You Decide, Recruiting or Lobbying

The Air Force is facing criticism on Capitol Hill and within the walls of the Pentagon for its Above All” advertising campaign that debuted in February. While Air Force officials say the $25 million media blitz is an innovative and needed recruiting tool (see one of the commercials here), critics contend that the service has crossed a line into territory that could be construed as an inappropriate effort to sway Congress into providing it with more funds for modernization, the Los Angeles Times reported March 30. The newspaper reports that Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, recently wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, calling the ad campaign “outrageous” and questioning whether it amounts to an illegal lobbying effort. Other lawmakers say, while the ads may not break any laws, they do seem to violate the spirit of the laws against the military lobbying, the newspaper said. Maj. Gen. William Chambers, Air Force communications director, acknowledges that the ads are meant to be “a little provocative” in order “to create a dialogue” and engage and inform the public on USAF’s mission and its unique contributions, the newspaper reported. But otherwise, he defends the campaign and its appropriateness. That said, it is no secret that the Air Force seeks to acquire about $20 billion more on average annually over the next 20 years or so to drive the recapitalization of its aging inventory. Without such infusions, the service’s leadership has said USAF may not be able to provide air dominance in coming decades. And Gen. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff, has said publicly he would favor a debate on tying the annual defense budget to about four percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.