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Overview:

The Defense Media Activity (DMA), a division in the Department of Defense, runs programs related to public relations and information dissemination. It creates press releases through a news service and sets policy for internal publications, visual information, and audiovisual programs. The DMA also produces media aimed at service members and their families, and facilitates the publication of a daily newspaper, Stars and Stripes, for service members.

 

The agency was established in October 2008 as a result of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act. It consolidates the Soldiers Media Center, Naval Media Center, Marine Corps News, Air Force News Service, and American Forces Information Service (AFIS) into a single operation under its moniker.

 

The AFIS, which previously performed DMA’s functions, was created in 1977 and gained many critics. Some believe it deceptive—at best—that press releases mimic the style of actual news reports. Others decry the perceived blurring of the distinction between public relations and news production that has occurred over past years. There were also allegations of wrongdoing leveled against an AFIS PR effort called “America Supports You” (see Controversies below). For its part, the agency insisted that its American Forces Radio and Television Service broadcasts were free from “censorship, propagandizing or manipulation.” The law also guarantees Stars and Stripes editorial independence, although there are still some prohibitions

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History:

The Armed Forces Radio Service was established on May 26, 1942, by order of the Department of Defense, after several small military radio stations proved popular with troops. At first, the service produced its own programming in addition to rerunning shows that appeared on commercial networks. The service started relying completely on commercial networks by 1950.

 

After a practice run at an Air Force base in Maine, the military added television signals to its broadcast, becoming the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in 1954.

 

The assistant secretary of defense for public relations assumed responsibility for military broadcasting when the AFIS was created in 1977.

 

The 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommendations required the Department of Defense to take over AFIS and consolidate the Army Broadcasting Service, Soldiers Radio/TV, Soldiers Magazine (Soldiers Media Center), the Naval Media Center, the Air Force News Agency, and the Army/Air Force Hometown News Service into the new Defense Media Activity (DMA) located at Ft. Meade, Maryland. 

AFRTS: The First Sixty Years

DoD to consolidate all media activities (by William H. McMichael, Army Times)

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What it Does:

The Defense Media Activity (DMA) is broken into the following divisions.

 

American Forces Radio and Television Service

The American Forces Radio and Television Service provides programming for about 1 million service members, Department of Defense employees and contractors, and their families under the American Forces Network (AFN) brand name. The AFN distributes nine television channels through the Defense Media Center in Riverside County, California; a tenth, the Pentagon Channel (see below), is produced separately by the Department of Defense Office of Public Affairs in Virginia, but is also distributed over the AFN network. Broadcasts typically include popular music, entertainment programming supplied free of charge by commercial networks, sports and news—“a touch of home” for those who are serving abroad, as the agency puts it. There are no commercials, with so-called “command information spots” containing public-service announcements taking their place.

 

Other AFRTS subdivisions carry out specific jobs:

 

Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes is a newspaper published for the military, Department of Defense employees, affiliated contractors and their families. The newspaper has a readership of about 420,000, with four editions serving different world regions published each day. It also publishes an online edition, Stripes.com, several weekly and monthly publications, and numerous special supplements. By statute, the paper is editorially independent—with some limitations. For example, Stars and Stripes is prohibited from printing classified information that hasn’t been divulged in the commercial media first.

 

Soldiers

Soldiers is the official U.S. Army magazine.

 

All Hands

All Hands is the official U.S. Navy magazine.

 

Airman

Airman is the official U.S. Air Force magazine.

 

HometownLink

HometownLink is the site of the Joint Hometown News Service (JHNS), a directorate of the DMA’s production component.

 

Defense.gov

The DMA manages Defense.gov, the Department of Defense Web portal.

 

American Forces Press Service

The DMA oversees Department of Defense press releases.

 

Defense Visual Information Directorate

The Defense Visual Information Directorate provides access to visual information relating to the U.S. military, including films, still photographs, and other multimedia records. It’s located at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California.

 

Joint Visual Information Services Distribution Activity (pdf)

The JVISDA catalogs and provides access to multimedia training materials for the armed services.

Defense Information School

The DMA provides training through DINFOS, the Department of Defense school for public relations, journalism, broadcasting, and related fields. The DINFOS is located at Maryland’s Fort George G. Meade.

 

Our Military

Our Military (which replaced http://www.ourmilitary.mil/America Supports You) is a Department of Defense PR effort that claims to offer everyday Americans the opportunity to show their support for U.S. troops. As America Supports You, this effort was implicated in alleged misuse of taxpayer funds and removed as a DMA entity. (See Controversies below.)

