Report: Feds Cut Ad Spend, Defense Claims Biggest Slice

Recent estimates are that federal agencies cut advertising services by 20% in the most recent reportable period, fiscal year 2010, versus the previous year.

Advertising services totalled $945 million between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010 -- with the biggest federal agency ad spending going to the Department of Defense at $545.4 million, according to the Congressional Research Service.

After that the Department of Commerce spent $147.8 million; Department of Health and Human Services, $77.9 million; Department of Treasury, $46.3 million; and Department of Transportation, $37.1 million.

The 2010 fiscal year was in the middle of the deep recession period for the U.S.

The report shows federal agencies contracts for advertising services steadily rising before this -- $810 million fiscal year 2006; $902.2 million in fiscal year 2007; $1.101.1 million in fiscal year 2008; and $1.180.2 in fiscal year 2009.

The Congressional Research Service says “generally speaking, there are few government-wide restrictions on government advertising. Furthermore, no single agency is charged with tracking and overseeing the advertising.”



But the survey says definitions aren’t clear about what constitutes “advertising” services versus other forms of marketing, including communications and publicity.

Some controversies have arisen around the type of government ads including those that 1) have attempted to dissuade individuals from using marijuana; 2) have promoted the use of social service programs; 3) are viewed as overly expensive or wasteful; 4) or are perceived as possibly misleading.

But some advertising is useful, according to the survey. These include federal agency job openings; competitions for federal contracts; or the sale of surplus government property.

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