U.S. military fact of the day

In 2016, Politico reported that the total number of trombone, trumpet, keyboard and other instrument players [in the U.S. military] stands at about 6,500.

That’s a lot of Souza marches, but the State Department fields a bigger squad of diplomats. There are 8,106 Foreign Service officers, according to a State Department report. (The State Department has about another 5,700 people to support the diplomats, but they don’t do direct diplomatic work.) Still, there are a good 1,600 more diplomats than musicians.

Here is further information.  Here is another relevant source.  Via Andrew Goldman.


6500 band members, that's more than the Blue Brothers.

And they play both kinds of music.

But I bet the musician budget is about 10% of the diplomat budget

On a more serious note, I earlier read that the military employs almost one million civilians. And there may be 50,000 contractors in the Middle-east alone.


Probably one of those things that's keeping our economy going. Jobs for Americans.

Don't they rather make more money than they cost, with concerts? The Russian Army choir certainly does, it even tours internationally.

What was formerly known as the Soviet Army Chorus & Band, or the Alexandrov Chorus, was wiped out in a plane crash.

They were one of the great creations of Soviet cultural conservatism, creating music that was both rousing and spine-tinglingly beautiful. And the dancers! I can't speak for what they became after the fall of Communism, but understand that they descended to some sadly vulgar stuff.

Such a waste of taxpayer money. Fire them all.

So that is it.

Next year we are to bring all the soldiers home/For lack of money, and it is all right./Places they guarded, or kept orderly,/We want the money for ourselves at home/Instead of working. And this is all right./It's hard to say who wanted it to happen,/
But now it's been decided nobody minds./The places are a long way off, not here,/Which is all right, and from what we hear/The soldiers there only made trouble happen./Next year we shall be easier in our minds./Next year we shall be living in a country/That brought its soldiers home for lack of money./The statues will be standing in the same
Tree-muffled squares, and look nearly the same./Our children will not know it's a different country./All we can hope to leave them now is money.

Weird - poet and jingoist aren't normally adjectives that coincide in one person.

Agreed. Diplomats are a waste.

No, it's the army band that is ridiculous.

The idea that diplomats are a waste because you don’t personally understand their purpose or value is born of an ignorance that truly defies description.

The MAGA-ization of our political discourse is the single worst thing that has occurred culturally in my lifetime.

Military musicians work at a wide variety of functions.
Quite a few excellent jazz musicians honed their craft in the military.

I had a high-school teacher who had been a drummer in the Army during Vietnam. He played as part of a trio, and they would fly them out in a chopper to the jungle, set them up in a clear space, and they would play a few sets for the guys on the front lines.

What am I missing here? Should they be serving burgers?

Music is always a big part of statecraft. Hail to the Chief has long been played to honor the President: "Association with the President first occurred in 1815, when it was played to honor both George Washington and the end of the War of 1812 (under the name "Wreaths for the Chieftain"). On July 4, 1828, the U.S. Marine Band performed the song at a ceremony for the formal opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which was attended by President John Quincy Adams. Andrew Jackson was the first living President to have the song used to honor his position in 1829, and it was played at Martin Van Buren's inauguration in 1837." Hail to the Chief - Wikipedia

Music and the military has a long and often sordid history. "In the Nazi imagination, music had a unique significance and power to seduce and sway the masses. The Party made widespread use of music in its publicity, and music featured prominently at rallies and other public events. The Horst Wessellied (Horst Wessel song) was popular and widely sung. Many propaganda songs were aimed at the youth, and the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) developed an elaborate music program." Music and the Holocaust.

I wouldn't actually be surprised if Secretaries of State Powell and Albright each made more money than all of the diplomats and all of the band members within a few years of retiring

Albright would say it was worth it.


Are you suggesting that they got their money from the taxpayers? I do not think so. In which case, this is an irrelevant and just plain stupid remark.

Your comment is self-rebutting

Ummmm, Jack, just what is the point of your initial remark?

So, you have now decided not to be a jerk? Sorry, it's too late. There is an interesting discussion to be had here, but judging by your comment, you aren't a person capable of engaging in one.

Any data on the number of people in the military whose sole job is driving upper ranked officers? Plus the number of air crews and support staff whose job involves flying civilians/top brass place to place?

Wikipedia to the rescue - The 89th Airlift Wing's 99th Airlift Squadron, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, operates four C-37As. The 6th Air Mobility Wing's 310th Airlift Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida operates three C-37As. The 15th Airlift Wing's 65th Airlift Squadron, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii operates one C-37A. The 86th Airlift Wing's 76th Airlift Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany has two C-37As. The Executive Transport Detachment Pacific, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii operates one C-37A. The United States Army Priority Air Transport Det. (USAPAT), Andrews AFB, MD, operates two C-37As.

The Navy and Coast Guard each seem to operate one C-37A each.

The band members must be considerably cheaper than a dedicated fleet of command/executive transports. At least the band members put on concerts that are heard by many, compared to using C37As.

Should the generals fly themselves?

I don't think it is that simple.

Some people get involuntary arm-spasms when they hear martial music, usually when they are wearing their jodhpurs. So maybe music has a inspirational effect.

But unlike the old days, I do not think bugles are sounded on the battlefield anymore.

So, I suspect the military bands are not necessary.

Yes, a recorded version of Taps sounds just as good at a military funeral. Much like we don't actually need honor guards at military ceremonies. Time to shut down the wasteful displays at the various Tombs of Unknown Soldiers also. Besides, the current commander in chief seems to feel the U.S. military is merely a group of mercenaries to be hired out, so all that traditional ceremony is just merely window dressing. Or the very soul of a capable military force in comparison to a group of hired thugs.

