Don't get me wrong; I'd like to consider myself a patron of the arts (particularly certain LEGO projects). However, if Secretary Gates is trying to trim some fat from the DoD's budget, he might want to consider that the US Army alone has slots for 4,600 band members, according to a recent article in the New York Times. That's more than an entire brigade combat team's worth of band members.
(According to doctrine manuals, a Stryker Brigade Combat Team should have approximately 3500 soldiers)
The surge strategy in Iraq of sending troops to distant outposts "left a lot of soldiers out there where there wasn't entertainment or morale-type things," he said. The increased use of helicopter transportation in such a conflict zone also argues in favor of smaller groups. The Army band world has adopted an informal motto, Colonel Palmatier said: "If it can't fit into two Blackhawks, it's not going to happen." (Blackhawk helicopters can generally hold 4 crew members and 14 troops.)
The high-profile, large-scale Army bands, of course, remain. Along with the Army Field Band, which tours heavily, they include the United States Army Band, informally known as "Pershing's Own" or not so informally as Tusab. There are also the United States Military Academy Band and the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. The Army has 30 more bands on active duty, as well as 70 Reserve and National Guard bands. All told, it has slots for 4,600 band members.
Army bands have plenty of company in the other services. The Navy has 13 bands; the Air Force maintains 12 active-duty bands, joined by 11 in the Air National Guard; the Marine Corps sponsors the United States Marine Band ("the President's Own") of White House renown, and a baker's dozen other active-duty bands.
[Army bands are divided] into categories: large, usually assigned to an Army command; medium, for the corps level; and small, for division headquarters or individual installations. The bigger the band, the more performance teams.
Note that this article only tackles "official" military bands. God only knows if they took into consideration organizations like the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus and other ensembles.
With a steady increase in the number of generals—a phenomenon Secretary Gates refers to as "brass creep"—comes a natural increase in the number of bands. And calls to reduce bands—however superfluous they might be—will be met with resistance. Consider that division-level bands—which typically cater to the vast majority of funerals and changes of command—are mirrored by even larger Corps- and Army-level bands.
Focus: What do you think? Are all the military bands worth it? What's the greatest performance you've ever seen from a military band?