27,000 for PR – Who’s Driving This Thing?

I fell on off my chair when I saw this today: AP reports that the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations this year — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department. I’d be surprised if State has as many as 1000 public affairs professionals in its rolls. I’m surprised; there are actually about 1,050 State Department folks who worked in public diplomacy, supported by locally hired staff overseas. Still, isn’t 27,000 a mighty large number?

But – I can now add one more factoid to the collection I have below for a special round of Jeopardy questions!

#1. Who has more band members than the State Department has diplomats?

  1. a. Military
  2. b. Band of Brothers
  3. c. University band
  4. d. Smashing Pumpkins

#2. Who has more lawyers than the State Department has diplomats?

  1. a. Britney Spears
  2. b. Pentagon
  3. c. Christian Beale
  4. d. Judicial Watch

#3. The number of people in our Foreign Service equals roughly to the number of personnel aboard a single U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group at sea. How many?

  1. a. 6,600
  2. b. 5,050
  3. c. 2,500
  4. d. 9,400

#4. DOD has an annual budget of over $500 billion, and spends how many times as much as Foggy Bottom aka: the State Department?

  1. a. 10X
  2. b. 75X
  3. c. 50X
  4. d. 20X

#5. Answers

  1. a. What is the Military?
  2. b. What is the Pentagon?
  3. c. What is 6,600?
  4. d. What is 50 times?

Oh, by the way — the Pentagon’s rapidly expanding media empire is reportedly now bigger in size, money and power than many media companies. When we think media mogul, we can now add DOD to the company of Rupert Murdoch, Silvio Berlusconi, Jimmy Lai and such? Yay!

This same AP report points to the danger of psychological operations reaching a U.S. audience. This became clear “when an American TV anchor asked Gen. David Petraeus about the mood in Iraq. The general held up a glossy photo of the Iraqi national soccer team to show the country united in victory. Behind the camera, his staff was cringing. It was U.S. psychological operations that had quietly distributed tens of thousands of the soccer posters in July 2007 to encourage Iraqi nationalism.”

Well – what’s wrong with that, huh? If glowing stories are written by Pentagon staff (Joint Hometown News Service), given away as a free service, with authors’ names but not their titles, and no mention anywhere that the writers are paid for by the Pentagon? What’s wrong with glowing newsy stuff, by the way – aren’t those better than bad news, and much, much better than no news?

And who’s going to complain? We’re in the middle of two wars, and the $547 million that goes into public affairs (and reaches American audiences) is just a drop in the big DOD bucket.

And yet somehow – I find myself still waiting for that John Boyd’s “to be or to do” moment, for somebody to put his/her foot on the brakes long enough to ask the question if we’re not being a tad overboard on this PR thing.

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