 

Defend America

Defend America recycles press releases and stories published by the American Forces News Service, arranging them in a way that’s reminiscent of news sites. The Defense Department is no longer maintaining this Web page, opting instead to publish releases on its Defense.gov Web site.

Strategic Influence Office ‘Closed Down,’ Says Rumsfeld an example of an American Forces Press Service release

Defense Media Activity, featuring downloadable news videos from the Department of Defense Web site

Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, from the Museum of Broadcast Communications Web site

MyAFN, from the American Forces Network Online Web site

Special Reports, from the Department of Defense Web site

 

From the Web Site of Defense Media Activity

American Forces Network

American Forces Press Service

Contact DMA

Defense Information School

DoD Live - Blog

Employment Opportunities

FAQs

Hometown News Service

Leadership

Magazine of the U.S. Air Force - Airman

Magazine of the U.S. Army – Soldiers

Magazine of the U.S. Marines - MarinesMag

Magazine of the U.S. Navy – All Hands

News and Events

News and Events - Archive

Office of Inspector General

Pentagon Channel

Photo Gallery

Stars and Stripes

Video – Official DMA

Videos

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Defense Media Activity (DMA) has spent more than $7.5 million on 24 contractor transactions since the agency’s founding in FY 2008, according to USASpending.gov. The top five products or services paid for were engineering and technical services ($6,776,185), physical science research and development ($500,000), natural resource management and conservation ($124,860), architects and engineers ($65,780), and maintenance/repair of ADP equipment and supplies ($22,342).

 

The top five recipients of contractor spending by DMA during that period were:

1. Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems Inc. $5,444,488

2. Lockheed Martin Corporation $1,331,696

3. Hybrid Photonics LLC    $500,000

4. Spatial Environmental Solutions Corporation    $124,860

5. Project Management Services Inc.      $65,780

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Controversies:

News or Propaganda?

Some argue that some Defense Media Activity (DMA), and previously AFIS, news products, including The Pentagon Channel, border on propaganda.

Pentagon sites: Journalism or propaganda? (by Barbara Starr and Larry Shaughnessy, CNN)

Pentagon May Have Wrongly Mixed Propaganda With PR, Inspector General Says (by Walter Pincus, Washington Post)

Pentagon mixed propaganda with PR, report finds (by John Byrne, The Raw Story)

Secretary Gates’ Directive on DoD Interaction with the Media (pdf)

 

Right-Wing Bias

Many have protested the fact that conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh’s show is broadcast on the American Forces Radio network without being balanced by a comparable left-wing program.

Rush’s forced conscripts (by Eric Boehlert, Salon.com)

Media Matters for America Asks Secretary Rumsfeld To Remove Limbaugh’s Radio Show from Taxpayer-Funded American Forces Radio (Media Matters for America) (pdf)

Does Rush Limbaugh belong on armed forces radio? Criticism mounts. (by Anna Mulrine, Christian Science Monitor)

Female Veterans Demand Rush Limbaugh’s Show Be Pulled From American Forces Network (by Faiz Shakir, Think Progress)

Female Veterans Call For Military Radio Channel To Drop Rush Limbaugh After 'Slut' Remark (by Max J. Rosenthal, Huffington Post)

 

Staged Teleconference

Allison Barber, who served as director of the AFIS (see her biography below for more information), was criticized by some for her approach to public relations. A 2005 teleconference between President George W. Bush and troops serving in Iraq came under fire for the perceived extent to which it was rehearsed.

Bush Teleconference with Soldiers Staged (by Deb Riechmann, Associated Press)

Bush accused of staging chat with troops (by Jamie Wilson, The Guardian)

Support Our Props (Center for Media Democracy)

 

Fundraising for a Private Foundation

A May 12, 2007, article in The New York Times stated that the Defense Department inspector general was “examining whether officials who run ‘America Supports You,’ a three-year-old Pentagon program lauded by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, helped arrange a fund-raiser for a private foundation set up last December by former Bush administration appointees.” Pentagon officials are prohibited from fundraising for private entities, according to a Department of Defense spokesman. Money may also have been illegally funneled through Stars and Stripes for public relations purposes by then-AFIS Director Allison Barber, who headed up the program. It was determined that she funneled $8.8 million in contracts to the Susan Davis International public relations firm, which used the money to pay their executives between $312,000 and $662,000 a year. When AFIS transitioned into the DMA in 2008, the agency’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Whitman removed “America Supports You” from its PR program because “it is not of the same 'nature' as other external information programs.”

