GAO: Hard to Measure Value of Military Bands

Washington Report

(August 15, 2017) The military’s 136 bands, including five in the Air National Guard and 51 in the Army Guard, may be hitting all the right notes when they perform, but the services are missing the beat when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of the bands.

A Government Accountability Office report released last week says there is no way to determine if the bands are meeting their goals of inspiring patriotism and enhancing morale.

The agency recommends the service secretaries direct their music chiefs to “develop and implement measurable objectives and performance measures for their respective services’ bands. At a minimum these measures should include the important attributes for successful performance measures of demonstrating linkage to the program’s mission, establishing a baseline and having measurable targets to demonstrate program performance.”

The agency said doing so “could provide decision makers with the information they need to assess the value of the military bands relative to resource demands for other priorities.”

The Defense Department agreed with the report’s findings and pledged to create methods to measure the effectiveness of bands and release the findings in early 2018.

Military bands have come under congressional scrutiny in recent years as lawmakers wondered why hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on bands during a time of possible budget cuts.

In response, the Pentagon reduced the number of band personnel from 7,196 in fiscal 2012 to 6,656 last year, a drop of 7.5 percent, according to the GAO. The number of bands also dropped from 150 to 136. The Army told the GAO it would eliminate four active-component bands and four in the Reserves, while reducing the size of 43 Army Guard bands.