With land wars wrapping up, the Army is doing what comes naturally – setting up a new office to ensure it’s not ignored as the Pentagon pivots toward the Pacific and begins pumping money into globe-girdling air and naval forces.
The Army – the biggest and most like America of all the services – will never admit this, of course. With Americans expressing a “great deal” of confidence in the U.S. military, including soldiers – triple that of, ahem, the press – this would hardly seem to be the time that buffing and burnishing the Army’s reputation is necessary.
But that misses this point: budget wars are looming, the Army has benefited, financially, from 12 years of war, and President Obama wants to project power toward the Pacific. Time to circle the battlewagons!
That’s why the Army formally stood up its Army Marketing and Research Group on Oct. 1, conveniently the first day of the 2013 fiscal year. The next day, an outfit calling itself Army Marketing and Research Group Public Affairs issued a press release detailing its mission:
The United States of America exists because there is a United States Army, which is arguably the best land force in the world…Today’s Soldiers are strong, decisive, technologically savvy and morally and ethically steadfast. Soldiers get things done — no matter where or how difficult, Soldiers always accomplish the mission…
Is this what the average American thinks and feels when he or she sees a Soldier? Over time, through periods of transition and potential negative events, is this the underlying truth the nation continues to believe about their Army? Do Soldiers, civilians and Army families believe and communicate this about themselves and the institution?
…The answers to these questions and how the Army is explained to the American public are vital to ensuring the Army sustains its connection with the American people and receives the support it needs to deliver on its promise to defend the American Constitution and American way of life, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Marketing Mark S. Davis, and director of the newly formed Army Marketing and Research Group, or AMRG.
Well, that’s quite an assignment.
Key phrase in the article: receives the support it needs. Translation: receives the support it wants.
The shop seems redundant. After all, the non-profit Association of the U.S. Army is the service’s official cheerleader in Washington (all the services have such outfits). AUSA says its mission is “fostering public support of the Army’s role in national security.”
The press release points out that the new outfit is “formed from efficiencies gained by the inactivation of the U.S. Army Accessions Command,” without explaining that Accessions Command was killed last year at 9 years of age because it was redundant. Yet the Army Marketing and Research Group rises from its ashes. No wonder it’s so tough to kill anything at the Defense Department – it enters its own witness protection program and comes back under a new name, albeit smaller. As of now.
“The Army brand is really the ongoing dialogue we have with the American people,” Davis said. “It enables our communication and marketing efforts.”
Perhaps so. Branding, after all, is all the rage in marketing circles these days.
But the notion of the Army as a “brand” somehow seems a bit off. The U.S. Army isn’t a cookie (think Hydrox) hair tonic (think Trol) or a new car (think Edsel). It embraces branding at its peril. The public, after all, is fickle. What if it wakes up tomorrow and decides to trade its Army brand in for that snazzy Marine brand?