Pentagon Opens Inquiry of Troop-Support Group (by David S. Cloud, New York Times)

Military Paper Challenges Defense Dept. (by Sarah Abruzzese, New York Times)

Stripes part of America Supports You audit (by Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes)

Pentagon Co-opted Independent Military Newspaper for PR Campaign Pushing Bush’s War Policies (blog, Think Progress)

“Patriotic” Pro-Troop Group Pocketed the Big Bucks (AllGov)

Pentagon Pro-Troop Group Misspent Millions, Report Says (by Noah Shachtman, Danger Room)

 

Religious Entertainment

“America Supports You” also came under fire for its affiliation with an “evangelical entertainment troupe” called Operation Straight Up.

Kill or Convert, Brought To You By The Pentagon (by Max Blumenthal, The Nation)

 

Improper Internal Controls

The lack of consistent AFIS leadership harmed morale and contributed to “improper internal controls,” according to a memo written by the Defense Department inspector general.

IG calls for more distance between AFIS, DOD public affairs (by Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes)

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Suggested Reforms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AFIS will be merged with the Defense Media Activity division on Oct. 1, 2008, in an attempt to consolidate Defense Department public relations efforts. The Defense Department inspector general has also called for a permanent AFIS director to be named in order to boost morale, provide continuity and prevent the department’s public relations arm from having undue influence on the AFIS.

DoD to consolidate all media activities

(by William H. McMichael, Army Times)

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Debate:

Against - Non-Partisan

American Forces Radio and Television Service (Source Watch)

America Supports You (Source Watch)

 

For - From the Right

Captured al Qaida Documents Detail Shift in Support, an example of an American Forces Press Service story that has been reproduced as news on a conservative Web page.

more
Former Directors:

Allison Barber (2003-2008)

Biography (AllGov)

America Supports You head Allison Barber leaving DOD (Stars and Stripes)

 

J. Dorrance Smith

J. Dorrance Smith, who was Allison Barber’s former boss, has also stoked controversy. He has a reputation in some circles for being a Republican loyalist, particularly when it came to the administration of George W. Bush. Bush first instated Smith in his post through a recess appointment on January 4, 2006; Smith’s original nomination had been stalled since September 2005 over an opinion piece he had written for The Wall Street Journal. In the piece, he criticized major U.S. television networks and the Qatari government for cooperating with the Al Jazeera network in showing graphic battlefield footage.

 

“Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and al-Qaida have a partner in Al Jazeera and, by extension, most networks in the U.S.,” Smith wrote in the op-ed titled “The Enemy On Our Airwaves.” “This partnership is a powerful tool for the terrorists in the war in Iraq.”

 

Without Senate approval, Smith’s appointment would have ended in January 2007. The nomination was confirmed by the Senate anyway on April 7, 2006. Smith replaced Victoria Clarke, who had vacated the position in June 2003. He left the position in October 2007.

Advance Questions for Mr. J. Dorrance Smith (from Smith’s Senate confirmation hearing) (pdf)

Senate Democrats grill Defense nominee (by Megan Scully, Congress Daily)

Pentagon Widens Its Battle to Shape News of Iraq War (by David S. Cloud and Thom Shanker, New York Times)

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Dave Hawkridge 3 years ago
I am looking for someone who might be interested in a small bit of history that I have. My father, MSG Frank Hawkridge Jr. Ret., was stationed with the Panama Coast Artillery Command at Quarry Heights, Canal Zone in 1941. He was reassigned stateside in early October 1941. During his time in Panama, Master Sargeant Clay Doster, my father and others worked together to provide some "back home" entertainment to soldiers stationed throughout Panamas remote artillery sites. As you k...

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Founded: 1977 (with precursors dating back to the 1940s)
Annual Budget: $224 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: About 2,400 (FY 2012)
Official Website: http://www.dma.mil/
Defense Media Activity
Whitman, Bryan
Director

Upon the retirement of Melvin W. Russell, who served as acting director of the Defense Media Activity (DMA) from October 2009 until April 30, 2012, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Bryan G. Whitman was appointed acting director of DMA. Formerly known as the American Forces Information Service, DMA is the communications media propaganda arm of the Department of Defense, employing 2,400 active duty military, civilian, and contract personnel at 8 U.S. locations and 33 permanent overseas sites. It is headquartered at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

 

The fact that Whitman would find himself in charge of spreading military propaganda during the presidential administration of Barack Obama says a lot about the workings of the Department of Defense, considering that during the administration of President George W. Bush, Whitman repeatedly defended the worst illegal and immoral policy excesses of his boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, including policies which candidate Obama criticized.

