The picture of a stern-looking Uncle Sam, finger pointed forward, casts a lasting image above the words: “I want YOU for U.S. Army.”
The poster, originally published during World War I, marks one of the more memorable advertising campaigns in American history.
But now, a century later, a government review of Defense Department recruitment advertising finds Pentagon efforts lacking.
A report by the Government Accountability Office says “better coordination, performance measurement and oversight [is] needed to help meet recruitment goals.”
As GAO previously has found in a number of other government activities, “unnecessary duplication, overlap and fragmentation” in Pentagon recruitment efforts “may result from the absence of coordination,” according to the report.
“For example, the Air Force has three advertising programs that contract with three advertising agencies, but officials could not provide a rationale for requiring separate programs.”
And, unlike the Marine Corps, which can assess the impact of its advertising, the Army does not have data to evaluate whether its advertising is effective.
“Without fully measuring advertising performance, especially at the local levels,” GAO said, “DOD may be unable to ensure advertising dollars are used efficiently to help meet recruiting goals.”
The lack of oversight can lead to controversy.
Last November, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, released a report critical of the Pentagon practice of paying sports teams to honor service members.
“In 2013,” the senators’ report begins, “a roaring crowd cheered as the Atlanta Falcons welcomed 80 National Guard members who unfurled an American flag across the Georgia Dome’s turf. Little did those fans — or millions of other Americans — know that the National Guard had actually paid the Atlanta Falcons for this display of patriotism as part of a $315,000 marketing contract. … This kind of paid patriotism is wholly unnecessary and a waste and abuse of taxpayer funds, and it must end.”
Noting this type of practice was “later deemed unacceptable by DOD,” GAO said “the absence of DOD oversight may have contributed to some activities of questionable appropriateness. …Without a department-wide policy that clearly defines its oversight role, DOD lacks reasonable assurance that advertising is carried out in an appropriate manner.”
The Pentagon generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.
“Specifically,” according to GAO, “DOD concurred with our recommendations aimed at improving coordination and providing more direction to military service advertising.”
By the way, the Library of Congress says the “I want YOU” poster was “originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly with the title ‘What Are You Doing for Preparedness?’ ”
Report: At least 50 teams were paid by Department of Defense for patriotic displays
Report says federal fragmentation, overlap, duplication abound
This article was written by Joe Davidson | Columnist from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.