(|(a.)E)~~~I UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON, D.C. 20548 DEFENSE DIVISION MAY 2 7 1971 \ B-146830 v/ Dear Mro Secretary: 0 At the request of Congressman Fred Bo Rooney, the General Ac- counting Office has examined into the practices followed by the home- town news centers of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Forc7e Thehometown news centers are arms of the public information ofkficees of the three military departmentso They are responsible, in general, for the preparation and release to interested news media of stories concerning the accomplishments of individual servicemen. The Navy center is located at Great Lakes, Illinois, and the Army and Air Force centers are located in Kansas City, Missouri, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, respectively. Athough the Congressman's specific interest was in the news- release processing and mailing procedures of the three centers, we also examined into the services provided by, and the missions and the oper- ating procedures of, the three centers. We are writing to you because our findings indicated that economies could be realized if the three cen- ters were consolidated0 OBJECTIVES OF THE THREE CENTERS All three centers process and release for publication by the in- terested news media stories concerning individual servicemen from their geographic area0 The objectives are to increase the morale of in- dividual servicemen through public recognition of their accomplishments and those of their military units and, at the same time, to keep the Amer- ican public informed of the activities of American servicemen. The stories released by the centers are of a personal nature, deal- ing with such events as citations, promotions, training-school gradua- tions, and other achievements of individual members of the armed ser- vices. The centers normally are provided with stories, or story mate- rial, by public information officers of the various military commands, either in the form of a cover story about a military unit accompanied by biographical data on the members of that unit or in the form of a story concerning only one individual. Wo found the content of the stories released by each of the centers to be highly similar. C5 50TH ANNIVERSARY 1921-1971 - 7 B-146830 and taped and filmed At each center feature stories, photographs, that each release is appro- releases are evaluated and edited to ensure location may be priate as to style and content. Since more than one request coverage mentioned and since more than one publication may the same story may be for a particular town or city, several releases of made to accommodate interested media members, SAVINGS AVAILABLE THROUGH CONSOLIDATION of the In fiscal year 1970 the amounts expended for the operation costs to the Gov- three centers totaled about $1.8 million. In addition, for such incurred ernment, which could not be readily quantified, were on a nonreimburs- items as building maintenance and utilities provided of the Army, by the able basis by the host military base or, in the case incurred in for- General Services Administration. Also, postage fees media were funded at a higher warding releases to members of the news expenses of the level and thus were not reflected in the total operating centers for fiscal year 1970. reduction in A consolidated operation should permit a substantial also should the number of mailings to the news media. Consolidation a reduction of make it possible to reduce administrative costs through for similar administrative personnel. Finally, duplicate investments could be types of photographic and audio-visual recording equipment as the office space avoided, and some of the equipment on hand, as well uses. of two of the centers, could be released for other Mailing operations daily. En- Generally each center mails more than 9,000 releases 2,800 and 3,000 by the velopes used for mailing daily releases averaged 6,400 by the Navy. Army and Air Force, respectively, but more than timely delivery. The releases are sent by first-class mail to ensure centers were about For fiscal year 1970 the postage fees for the three the Navy $97,000, $184,000, of which the Army spent about $42,000, the costs incurred and the Air Force $45,000. This does not include for envelopes and printing. 2 B-146830 We found that, with the exception of the news media located in large cities and receiving an unusually high number of releases, the Navy center mailed releases separately to each user. The Army and Air Force centers, on the other hand, accumulated releases before mailing them. As a result, the Army and the Air Force avoided the ad- ditional postage and envelope costs that the Navy incurred by mailing releases separately. The costs avoided, however, were partially off- set by the additional manpower requirements of the Army and Air Force mailing operations. We learned from our visit to the Navy center that officials of that activity were taking measures to reduce the number of separate mail- ings of news releases. These measures, when fully implemented, should reduce the costs of the center's news-release distribution operations. Each center has at least 70 percent of the Nation's 11,400 news- papers and periodicals on its distribution list. As a result, many news- papers and periodicals receive news releases from more than one of the three centers. If the centers were consolidated, the news releases from all services would originate from one activity and those destined for a particular news media could be accumulated and released in a single mailing. Data were not available that would permit us to deter- mine the extent to which the centers' mailings overlapped. Considering the fact that a large number of news media appear on the distribution list at each of the centers, however, we believe that there is duplica- tion in costs associated with the distribution of information. Supervisory and administrative costs The staff members at the three centers numbered 197, of which 79 were assigned to the Air