I am writing this open letter to you today in response to the recently passed House Amendment 48 in HR. 5293, which is in regards to your proposed cut in funding for one particular military occupational specialty.
After having read all of the regulations and policies regarding each military branch’s band program, as well as your most recent testimony prior to the passing of this amendment, I have determined two things.
#1. Based on your statements, it would appear that neither you nor your staff have done your due diligence where research on the topic is concerned, and;
#2. You and all those who voted ‘Yea’ on this might benefit from a brief, yet effective, overview regarding why this ‘Bullets VS Bands’ approach is ineffective and quite frankly, insulting to all of the men and women who have and do serve in these career fields.
I appreciate the difficult decisions that our nation’s elected officials are often faced with. I concur that tough choices must be made. I respect the fact that you are a prior service member, which lends weight to your voice. This is why I absolutely agree with you when you state, “WE ASKED FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON THE SIZE AND COST OF ALL BANDS ACROSS THE MILITARY.”
However, that is where my willingness to agree comes to an end. I do believe you may have “jumped the gun,” as it were, by submitting this amendment before allowing military leadership the opportunity to provide the necessary information to justify their respective music programs.
Let’s take a look at a sample of your statements and review.
Ms. McSally: “OUR ARMY IS DRAWING DOWN TO ITS SMALLEST SIZE SINCE BEFORE WORLD WAR II. YET TODAY WE HAVE 99 DIFFERENT ARMY BANDS.”
Back in 1996, an Army blues rock band consisting of musicians from the 1st Armored Division Band, went to “entertain” (as you would have it) Russian Army soldiers during a testy joint deployment to Bosnia. The State Department U.S. Liaison officer was having a hard time ‘breaking the ice’ regarding Russian cooperation. After the Russian’s enthusiastic response to the band’s performance, that same liaison officer stated that the band had done more for U.S.-Russian relations in 90 minutes than he had been able to do in 30 days.
Their mission may not always be what you might believe to be ‘direct and to the point’, however, the fact that they contributed to significant strides in international relations shows that their purpose (while seemingly insignificant to some) served a purpose far greater than expected. This is just ONE example of how our military musicians impact our country’s level of diplomacy as well as the perception of our country at large.
You mentioned that you failed to see how military musicians contributed to America’s national security. Are we to assume, based on your statement, that international relations is NOT a matter of national security?
Ms. McSally: “IN FACT, TODAY THESE BANDS WILL PLAY AT 22 DIFFERENT SHOWS WORLDWIDE.”
Yes. And today, as I type in fact, the Democratic House Representatives are currently having a ‘sit in’ on the House floor. Partisanship aside, this would appear to be a much bigger fish to fry…especially given the most recent strike against our country in Orlando, FL. I would say that this ‘Bullets VS Bands’ approach has become a much different animal in terms of significance, wouldn’t you?
Ms. McSally: “AT THE SAME TIME, WE HAVE HEARD REPORTS THAT WE HAVE A SHORTAGE OF BUGLERS, THOSE PLAYING TAPS TO HONOR OUR MILITARY. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT WE HAVE THEM REPRESENTED AND SO THAT THOSE THAT ARE FALLEN AND SERVED HAVE THE HONORS THAT THEY DESERVE.”
Given the fact that you wish to cut expenses, and based on your proposed logic, it would seem counter-productive to allow additional funding for every single military funeral (for active duty AND veterans who have served, per your statement) to transport a live bugler to every single memorial across the country.
I personally and absolutely believe that each service member and veteran should have a live service member at their memorial service to play ‘Taps’. In a ‘perfect world’ of unlimited budgets, every individual who has served honorably would receive these honors. They deserve it, without a doubt. But unless our elected leadership is willing to provide MORE funding for travel, lodging, etc., then even with (especially with) the passing of this amendment, this will unfortunately never come to fruition. Utilizing the “shortage of buglers to play taps” as a method of reasoning to pass this amendment is not only inaccurately informing the public of the reasoning behind your “solution”, it undermines it completely. Which brings me to your next comment:
Ms. McSally: “WHEN WE HAVE DIFFICULT CHOICES TO MAKE, WE’RE SPENDING $437 MILLION ON MUSICIANS’ INSTRUMENTS, UNIFORMS, TRAVEL EXPENSES.”
You seem to have failed to mention that this “$437 million dollar” price tag, ALSO includes each individual service member’s salary within it. The same service members that are required to be a rifleman first and foremost. If we were to take into account the 137 military bands our nation has in total, as well as the roughly 6,500 musicians attached to said bands, then we would clearly see that the operational budget – instruments, travel, etc.,- is substantially less than the “$437 million dollar” figure that you’ve quoted in your testimony.
But OK, I’ll bite. Let’s discuss the next statement.
Ms. McSally: “WE HAVE SEEN REPORTS OF THINGS LIKE $11,000 FLUTES, $12,000 TUBAS, AND $88,000 PIANOS.”
Those reports you mention, I must say I am curious. Were the instruments you referenced being ordered for ‘fleet bands’ or possibly one of the more ‘prestigious’ bands in DC? There is a level of instrumental quality that each band must adhere to (or may be afforded) based on the hierarchy of bands, that should be considered when concerning military instrumentalists.
Not all musical instruments are created equal, just as not all military grade weaponry or aircraft is considered equal either. Most instruments in the fleet bands have a life span of 7 years before they are rendered unacceptable or over used. Most bands do not spend that kind of dough on an individual instrument without proper consultation with the installation comptroller as well as the direct chain of command. It is then justified, negotiated, or tabled based on the military LEADERSHIP’S discretion. Which, again, leads to your next statement.
Ms. McSally: “THIS AMENDMENT WILL INFORM THE MILITARY (that) CONGRESS DESIRES THEM TO USE DEFENSE DOLLARS ON DEFENSE.”
Our military leaders are the ones who decide what is funded and when. THEY are the ones who are tasked with distributing the funds that they are given to each and every entity under their charge. Whether it is training, modernization, maintenance, or support operations, our country has relied on their decisions. It is the very reason why these individuals are named our military’s LEADERS. What I gather from this statement is that you, and all those who voted ‘Yea’, do not have trust in our military leadership to do what they have been trained to do. They are in the leadership positions that they are in because of their effectiveness and impact. Are we to assume that you don’t have faith in them to execute the funding that has been allocated?
Ms. McSally: “WHILE OUR COMMUNITIES CERTAINLY DO ENJOY BEING ENTERTAINED BY OUR MILITARY BANDS, THEY WOULD PREFER TO BE PROTECTED BY OUR MILITARY.”
Our military bands do much more for our communities than ‘entertain’, as I have detailed throughout this letter, as have all of the supporting elements of each service. But just in case my own due diligence hasn’t made an impact on your stance, maybe this will help you to see that our nation’s military musicians actually DO put down their ‘Tuba’s’ and fight when necessary. At the very least, if you don’t see it, maybe our Senate members will. (For reference sake, the 2:07 mark is where you’ll want to really pay attention). #savemilitarymusic