 

Born circa 1958, Bryan George Whitman earned a B.S. in Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Master’s Degree in Communications from the University of Oklahoma. As a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, Whitman commanded five different combat units, with his last combat tour in 1994 as the commander of all Special Forces operations in Somalia during the final withdrawal of United Nations Forces. Whitman also had public affairs assignments, including postings in the Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. 

 

Whitman was the director of Government and Public Affairs for the United Service Organization (USO) World Headquarters in Washington, where he was responsible for legislation and communications. From 1995 to 1997, he was a public affairs specialist in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, where, during the height of the Gulf War Illnesses controversy, he headed up a public affairs team to address the concerns of veterans. From August 1997 to May 2002, Whitman served in the Pentagon Press Office as the deputy director for Press Operations.

 

From May 2002 to May 2010, Whitman served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Media Operations and also served as a senior spokesman for the Defense Department and its secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

 

Numerous unpleasant tasks fell to Whitman, such as acknowledging and defending the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib and Afghan prisoners at Bagram; the hiding of prisoners from the Red Cross; the practice of military interrogators deceiving prisoners into thinking they were from the FBI; and the hiring of retired military officers to defend Bush-Rumsfeld policies on television without revealing they were paid to do so.

 

When candidate Barack Obama claimed, during a Democratic Party debate on February 21, 2008, that an Army platoon, short on supplies, took weapons from the Taliban because they were easier to obtain than U.S. arms, it was Whitman who defended the supplying of U.S. troops. He told the media that Obama’s account was “pretty hard to imagine.”  

 

On May 23, 2010, Whitman was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Public Affairs, responsible for the release of national security and defense information to the public.

-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky

 

Official Biography

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Russell, Melvin
Previous Director

Melvin W. Russell, who created a stir in military circles in January when he proposed moving the Pentagon-funded but editorially independent newspaper Stars and Stripes from downtown Washington, DC, to rural Fort Meade, Virginia, served as acting director of the Defense Media Activity (DMA) from October 2009 until he retired on April 30, 2012.

 

DMA, formerly known as the American Forces Information Service, is the communications media propaganda arm of the Department of Defense, employing 2,400 active duty military, civilian, and contract personnel at 8 U.S. locations and 33 permanent overseas sites.

 

Born circa 1939, Russell earned a B.S. in Chemistry and Secondary Education at Texas A&M University in 1961, and an M.A. in Television and Film Production at the University of Texas in 1970.

 

Commissioned in the U.S. Army through the ROTC program in 1961, Russell served more than 22 years as a Signal Corps officer. Early career assignments included Fort Hood, Texas; Naples, Italy; and Hue, Vietnam. After earning his M.A. in TV and film, Russell was assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he ran the television, film, and radio facilities for the next three years and made the first Army conversion form black-and-white to color.

 

From 1973 to 1975, Russell served in an exchange program with the British Army, where he established the first television facility at the engineering department of the Royal Signals School. After serving two years at the Pentagon as a senior staff officer responsible for Army audio visual activities, in 1977 Russell took command of the Army Audio Visual Activity, which he ran for almost five years. In 1981, Russell became the assistant director of the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), serving in this position until his military retirement in 1983, when he became the operations manager for D-K Associates, an audio-visual firm in Rockville, Maryland.

 

In 1984, Russell returned to AFRTS, this time as director, and became acting director of DMA in October 2009. He also served as the senior manager of Department of Defense visual information, web, print, new media and broadcasting.

 

Russell counts among his most satisfying achievements arranging for members of the military abroad to see live television broadcasts from the United States, including sports events, beginning in the 1980s, eventually reaching Navy ships at sea in 1997. Today AFRTS provide eight TV channels and twelve radio services.

 

“The bottom line for me,” he said in a farewell interview, “is that when you go overseas, you don’t leave the States behind. You need to feel that connection. So if you are in Afghanistan at an outpost, you should be able to watch a live NFL game.”

 

“I’ve been unbelievably lucky in life,” he concluded, “being allowed to do what I love doing and getting paid for it. I don’t see how you can beat that. You just can’t.”

