Did you know that the U.S. government has a team of public relations specialists? In fact, this “team” actually consists of thousands of professionals and costs billions of dollars.
Nonpartisan government watchdog group Open the Books recently published a new report entitled “The Department of Self-Promotion: How Federal Agency PR Spending Advances Their Interests Rather Than the Public Interest.” According to the document, there are now “3,092 public affairs professionals working in the government, an increase of 15 percent — or about 400 people — over the past seven years.”
What’s more, The Hill also reports that 139 federal agencies signed $2.02 billion in outside contracts with firms that perform public relations, polling, research and marketing consulting.
The size and scope of the federal government’s PR efforts are so large that if you were to rank public relations firms based on the number of PR employees, the government would be the second largest PR firm in the entire world. Its salaries total nearly $2.38 billion, and “performance bonuses” in excess of $10.93 million go to its officers. In 2012, an employee with the Department of Health and Human Services received the largest bonus, a sum of $35,940.
Of the many federal agencies dropping copious amounts of money on PR, the biggest spenders include FEMA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of the Navy, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
“The Department of State endeavors to be good stewards of taxpayer money. We look for efficiencies in our programs and review expenses, always aware of the fiscal restraints in which all government institutions must operate,” said an email from a State official to The Hill. “U.S. embassies conduct a broad range of surveys that help inform how to most effectively engage with foreign publics and explain American foreign policy abroad.”