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)

                               WASHINGTON, D.C. 20548

DEFENSE DIVISION                                              MAY   2 7 1971
        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
              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

                                                   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,

                                                                    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
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
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.

       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


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.


      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

                                                                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
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.
considered by the General Services Administration study, the
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
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,
in sufficient quantities to provide a copy for each interested
                                                   the  releases,  and check-
media, printing the addresses of these media on
ing the Vietnam casualty list to preclude mailing stories concerning
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
eral Services Administration, the Army' s experience with its
automated system, and the potential to expand the functions
by this system, it seems reasonable to assume that similar
                                                           news  center
should arise from automation of a consolidated hometown


      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