-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky

 

Official Biography

Face of Defense: Official Recalls AFRTS Milestones (by Donna Mills, Armed Forces Press Service)

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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Defense Media Activity (DMA), a division in the Department of Defense, runs programs related to public relations and information dissemination. It creates press releases through a news service and sets policy for internal publications, visual information, and audiovisual programs. The DMA also produces media aimed at service members and their families, and facilitates the publication of a daily newspaper, Stars and Stripes, for service members.

 

The agency was established in October 2008 as a result of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act. It consolidates the Soldiers Media Center, Naval Media Center, Marine Corps News, Air Force News Service, and American Forces Information Service (AFIS) into a single operation under its moniker.

 

The AFIS, which previously performed DMA’s functions, was created in 1977 and gained many critics. Some believe it deceptive—at best—that press releases mimic the style of actual news reports. Others decry the perceived blurring of the distinction between public relations and news production that has occurred over past years. There were also allegations of wrongdoing leveled against an AFIS PR effort called “America Supports You” (see Controversies below). For its part, the agency insisted that its American Forces Radio and Television Service broadcasts were free from “censorship, propagandizing or manipulation.” The law also guarantees Stars and Stripes editorial independence, although there are still some prohibitions

more
History:

The Armed Forces Radio Service was established on May 26, 1942, by order of the Department of Defense, after several small military radio stations proved popular with troops. At first, the service produced its own programming in addition to rerunning shows that appeared on commercial networks. The service started relying completely on commercial networks by 1950.

 

After a practice run at an Air Force base in Maine, the military added television signals to its broadcast, becoming the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service in 1954.

 

The assistant secretary of defense for public relations assumed responsibility for military broadcasting when the AFIS was created in 1977.

 

The 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommendations required the Department of Defense to take over AFIS and consolidate the Army Broadcasting Service, Soldiers Radio/TV, Soldiers Magazine (Soldiers Media Center), the Naval Media Center, the Air Force News Agency, and the Army/Air Force Hometown News Service into the new Defense Media Activity (DMA) located at Ft. Meade, Maryland. 

AFRTS: The First Sixty Years

DoD to consolidate all media activities (by William H. McMichael, Army Times)

more
What it Does:

The Defense Media Activity (DMA) is broken into the following divisions.

 

American Forces Radio and Television Service

The American Forces Radio and Television Service provides programming for about 1 million service members, Department of Defense employees and contractors, and their families under the American Forces Network (AFN) brand name. The AFN distributes nine television channels through the Defense Media Center in Riverside County, California; a tenth, the Pentagon Channel (see below), is produced separately by the Department of Defense Office of Public Affairs in Virginia, but is also distributed over the AFN network. Broadcasts typically include popular music, entertainment programming supplied free of charge by commercial networks, sports and news—“a touch of home” for those who are serving abroad, as the agency puts it. There are no commercials, with so-called “command information spots” containing public-service announcements taking their place.

 

Other AFRTS subdivisions carry out specific jobs:

 

Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes is a newspaper published for the military, Department of Defense employees, affiliated contractors and their families. The newspaper has a readership of about 420,000, with four editions serving different world regions published each day. It also publishes an online edition, Stripes.com, several weekly and monthly publications, and numerous special supplements. By statute, the paper is editorially independent—with some limitations. For example, Stars and Stripes is prohibited from printing classified information that hasn’t been divulged in the commercial media first.

 

Soldiers

Soldiers is the official U.S. Army magazine.

 

All Hands

All Hands is the official U.S. Navy magazine.

 

Airman

Airman is the official U.S. Air Force magazine.

 

HometownLink

HometownLink is the site of the Joint Hometown News Service (JHNS), a directorate of the DMA’s production component.

 

Defense.gov

The DMA manages Defense.gov, the Department of Defense Web portal.

 

American Forces Press Service

The DMA oversees Department of Defense press releases.

 

Defense Visual Information Directorate

The Defense Visual Information Directorate provides access to visual information relating to the U.S. military, including films, still photographs, and other multimedia records. It’s located at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California.

 

Joint Visual Information Services Distribution Activity (pdf)

The JVISDA catalogs and provides access to multimedia training materials for the armed services.

Defense Information School

The DMA provides training through DINFOS, the Department of Defense school for public relations, journalism, broadcasting, and related fields. The DINFOS is located at Maryland’s Fort George G. Meade.

 

Our Military

Our Military (which replaced http://www.ourmilitary.mil/America Supports You) is a Department of Defense PR effort that claims to offer everyday Americans the opportunity to show their support for U.S. troops. As America Supports You, this effort was implicated in alleged misuse of taxpayer funds and removed as a DMA entity. (See Controversies below.)

