It's a given that when military bands like U.S. Marine Band -- "The President's Own" -- blasts out John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" or "Semper Fidelis," the audience feels pretty patriotic and the troops get a little tickle in their morale.
But that's not good enough for the auditors at the Governmental Accountability Office.
In a new report, they want the military bands to prove they boost patriotism and morale, something they admit is a bit hard to do.
Already hit with staff and funding cuts, though, the military is as saluted and is looking at complying.
In its latest audit, GAO complained, "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."
It added: " All four military services have tracked information, such as the number and type of band events. Further, military service officials cited the demand for band performances, anecdotal examples, and support from senior leadership, as ways to demonstrate the bands are addressing their missions. However, 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."
The report detailed the funding and tiny number of people devoted to the bands, but came back to their need for some kind of way to measure impact beyond numbers and according to GAO standards.
Those numbers, by the way, are impressive: Some 40,000 events in one year attended by nearly 60 million people, including a Super Bowl.
Still, concluded GAO:
DOD uses military bands to inspire patriotism, enhance the morale of the troops, and promote public awareness by supporting a range of activities, including funerals for military service members, events where high-level officials such as the president are in attendance, and community-relations activities such as parades in local communities. However, the services have not developed measurable objectives and performance measures that include important attributes for successful performance measures, including linkage, a baseline, or measurable targets, to assess how their bands are addressing the bands' missions. While we acknowledge that evaluating how bands are addressing their missions is difficult, the information the services already collect and the additional steps they have been taking to measure their bands' effectiveness could inform and guide efforts to establish such measurable objectives and performance measures that are consistent with GAO's Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government and GAO's past work on important attributes of performance measures. Doing so could provide information that would assist DOD and congressional decision makers as they assess the value of the military bands relative to resource demands for other priorities.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org