I should have clarified: The DONALD Trump Presidency, at least.

Historically, UK military bandsmen were also the stretcher bearers. And something Wiki just told me, bandsmen had the highest mortality rate of any section of the service in WWII. 25% they say - higher even than Bomber Command.

Yeah well when you're lugging a big shiny trombone around North Africa, you are very easy to spot, and the sound is a dead giveaway.

After Pearl Harbor many musicians were put to work helping to run the IBM Tabulators used in decryption of IJN naval codes.

Something about being comfortable recognizing patterns I guess.

In recent years, there have been stories about a shortage of buglers to play taps at military funerals.

From https://whnt.com/2015/05/25/249858/ -

"In a report, the Department of Defense noted there were only about 500 buglers in the entire US military, while veterans were dying at the rate of more than 1,800 a day.

In response, the DoD authorized the use of a digital bugle to render Taps at military funerals."

I think the shortage of buglers was driven more by services for WWII veterans than anything relating to active or recent active military.

We need all those musical instruments


Next Year's

Trump 4th of July Parade.

Don't forget the flyover jets and tanks going down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Don't worry: The Mexicans, er, District of Columbia, will pay for it.

As an example of enduring tradition, bagpipe bands are still a part of the US military.

An Army Colonel told me some years ago we spend $300 million a year on the bands

Which comes out to about $46K per member, if there are 6,500 band members

These are some of the very best jobs for musicians in the US, now that studio work has pretty much dried up and orchestras are becoming more precarious by the day.

Benefits, excellent working conditions, pension, etc.

This is yet another example where the primary mission of the U.S. military is to steer the U.S.A. from its own tendancy toward mediocrity. Typically, all new innovation oriented industries get their start and can only get their start via government assistance, especially originating from the military. Now, even with music, in this case the best of all that music can possibly be, gets its start via the government. The best thing happening on planet earth in the human cultural endeavor of music is the North Texas State One 'O Clock Lab band class, and its yearly album releases. This class is now led by Alan Baylock, a 20 year veteran of the USAF musical bands, including the role as the chief arranger of the Airman of Note jazz band.


And on this MLK day, let us not forget James Reese Europe, the African American lieutenant, who fought in WW I and also led what was at the time called the best army band of any nation in the war. Noble Sissle and other pioneering jazz musicians emerged from Europe's army band. You may never have heard of him, because he died two years after the war's end - stabbed in the neck by a demented drummer.

People enjoy music so the musicians serve some purpose.

So more valuable than the the State Department.

Of course you are right, Bob. What purpose do diplomats serve? Heck, if the president cannot get foreign leaders to do his bidding by either tweeting at them or trying to get them to stop laughing at him in face-to-face meetings, why he can just bomb them back to the stone age or assassinate their generals. We can see how well that all works.

Diplomats, shiplomats!

This isn't 1800. It doesn't take a month to sail the Atlantic and diplomats don't negotiate anything. Anything can be done by overnight mail, e-mail or phone calls.

Diplomats serve no real purchase except PR [speeches and cocktail parties] and clerical consular functions.

Pallets of cash, Bob. That's how we do it nowadays.

Yeah, when Amb. Stevens died in that fire in Benghazi it was no loss at all as he was doing nothing of any use at all whatsoever.

Laughing at the musician troop respecter/defenders here. Military is the only make work program, universal healthcare, and free tuition left other, civil servants are complaining of course. Who said govt. bennies are a bad thing?

But I honestly do wonder if the Space Force will have musician troops.

That's actually a very modest number of career service officers, considering the large amount of work that they perform in such areas as citizen services, services provided by embassies and consulates to the ca 9 million US citizens living abroad, in which, for example, every foreign birth registration of a US citizen, marriage registration of one or two US citizens, international adoption, or passport application requires the witness and/or signature of a physically present consular officer, as well as all of the more modest but still serious diplomatic duties, for example interacting with foreign police and legal systems on behalf of US citizens, in which the foreign counterparts only interact with officer-level diplomatic staff. As someone who has experienced the work of US embassies in these areas in three countries I can testify that these officers -- as well as the department and local national personnel supporting them -- are perpetually overworked and understaffed despite significant gains in efficiency and automation, particularly under Democratic administrations. If you ever need to renew a US passport in a US embassy or consulate, hope that yours has not expired during a Republican administration, in which State Department funding and staffing is likely to have been reduced and neglected!

But citizen services is only one area assigned to career officers. Other areas -- economics (actually support of US businesses), management, political, and public diplomacy -- each have their corps of diplomatic officers.

Now now, GW, you must accept that Bob from Ohio is the expert here. Americans should simply stop doing anything in other nations. Then they will not need any of these services. And as B from O points out, it can all be done by emails and phone calls. He is so knowledgeable and wise.

The great majority of people serving in the US Military don't actually shoot at enemies. They are doing things that make the overall system of slaughter and national defense function. Musicians are doing their part. Boosting morale and such things. They didn't force the military to bring them onboard. Why are musicians the bad guys in this story?

One might ask certain people why diplomats are the bad guys, considering the military has about 17,000 media and public affairs professionals serving in uniform.

But you are correct, of course. The military is basically like its own centrally planned state with police, judges, engineers, the aforementioned 17,000 people devoted to morale and media relations, admin and HR people, doctors, teachers, etc. Despite all of this, payroll is still less than half of the military budget and the quality of bookkeeping across the military is atrocious.

I don't know anything about diplomats but I wanted to weigh in on the bands (former Army officer here). The bands have a specific war-time function (mortuary affairs, guarding headquarters and guarding POWs). So, when the divisions deploy, they take their bands with them and they fight along side every other person there.

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