Fiscal indiscipline remains a driving issue for many American taxpayers who believe that government spending has reached unsustainable heights, and that if changes aren't made, the country could very well be on a road to demise. It is under this premise that groups like the Tea Party and politicians such as Congressman Ron Paul have succeeded in securing a large following. Despite this popular dissatisfaction, the trend in Washington remains the same.
Thus, it is not unsurprising that the House of Representatives voted against an amendment to the 2013 defense spending bill earlier this week that would have limited U.S. military sponsorship of some professional sports as a recruitment tool. If passed, the amendment would have cut $72.3 million for sport sponsorships from a $608 billion defense bill for fiscal year 2013. While the focal point of Thursday night's vote was the National Guard's $26.5 million sponsorship of NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr's car, the amendment sought to cut military sponsorship of the National Hot Rod Association drag racing, as well as funds the Marine Corps uses for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and money spent on bass fishing.
Though proponents as well as opponents of the amendment make strong claims, the 216-202 defeat of the amendment raises a critical question: Given the current deficit, should the military have access to the same sports marketing platforms as other leading brands? My answer is yes, under the condition that military sports sponsorships are designed to yield effective results.
National security is invaluable and ensuring that there are sufficient men and women in the armed forces is integral to defending our nation. Moreover, since the termination of the draft in 1973, military recruiting had to sort out other channels. While visibility in professional sports leagues such as the NBA, NFL, UFC and so on is an effective way to reach young adults, spending $26.5 million on a single NASCAR driver is a bit outrageous. The same money could very well be allocated to better and more effective means such as increasing the number of recruiters, increasing the base pay of entering junior officers, or establishing other points of contact, etc.
Furthermore, the decision to serve in the military is driven either by a patriotic duty or by compensation incentives offered by the military and not necessarily by a sports ad. According to a letter from several sports leagues to Republican and Democratic leaders, sports marketing has been the most effective route to reach young adults and active duty personnel regarding the military's missions and objectives. I'll have to disagree with this claim. While love for favorite sports teams and love for country incite similar sentiments of loyalty, fervent support, and general positive (sometimes negative) fanaticism, it takes more than USAF imprinted on the back of a car, or an army band performing the Star Spangled Banner before an NBA game for a person to make the decision of signing away his or her life for some years.
Lastly, in January the Pentagon introduced an outlined plan to decrease the size of the military over the next ten years, this means that the Department of Defense will have to restructure how it allocates its funds. Advertising is great when its done strategically and yields foreseeable and tangible results not when it is implemented as giveaways at the expense of tax dollars.