The U.S. spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on dozens of military marching bands, rock groups, jazz ensembles, choruses and country music performance teams. In light of the current economic climate, some are wondering if this is excessive and unnecessary spending. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has written a series of columns on the cost of military music, and says he was prompted to looking into the matter after hearing Defense Secretary Gates discuss budget priorities.
"Gates has made a point in talking about the way the government looks at priorities," Pincus tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "He has more military band musicians in the Defense Department than the State Department has Foreign Service officers."
This metaphor intrigued Pincus, and he decided to see how many musicians the U.S. government was really employing. He says no one was able to provide concrete figures on how much is spent on military bands in total.
"The only service that came up with a number was the Marines," he says. "And the Marines came back.................