 

Defend America

Defend America recycles press releases and stories published by the American Forces News Service, arranging them in a way that’s reminiscent of news sites. The Defense Department is no longer maintaining this Web page, opting instead to publish releases on its Defense.gov Web site.

Strategic Influence Office ‘Closed Down,’ Says Rumsfeld an example of an American Forces Press Service release

Defense Media Activity, featuring downloadable news videos from the Department of Defense Web site

Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, from the Museum of Broadcast Communications Web site

MyAFN, from the American Forces Network Online Web site

Special Reports, from the Department of Defense Web site

 

From the Web Site of Defense Media Activity

American Forces Network

American Forces Press Service

Contact DMA

Defense Information School

DoD Live - Blog

Employment Opportunities

FAQs

Hometown News Service

Leadership

Magazine of the U.S. Air Force - Airman

Magazine of the U.S. Army – Soldiers

Magazine of the U.S. Marines - MarinesMag

Magazine of the U.S. Navy – All Hands

News and Events

News and Events - Archive

Office of Inspector General

Pentagon Channel

Photo Gallery

Stars and Stripes

Video – Official DMA

Videos

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Where Does the Money Go:

The Defense Media Activity (DMA) has spent more than $7.5 million on 24 contractor transactions since the agency’s founding in FY 2008, according to USASpending.gov. The top five products or services paid for were engineering and technical services ($6,776,185), physical science research and development ($500,000), natural resource management and conservation ($124,860), architects and engineers ($65,780), and maintenance/repair of ADP equipment and supplies ($22,342).

 

The top five recipients of contractor spending by DMA during that period were:

1. Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems Inc. $5,444,488

2. Lockheed Martin Corporation $1,331,696

3. Hybrid Photonics LLC    $500,000

4. Spatial Environmental Solutions Corporation    $124,860

5. Project Management Services Inc.      $65,780

more
Controversies:

News or Propaganda?

Some argue that some Defense Media Activity (DMA), and previously AFIS, news products, including The Pentagon Channel, border on propaganda.

Pentagon sites: Journalism or propaganda? (by Barbara Starr and Larry Shaughnessy, CNN)

Pentagon May Have Wrongly Mixed Propaganda With PR, Inspector General Says (by Walter Pincus, Washington Post)

Pentagon mixed propaganda with PR, report finds (by John Byrne, The Raw Story)

Secretary Gates’ Directive on DoD Interaction with the Media (pdf)

 

Right-Wing Bias

Many have protested the fact that conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh’s show is broadcast on the American Forces Radio network without being balanced by a comparable left-wing program.

Rush’s forced conscripts (by Eric Boehlert, Salon.com)

Media Matters for America Asks Secretary Rumsfeld To Remove Limbaugh’s Radio Show from Taxpayer-Funded American Forces Radio (Media Matters for America) (pdf)

Does Rush Limbaugh belong on armed forces radio? Criticism mounts. (by Anna Mulrine, Christian Science Monitor)

Female Veterans Demand Rush Limbaugh’s Show Be Pulled From American Forces Network (by Faiz Shakir, Think Progress)

Female Veterans Call For Military Radio Channel To Drop Rush Limbaugh After 'Slut' Remark (by Max J. Rosenthal, Huffington Post)

 

Staged Teleconference

Allison Barber, who served as director of the AFIS (see her biography below for more information), was criticized by some for her approach to public relations. A 2005 teleconference between President George W. Bush and troops serving in Iraq came under fire for the perceived extent to which it was rehearsed.

Bush Teleconference with Soldiers Staged (by Deb Riechmann, Associated Press)

Bush accused of staging chat with troops (by Jamie Wilson, The Guardian)

Support Our Props (Center for Media Democracy)

 

Fundraising for a Private Foundation

A May 12, 2007, article in The New York Times stated that the Defense Department inspector general was “examining whether officials who run ‘America Supports You,’ a three-year-old Pentagon program lauded by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, helped arrange a fund-raiser for a private foundation set up last December by former Bush administration appointees.” Pentagon officials are prohibited from fundraising for private entities, according to a Department of Defense spokesman. Money may also have been illegally funneled through Stars and Stripes for public relations purposes by then-AFIS Director Allison Barber, who headed up the program. It was determined that she funneled $8.8 million in contracts to the Susan Davis International public relations firm, which used the money to pay their executives between $312,000 and $662,000 a year. When AFIS transitioned into the DMA in 2008, the agency’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Whitman removed “America Supports You” from its PR program because “it is not of the same 'nature' as other external information programs.”

