Giving new life to the phrase “PR operative,” the Pentagon is busy spending money to shape opinion at home and abroad.
An Associated Press investigation found that over the past five years, the money the military spends on winning hearts and minds at home and abroad has grown by 63 percent, to at least $4.7 billion this year, according to Department of Defense budgets and other documents. That’s almost as much as it spent on body armor for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006.
This year, the Pentagon will employ 27,000 people just for recruitment, advertising and public relations — almost as many as the total 30,000-person work force in the State Department.
Some of these 27,000 “influencers” work in at Hometown News Service in San Antonio. The service provides free stories that conveniently fail to mention the source.
In 2009, Hometown News plans to put out 5,400 press releases, 3,000 television releases and 1,600 radio interviews, among other work — 50 percent more than in 2007.
Aside from the lack of transparency, it’s actually illegal for the federal government to spread propaganda inside our borders. Undoubtedly, a court would have to judge whether Hometown’s work is actually propaganda, but they could save themselves a lot of trouble by running the stories with proper attribution, i.e. News Provided by the Dept. of Defense.