Biggest Spenders in Billion-Dollar U.S. Government PR Machine: Depts. of Defense, Health, and Education

Friday, October 16, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Madison Avenue, meet the Beltway.


The federal government is spending billions on advertising with little oversight on where the money is going.


A report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) shows the government collectively spent at least $4.4 billion on contracts for advertising services from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2013, when $892.5 million was spent that year alone.


The biggest spender in FY 2013 was the Pentagon: $419 million. It was followed by the Department of Health and Human Services ($197.4 million); the Department of Education ($128.8 million); the Department of Veterans Affairs ($61.8 million) and the Department of Transportation ($43 million), according to CRS.


Public service announcements, image advertising and military recruiting are some of the things on which the government’s advertising budget is spent.


But CRS pointed out the government hasn’t adopted a definition of what constitutes advertising. Nor are agencies required to report advertising-related expenditures to one specific place for accountability purposes. “As a result, agencies can pretty much spend what they want,” Lisa Rein wrote at The Washington Post.


At least one senator wants a better accounting of how much is being spent. “Unnecessary media relations spending is a cost that the nation simply cannot afford,” Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming wrote Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Public Relations and Advertising are a ‘Black Box’ in Government Spending (by Lisa Rein, Washington Post)

Obama Administration Spent Billions on Image Advertising (by Eric Pianin, Fiscal Times)

U.S. Government Spends almost $1 Billion a Year on Advertising (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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