Pentagon Opens Inquiry of Troop-Support Group (by David S. Cloud, New York Times)

Military Paper Challenges Defense Dept. (by Sarah Abruzzese, New York Times)

Stripes part of America Supports You audit (by Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes)

Pentagon Co-opted Independent Military Newspaper for PR Campaign Pushing Bush’s War Policies (blog, Think Progress)

“Patriotic” Pro-Troop Group Pocketed the Big Bucks (AllGov)

Pentagon Pro-Troop Group Misspent Millions, Report Says (by Noah Shachtman, Danger Room)

 

Religious Entertainment

“America Supports You” also came under fire for its affiliation with an “evangelical entertainment troupe” called Operation Straight Up.

Kill or Convert, Brought To You By The Pentagon (by Max Blumenthal, The Nation)

 

Improper Internal Controls

The lack of consistent AFIS leadership harmed morale and contributed to “improper internal controls,” according to a memo written by the Defense Department inspector general.

IG calls for more distance between AFIS, DOD public affairs (by Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes)

more
Suggested Reforms:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AFIS will be merged with the Defense Media Activity division on Oct. 1, 2008, in an attempt to consolidate Defense Department public relations efforts. The Defense Department inspector general has also called for a permanent AFIS director to be named in order to boost morale, provide continuity and prevent the department’s public relations arm from having undue influence on the AFIS.

DoD to consolidate all media activities

(by William H. McMichael, Army Times)

more
Debate:

Against - Non-Partisan

American Forces Radio and Television Service (Source Watch)

America Supports You (Source Watch)

 

For - From the Right

Captured al Qaida Documents Detail Shift in Support, an example of an American Forces Press Service story that has been reproduced as news on a conservative Web page.

more
Former Directors:

Allison Barber (2003-2008)

Biography (AllGov)

America Supports You head Allison Barber leaving DOD (Stars and Stripes)

 

J. Dorrance Smith

J. Dorrance Smith, who was Allison Barber’s former boss, has also stoked controversy. He has a reputation in some circles for being a Republican loyalist, particularly when it came to the administration of George W. Bush. Bush first instated Smith in his post through a recess appointment on January 4, 2006; Smith’s original nomination had been stalled since September 2005 over an opinion piece he had written for The Wall Street Journal. In the piece, he criticized major U.S. television networks and the Qatari government for cooperating with the Al Jazeera network in showing graphic battlefield footage.

 

“Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and al-Qaida have a partner in Al Jazeera and, by extension, most networks in the U.S.,” Smith wrote in the op-ed titled “The Enemy On Our Airwaves.” “This partnership is a powerful tool for the terrorists in the war in Iraq.”

 

Without Senate approval, Smith’s appointment would have ended in January 2007. The nomination was confirmed by the Senate anyway on April 7, 2006. Smith replaced Victoria Clarke, who had vacated the position in June 2003. He left the position in October 2007.

Advance Questions for Mr. J. Dorrance Smith (from Smith’s Senate confirmation hearing) (pdf)

Senate Democrats grill Defense nominee (by Megan Scully, Congress Daily)

Pentagon Widens Its Battle to Shape News of Iraq War (by David S. Cloud and Thom Shanker, New York Times)

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Dave Hawkridge 3 years ago
I am looking for someone who might be interested in a small bit of history that I have. My father, MSG Frank Hawkridge Jr. Ret., was stationed with the Panama Coast Artillery Command at Quarry Heights, Canal Zone in 1941. He was reassigned stateside in early October 1941. During his time in Panama, Master Sargeant Clay Doster, my father and others worked together to provide some "back home" entertainment to soldiers stationed throughout Panamas remote artillery sites. As you k...

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Founded: 1977 (with precursors dating back to the 1940s)
Annual Budget: $224 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: About 2,400 (FY 2012)
Official Website: http://www.dma.mil/
Defense Media Activity
Whitman, Bryan
Director

Upon the retirement of Melvin W. Russell, who served as acting director of the Defense Media Activity (DMA) from October 2009 until April 30, 2012, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Bryan G. Whitman was appointed acting director of DMA. Formerly known as the American Forces Information Service, DMA is the communications media propaganda arm of the Department of Defense, employing 2,400 active duty military, civilian, and contract personnel at 8 U.S. locations and 33 permanent overseas sites. It is headquartered at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

 

The fact that Whitman would find himself in charge of spreading military propaganda during the presidential administration of Barack Obama says a lot about the workings of the Department of Defense, considering that during the administration of President George W. Bush, Whitman repeatedly defended the worst illegal and immoral policy excesses of his boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, including policies which candidate Obama criticized.