Force, 60 to the Army, and 58 to the Navy. Of the 197 staff members, 43 were engaged solely in supervisory and administrative functions at the three centers at a salary cost of $365,000 for fiscal year 1970. These positions included the commander and executive officer of each of the centers, editorial and administra- tive supervisors, and other personnel not engaged directly in the proc- essing of story material into the news releases. It is likely that fewer supervisory and administrative personnel would be required to operate 3 B-146830 a consolidated activity, and we feel that an opportunity exists to reduce costs related to these functions through consolidation. Equipment and office space requirements At the time of our review, the three centers had inventories of equipment costing more than $560,000. We believe that a consolidated operation should result in the release of some of this equipment to meet other defense needs. For example, each center has its own photographic laboratory and audio-visual recording facility. The total value of equipment used for photographic and audio-visual recording purposes is approximately $330,000. We believe that under a consolidated operation, some of the equipment from two of the laboratories and recording facilities could be made available for other uses. In view of the potential for reducing both the amount of equipment and the number of administrative positions under a consolidated opera- tion, we believe that overall office space requirements also could be re- duced. Although the expanded operations resulting from consolidation may require additional office space at one of the centers, we believe the cost of providing this space should be less than that currently incurred for the maintenance of the office space of three separate centers. Also the office space at the two vacated centers would be released for other Government work. POTENTIAL FOR AUTOMATED OPERATION On July 20, 1970, the Army Home Town News Center converted from a manual operation to a partially automated operation using data processing support provided by the General Services Administration. The estimated annual cost for this support is $102,000. Sufficient data have not yet been accumulated to give a firm indi- cation of the annual savings in operating expenses which will result 4 B-146830 A General from the Army center's conversion to an automated system. prior to the changeover Services Administration feasibility study made and improved indicated that the automated system would permit faster the operation, operations, better releases, more accuracy throughout and a savings of between $5,000 and $20,000 a year over manual- operation costs, depending on the number of releases processed. Another benefit of this automated system indicated by the study to was the ease of its implementation. The center was not required or conduct purchase new equipment, hire specially trained personnel, fewer per- a major reorganization or retraining program. In addition, Although not sonnel would be required under the automated system. automated considered by the General Services Administration study, the technique system may lend itself to implementation of the self-mailer agencies for dis- which has been used successfully by other Government the need tribution of releases to news media. This technique eliminates addresses for the use of envelopes by printing the postage indicia and accumulated, and directly on the releases. Releases could be sorted, to each printed out by the computer to form release packages according news media. Under the system currently in use by the Army, the operations The princi- pertaining to written news releases have been automated. are select- pal functions of the computer, which were formerly manual, printing the releases ing the media to which each release is to be sent, hometown in sufficient quantities to provide a copy for each interested the releases, and check- media, printing the addresses of these media on in- ing the Vietnam casualty list to preclude mailing stories concerning available, dividuals who have become casualties. When funds become of compil- the computer will be programmed for the additional function ing statistical information and reports. by the Gen- On the basis of the conclusions of the study conducted partially eral Services Administration, the Army' s experience with its provided automated system, and the potential to expand the functions benefits by this system, it seems reasonable to assume that similar news center should arise from automation of a consolidated hometown operation. 5 B-146830 RECOMMENDATIONS We recommend that: 1. A study be initiated to determine the feasibility of consolidat- ing the activities presently carried out at the hometown news centers operated by the three military departments. 2. A determination be made of the economies that may be realized through utilization of an automated system similar to that cur- rently used by the Army. 3. Consideration be given to converting the method of release dis- tribution from the use of window envelopes to the self-mailer. Your attention is invited to section 236 of the Legislative Reorga- nization Act of 1970 which requires that you submit written statements of the action taken with respect to the recommendations. The statements are to be sent to the House and Senate Committees on Government Oper- ations not later than 60 days after the date of this report and to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations in connection with the first request for appropriations submitted by your agency more than 60 days after the date of this report. We would appreciate your comments and advice regarding the ac- tions taken on the recommendations discussed in this letter. Sincerely yours, Director, Defense Division The Honorable The Secretary of Defense 6
Examination Into the Practices Followed by the Hometown News Centers of the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-05-27.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)