2011 that the Pentagon spent $1.55 billion on military bands, performances and tours over a four-year period.
“Is the United States really going to borrow from China and other foreign countries so the Defense Department can spend billions for its 140 bands and more than 5,000 full-time professional musicians?” McCollum said during a House committee meeting in support of a bill to slash such spending.
That funding cut failed but did result in the Air Force eliminating 103 band positions and 12 active-duty bands.
Bowing to the pressures of sequestration, the Defense Department in 2013 restricted the community-relations activities of military bands, placing travel restrictions on them, the GAO said.
Those activities were reinstated at a reduced level for fiscal year 2014.
Military bands, in general, shrank during the five-year period scrutinized by the GAO.
Overall, the military services reduced the number of band personnel by 7.5 percent, from 7,196 in fiscal year 2012 to 6,656 in fiscal year 2016, the GAO said. They were spending about $21 million less in salaries annually by the end of that five-year period.
The number of bands in the four military services has also dropped, down from 150 in fiscal year 2012 to 136 in fiscal year 2016, a 9.3-percent decline, the GAO said.
But during the same period, total operating costs increased for the Navy by $4.1 million and by $1.6 million for the Air Force. Costs for the Army and Marine Corps went down.
“Our analysis shows that the total military personnel authorizations dedicated to bands account for a relatively small amount of the military services’ end-strength authorizations, and have decreased at a similar rate compared to total service end-strength authorizations from fiscal year 2012 through 2016,” the GAO said. “Specifically, in fiscal years 2012 through 2016, the number of military personnel authorizations dedicated to bands was less than half a percent of the military services’ end strength for all services.”
Army officials told the GAO that the service intends to terminate eight active-duty and four Reserve bands before the end of 2019. The Army will also reduce the number of personnel dedicated to 43 National Guard bands during that time.
The other three services have plans to change the number or size of their bands, the GAO said.
©2017 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
13 Marines at Camp Pendleton charged with crimes related to smuggling of undocumented immigrants from Mexico
Thirteen Marines have been formally charged for their alleged roles in a human smuggling ring, according to a press release from 1st Marine Division released on Friday.
The Marines face military court proceedings on various charges, from "alleged transporting and/or conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants" to larceny, perjury, distribution of drugs, and failure to obey an order. "They remain innocent until proven guilty," said spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz.
The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."
That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.
When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.
"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.
According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.
"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."
Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."
Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."
The Army thinks China will surpass Russia by 2028. Here is how the service is planning to take them on.
If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.
The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.
But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.
In leaked documents, Army family reports waiting weeks to have gas line and roof leaks fixed in on-base housing
As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.
And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.