Crisis PR & the Pentagon’s Budget

Crisis PR and the Pentagon's Budget

For decades a large part of the U.S. federal budget has been attributed to military spending and development. It’s not a secret. But information was released recently about how much of their budget is about PR, and what some would call the propaganda machine. The sad truth is that the current annual budget for PR in its various forms – public employees and private contractors – for the government is over $1 billion.

About 63% of that was spent by the Pentagon is accounted for by PR. Interestingly, only 40% of the PR employees of the government work for the Pentagon. Across all government agencies, there are 5,000 employees working in public affairs jobs (the government name for public relations). So looking at those figures, 23% of the Pentagon’s PR budget goes to outside consulting firms. One might ask why outside firms are necessary when the Pentagon has on their payroll some 2,000 PR specialists.

Well, sometimes they need someone doing work that would not be legal in the states, let alone legally done by government workers. Case in point, Bell Pottinger is a major PR firm based in the U.K.  Pottinger received a whopping $660 million for their services between 2006 and 2011, that’s an average of $110 million per year. Do you want to know what a huge portion of that money was spent on? It seems the Pentagon paid Pottinger to create and produce films in the Middle East of faked bombing attacks and protests that were then shared as official information on news stations around the world – including in the U.S. That’s right, tax dollars have been paying for the government to lie to us about what is happening in the Middle East and how bad (or not) it really is.

Why did they hire Pottinger? Well by law such films cannot be produced by an American company. Why did they feel the need to lie to us? It’s not like terrorism isn’t apparent to us from truthful sources. But here’s something to think about – sponsoring a military action, or civil war in a foreign country, is 100 times more likely to receive necessary funding if they are an oil-rich nation. Is the average American, whose tax dollars and family members are sacrificed in such wars, receiving financial benefits from the war? Not for most.

If the Bell Pottinger-type situation were the only problem, closer inspection might waylay those actions. But there’s also high-level military brass participating in boozing, gambling, and stripper parties and charging it to the PR budget. In 2015, Major General Ron Lewis was fired for such activities and, in a different matter, employees of the Department of Defense (civilian and military) may have used public funds more than 5,000 times in one year on strip clubs and casinos, coming to a total of over $1 million of the PR budget.

Of course, all of that is in the past. Other than tracking down where the problems happen and filing charges, the behavior cannot be taken back. But knowing everything, how do you feel about the proposed 2017 Pentagon budget of $582.7 billion. We should be paying those brave men and women who fight for our country, and their benefits packages should be top-notch. But when not just millions of dollars but actual human lives are thrown away on corrupt practices and developing expensive and faulty weaponry, it’s time for more transparency and accountability.

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