Did $1.5 Billion Spent On Military Music Actually Boost Troop Morale?

Community
U.S. Marines with the Quantico Marine Corps Band perform at the Virginia International Tattoo at the Scope Arena, Norfolk, Virginia, April 28, 2017.
Photo via DoD

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.

WATCH NEXT:

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.

Read More Show Less
Some dank nugs. (Flickr/Creative Commons/Dank Depot)

SARASOTA, Fla. — With data continuing to roll in that underscores the health benefits of cannabis, two Florida legislators aren't waiting for clarity in the national policy debates and are sponsoring bills designed to give medical marijuana cards to military veterans free of charge.

Read More Show Less

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less