Well over a half billion dollars is shelled out annually by the Pentagon to propagandize and galvanize public support of its wars based nearly entirely on lies — because, after all, war crafted to prop up the military-industrial machine’s profiteering can indeed be a tough sell.
In the latest report on Public Relations Spending from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the United States’ government PR apparatus has been revealed to spend over $1 billion annually — $626 million of which the Department of Defense allots to employ a massive propaganda army constituting roughly 40 percent of the more than 5,000-strong federal public relations workforce.
In comparison, Health and Human Services — with the second highest spending of all federal agencies during the 10-year period the GAO studied — spent an average of $116 million to promote, for example, Obamacare, flu shots, and the like.
To put that figure in context, Senate Committee on the Budget Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi pointed out, the entire Department of Education had 4,081 employees in 2015.
“With increasing pressures on limited federal resources, it is crucial to know how much is spent across the federal government on public relations activities and which federal agencies are spending the most,” Enzi said in a statement. “It is important to understand the primary purposes and reported benefits from the investments of tax dollars paid by America’s hardworking families. I look forward to GAO continuing its efforts to shine more light on these activities.”
While precisely how the Pentagon spends its massive PR budget could not be determined, the report explains, “Although there is no single, commonly-accepted definition of what constitutes advertising or public relations.” So the GAO describes Department of Defense advertising as “the placement of messages intended to inform or persuade an audience through various types of media, such as television, radio, digital media, direct mail, and others.”
In 2008, when the Department of Defense squandered $868 million on its public image, as Reason reports, “it accounted for more than two-thirds of all taxpayer-funded advertising in the federal government.”
“With the increased popularity and accessibility of expanded media platforms,” GAO Acting Director of Strategic Issues Heather Krause wrote, “the federal government’s ability to publicize information has changed rapidly, but the total scope of federal public relations activities is largely unknown.”
For the Department of Defense, at least, the nature of that spending might never be fully accounted for — although a recent report revealed the Pentagon had forked over an estimated $540 million between May 2007 and December 2011 to an outside PR firm to craft fake terrorist videos. Worse, an audit proved the Pentagon somehow has no idea where $6.5 trillion went.
Generating support from an American populace growing weary of funding dubious military actions abroad, which have included a pattern of bombing hospitals, weddings, funerals, markets, schools, ambulances, and even the militaries of governments the U.S. hasn’t declared war upon, can certainly be difficult to pull off — especially in light of a recent Wikileaks email revelation the government has been aware its human-rights-abusing allies are actively funding and aiding the Islamic State they’re all supposedly fighting.
Indeed the deception runs deep, and without transparency — or even accurate record-keeping — to rein in Big Government’s multifarious propaganda tentacles, the American public might never find out when, exactly, it’s being manipulated.
Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared.