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The Air Force receives about 3,100 flyover requests annually, Friend said, but only approves about half, which serve as outreach to the public.

“Flyovers allow the Air Force to demonstrate our capabilities firsthand to the American people and help to tell the Air Force story,” she said.  “Traditionally, the Air Force supports events such as the Rose Bowl Parade and game because it allows us to reach people both in-stadium and nationally through different media outlets.”

It remains to be seen whether the latest round of Pentagon spending on promotion will draw the ire of Congress.

Most lawmakers don’t want to appear critical of the military or veterans. In fact, when Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., introduced an amendment to a military spending bill last summer that would ban the military services from spending money on sports sponsorships, it was narrowly defeated, 216-202.

On the same day as the Rose Bowl, Congress voted on legislation that temporarily forestalled the steep budget cuts planned for the military. But Peterson said the issue likely isn’t going away anytime soon, and the Pentagon may be forced to justify how expenditures at football games and festivities actually pay off.

“We need to ask, are we confident that DOD is really using a good metric to measure whether sponsoring a NASCAR entry or a float in a parade is effective in maintaining morale or increasing recruitment numbers,” she said.