 

Born circa 1958, Bryan George Whitman earned a B.S. in Photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a Master’s Degree in Communications from the University of Oklahoma. As a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, Whitman commanded five different combat units, with his last combat tour in 1994 as the commander of all Special Forces operations in Somalia during the final withdrawal of United Nations Forces. Whitman also had public affairs assignments, including postings in the Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. 

 

Whitman was the director of Government and Public Affairs for the United Service Organization (USO) World Headquarters in Washington, where he was responsible for legislation and communications. From 1995 to 1997, he was a public affairs specialist in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, where, during the height of the Gulf War Illnesses controversy, he headed up a public affairs team to address the concerns of veterans. From August 1997 to May 2002, Whitman served in the Pentagon Press Office as the deputy director for Press Operations.

 

From May 2002 to May 2010, Whitman served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Media Operations and also served as a senior spokesman for the Defense Department and its secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

 

Numerous unpleasant tasks fell to Whitman, such as acknowledging and defending the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib and Afghan prisoners at Bagram; the hiding of prisoners from the Red Cross; the practice of military interrogators deceiving prisoners into thinking they were from the FBI; and the hiring of retired military officers to defend Bush-Rumsfeld policies on television without revealing they were paid to do so.

 

When candidate Barack Obama claimed, during a Democratic Party debate on February 21, 2008, that an Army platoon, short on supplies, took weapons from the Taliban because they were easier to obtain than U.S. arms, it was Whitman who defended the supplying of U.S. troops. He told the media that Obama’s account was “pretty hard to imagine.”  

 

On May 23, 2010, Whitman was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Public Affairs, responsible for the release of national security and defense information to the public.

-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky

 

Official Biography

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Russell, Melvin
Previous Director

Melvin W. Russell, who created a stir in military circles in January when he proposed moving the Pentagon-funded but editorially independent newspaper Stars and Stripes from downtown Washington, DC, to rural Fort Meade, Virginia, served as acting director of the Defense Media Activity (DMA) from October 2009 until he retired on April 30, 2012.

 

DMA, formerly known as the American Forces Information Service, is the communications media propaganda arm of the Department of Defense, employing 2,400 active duty military, civilian, and contract personnel at 8 U.S. locations and 33 permanent overseas sites.

 

Born circa 1939, Russell earned a B.S. in Chemistry and Secondary Education at Texas A&M University in 1961, and an M.A. in Television and Film Production at the University of Texas in 1970.

 

Commissioned in the U.S. Army through the ROTC program in 1961, Russell served more than 22 years as a Signal Corps officer. Early career assignments included Fort Hood, Texas; Naples, Italy; and Hue, Vietnam. After earning his M.A. in TV and film, Russell was assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he ran the television, film, and radio facilities for the next three years and made the first Army conversion form black-and-white to color.

 

From 1973 to 1975, Russell served in an exchange program with the British Army, where he established the first television facility at the engineering department of the Royal Signals School. After serving two years at the Pentagon as a senior staff officer responsible for Army audio visual activities, in 1977 Russell took command of the Army Audio Visual Activity, which he ran for almost five years. In 1981, Russell became the assistant director of the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), serving in this position until his military retirement in 1983, when he became the operations manager for D-K Associates, an audio-visual firm in Rockville, Maryland.

 

In 1984, Russell returned to AFRTS, this time as director, and became acting director of DMA in October 2009. He also served as the senior manager of Department of Defense visual information, web, print, new media and broadcasting.

 

Russell counts among his most satisfying achievements arranging for members of the military abroad to see live television broadcasts from the United States, including sports events, beginning in the 1980s, eventually reaching Navy ships at sea in 1997. Today AFRTS provide eight TV channels and twelve radio services.

 

“The bottom line for me,” he said in a farewell interview, “is that when you go overseas, you don’t leave the States behind. You need to feel that connection. So if you are in Afghanistan at an outpost, you should be able to watch a live NFL game.”

 

“I’ve been unbelievably lucky in life,” he concluded, “being allowed to do what I love doing and getting paid for it. I don’t see how you can beat that. You just can’t.”

-Matt Bewig, David Wallechinsky

 

Official Biography

Face of Defense: Official Recalls AFRTS Milestones (by Donna Mills, Armed Forces Press Service)

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