DOD’s $26.5M Recruiting Drive Crashed and Burned
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The Fiscal Times
May 8, 2014

The old marketing adage that half the money spent on advertising is wasted but no one knows which half clearly doesn’t apply to the National Guard.

It knows that all of its money was wasted, at least in 2012.

The Army National Guard spent $26.5 million that year to sponsor NASCAR as a way to reach potential recruits – but not one person signed up. While the marketing campaign generated almost 25,000 prospects, only 20 actually qualified for service, and no one in that group signed on the dotted line, according to data provided to USA Today.

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The $88 million NASCAR sponsorship initiative ran from 2011 to 2013, and the National Guard spent a separate $38 million to reach IndyCar racing. The price tag alone has drawn the ire of some lawmakers in Washington.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), head of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, is scheduled to hold a hearing later today to examine what the panel describes as “costly, ineffective” recruiting programs.

 

“These marketing and sponsorship contracts are administered by the same office of the Army National Guard that operated the Recruiting Assistance Program, which paid National Guard members, retirees, and civilians to recruit friends and family, but had virtually no safeguards or controls—leading to criminal fraud on a massive scale,” the subcommittee said in a statement.

In the year that the National Guard reportedly failed to sign up one recruit as a result of its NASCAR sponsorship, some lawmakers had already taken aim at the marketing program. A House amendment in July 2012 would have stripped that type of funding, which included sponsoring race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., from a larger defense bill. The proposal was rejected 216-202, led by opposition from representatives in North Carolina, home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) at the time argued in favor of continued sponsorship, saying the National Guard was receiving an almost 300 percent return on its investment. “This is a huge return for the buck,” he said.

The National Guard defended the advertising initiative this week in a statement made to USA Today, but the agency would not verify the recruiting figures cited by the newspaper.

“In today’s media-driven environment, a strong branding effort is a good value and helps create a fundamental awareness of the National Guard as a career option,” spokesman Rick Breitenfeldt said in a statement, adding that 90 percent of soldiers who enlisted or re-enlisted from 2007 to 2013 indicated they were aware of NASCAR-related recruiting information.

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A senior writer for The Fiscal Times based in Washington, D.C., Timothy Homan covers defense and national security matters. He previously worked as an economics and congressional reporter for Bloomberg News and covered international trade for Congressional Quarterly.