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Auditors: Military Bands Can't Toot Their Own Horns

 Marines with the 1st Marine Division Band march past the Coit Tower during the Italian heritage parade on Oct. 11., as part of San Francisco Fleet Week 2015. Photo By: Cpl. Joshua Murray
Marines with the 1st Marine Division Band march past the Coit Tower during the Italian heritage parade on Oct. 11., as part of San Francisco Fleet Week 2015. Photo By: Cpl. Joshua Murray

The Pentagon's 136 music bands can't prove they are meeting their missions, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

The bands, which are tasked with ceremonial duties and raising troop morale and are used as a public affairs tool, had more than 6,600 members across the services as of last year, the report found. That's a 7.5 percent cut since 2012, when the bands had almost 7,200 members.

The total number of bands across the services decreased from 150 in 2012 to 136 last year, the report states.

But though the military services collect information on the number of band events held and work they do, none has the ability to measure how the bands meet their objectives, the GAO found.

"The military services have not developed objectives and measures to assess how their bands are addressing the bands' missions, such as inspiring patriotism and enhancing the morale of troops," the report says.

"While we acknowledge that evaluating how bands are addressing their missions is difficult ... The military services' approaches do not include measurable objectives or performance measures that have several important attributes, such as linkage to mission, a baseline, and measurable targets, that GAO has found are key to successfully measuring a program's performance," it states.

The Marine Corps band programs and bands in the active-duty Army and Army National Guard cut their budgets between 2012 and 2016, the report found, while the budgets for the Air Force and Navy bands increased by $4.1 million and $1.6 million, respectively.

Officials told the GAO the increases were due to previous underfunding, in the case of the Navy, and a change to what operating expenses come from individual bands' budgets, in the case of the Air Force.

GAO officials noted that tracking whether the bands are meeting their missions is critical when exploring possible budget cuts.

Tracking "could provide decision makers with the information [the services] need to assess the value of the military bands relative to resource demands for other priorities," the report states.

Pentagon officials agreed with the GAO's findings and, in their official report response, announced a plan to give performance measures to the services "to better enable their bands to assess mission achievement."

That plan will be released in early 2018, they said.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

Related Topics

Headlines Department of Defense Military Bands Defense Budget Amy Bushatz

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