As with everything the DOD do their long standing relationship with entertainment and media is governed by a strict code of military discipline. These people can’t do anything without first writing down a series of orders and instructions on how to do it (neither of these sentences is true, of course). So it is no surprise that among their directives and instructions are clear rules on how they should go about getting themselves on TV.
The two main doctrine documents have not changed since the 1980s. DOD instruction 5410.15 titled ‘DoD Public Affairs Assistance to Non-Government, Non-Entertainment-Oriented Print and Electronic Media’ is from 1989 and 5410-16 titled ‘DoD Assistance to Non-Government, Entertainment-Oriented Motion Picture, Television, and Video Productions’ is from 1988. The latter document, concerning entertainment rather than non-entertainment media is the more interesting one. It superseded the 1964 version, which does not appear to be available online so I will file a FOI request for it.
The full 18 pages of the DOD instruction on support for entertainment includes a sample reimbursement agreement, a sample requirements list and a sample Hold Harmless agreement, saying that the production company ‘shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the U.S. Government or others for any claim for personal injuries (including death) to the Government’s officers, agents, servants, or employees, or to any other person, arising out of, or incidental to, the possession or use of the facilities or equipment.’ However it is the policy section that is most revealing.
It is DoD policy that:
3.1. Government assistance may be provided to an entertainment-oriented motion
picture, television, or video production when cooperation of the producers with the
Government results in benefitting the Department of Defense or when this would be in
the best national interest, based on consideration of the following factors:
3.1.1. The production must be authentic in its portrayal of actual persons,
places, military operations, and historical events. Fictional portrayals must depict a
feasible interpretation of military life, operations, and policies.
3.1.2. The production is of informational value and considered to be in the
best interest of public understanding of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Department of
3.1.3. The production may provide services to the general public relating to,
or enhancing, the U.S. Armed Forces recruiting and retention programs.
3.1.4. The production should not appear to condone or endorse activities by
private citizens or organizations when such activities are contrary to U.S. Government
3.2. The production company shall reimburse the Government for any additional
expenses incurred as a result of assistance rendered. The producer shall be required to
sign a written “Reimbursement Agreement” (see enclosure 1) with the appropriate
DoD Component(s), and post advance payment or a sufficient “Letter of Credit” (see
enclosure 2) to cover the estimated costs before receiving DoD assistance.
3.3. Operational readiness of the Armed Forces shall not be impaired. Diversion of equipment, personnel, and material resources shall be kept to a minimum, and shall
only be on a non-interference with military operations and training basis.
3.4. There shall be no deviation from established DoD safety standards.
3.5. Official activities of military personnel in assisting the production must be
within the scope of normal military activities. With the exception of assigned Project
Officer(s) and Technical Advisor(s), official personnel shall not be assigned to perform
functions outside the scope of their normal duties.
3.6. Official personnel services and DoD material shall not be employed in such a
manner as to compete directly with commercial and private enterprises. DoD assets
may be provided when similar civilian assets are not reasonably available.
3.7. All Government property and facilities used in the production shall be
restored by the production company to the same or better condition as when they were
made available for the company’s use.
3.8. The production company shall provide proof of adequate industry standard
liability insurance. The production company must also agree to hold the Government
harmless in case of accident, injury, or loss of property in connection with DoD
assistance to the project. Before filming, legally sufficient “Hold Harmless”
agreements (see enclosure 3) shall be executed for each installation or command used
as a location or providing assets to the picture.
3.9. Military personnel in an off-duty, nonofficial status may be hired by the
production company to perform as actors, extras, etc., provided there is no conflict
with any existing Service regulation. In such cases, contractual arrangements are
solely between those individuals and the production company; however, payment
should be consistent with current industry standards. The producer is responsible for
resolving any disputes with unions governing the hiring of non-union actors and
extras. Military personnel accepting such employment shall comply with DoD
Directive 5500.7 (reference (d)). The individual’s uniform shall be worn only when it
is used to identify the Military Service to which the individual belongs. DoD
Components may assist the production company in publicizing the opportunity for
employment and in identifying appropriate personnel.
3.10. DoD motion picture and video stock footage is available for purchase or
loan when a production qualifies for assistance under the general principles outlined in
subsection 3.1., above.
3.11. Footage shot with DoD assistance and official DoD footage released for a
specific production are not to be reused for or sold to other productions without DoD
Two up to date examples of this doctrine are available via the US Air Force instruction 35-104 on ‘Media Operations’ and the US Navy’s instruction 5720.44C on ‘Public Affairs Policy and Regulations’. Both are effectively training manuals explaining in some detail how to go about maintaining the relationship with the entertainment and media industries. The Air Force document even includes an order that, ‘Military personnel selected as game or quiz show participants should be placed in a leave or other authorized off-duty status.’
The Navy manual, which runs to over 170 pages, is mostly interesting for section 0306 ‘Entertainment Media, Documentaries and other External Productions’. It includes a list of criteria that have to be met in order for Navy and Marine Corps personnel to participate in such productions, including ‘Participation does not place military members in competition with professional performers seeking employment’.
It seems they have thought of everything. You can download the documents below: