Sunday, March 30, 2008

Uber Alles

Some things I did not know, but probably should have known:

Individual branches of the military are not allowed by law to lobby Congress.

Each individual branch of the military has an advertising budget.

The Pentagon is trying to downsize the Air Force.

I learned about these things from this story in today's Los Angeles Times. Apparently the Air Force (which has no recruitment problems and continues to meet its recruitment quota with ease) has a new ad campaign out which has raised hackles in Congress and at the Pentagon.

Troubling images flash across the screen, showing black-clad terrorists, tsunami-flooded villages and the Chinese army.

"Only the United States Air Force has the speed, power and vision to defend our nation for the century ahead," the announcer intones as an F-22 fighter jet flies over a snowy mountaintop. "U.S. Air Force, above all."

There is nothing unusual about seeing military recruiting ads right now. But in Congress and the Pentagon, many believe that the new Air Force ads are less about recruiting and more about lobbying for extra money.

Some lawmakers perceive the ads as an Air Force effort to acquire newer equipment. And, in rare criticism from others in the military, some Pentagon officials believe that the ads are meant to buck Bush administration spending priorities and to push the Air Force's agenda. "It doesn't look like a recruiting ad," said a senior Pentagon official. "The Air Force does appear to be pushing the envelope."

The ads are part of a $25-million campaign called "Above All," for television, radio, the Internet and newspapers. Unlike traditional recruiting campaigns, the ads do not highlight what the military offers individuals who join. Instead, they stress how the Air Force protects the nation.
[Emphasis added]

Some in Congress are unhappy with the ad campaign, and none of them fall into the category of wild-eyed DFHs anxious to destroy the military: Rep John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.), and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) all have expressed their concerns that the Air Force is doing some outright lobbying, which is illegal.

Lewis is particularly incensed over ads that have seemed to target the Washington area. Two full-page newspaper ads ran in the Washington Post, which has a very low circulation outside the capital region. That suggests the ads were "strictly designed to lobby Congress," [Lewis spokesman Jim] Specht said.

Defense Secretary Gates has assuaged some of that concern, but it's clear he wasn't all that thrilled by the campaign either. His job is to make sure that the President's budget (not the individual branch's) is passed. Part of that current budget reflects the intended downsizing of the Air Force. Apparently some of the Air Force generals have decided to try an end-around the Secretary.

And though the Air Force is supposed to shrink, top officials say, they have asked Congress for money to halt the cuts and restore its ranks. The Air Force’s budget proposal, released in February, says the objective of the advertising campaign is to increase the service's "brand awareness."

But here's what set off the bells in my head: Above All. That motto might be a little more graceful than "Army Strong," but it carries a whole lot of extra baggage. The German for that phrase is "Uber Alles." While the motto might fit right in with such other administration mottos as "Department of Homeland Security," it's just a little too blatant.

Further, given the propensity of the Air Force to engage in unlawful Christian evangelizing from the Air Force Academy to the field, "Above All" seems more than a little suspicious. The religious connotations, especially in this context, are just as blatant.

Next year the Air Force intends a $50 million advertising campaign. I can't wait for those productions.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just noticed one of the ads yesterday, and couldn't believe that the Air Force would use "Above All" as their slogan; "Uber Alles" and the nazis came to mind right away when I saw it. They need to stop using this slogan immediately.

11:29 AM  

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