The purpose of this project is to compare the function of military public affairs as defined by the Department of Defense (DoD) and each branch of the service, and the perception of Public Affairs professionals (PAs) use as seen by commanding officers, the media, and military public affairs professionals. The outcome of this project will show how each of the four groups perceive the job and function of military public affairs and how those perceptions compare with one another. If each group fully understands how the others perceive public affairs, a better relationship can be fostered within the system of public affairs and the military.

The independent variable is operationalized on two levels: 1) The function of public affairs, what the purpose of the public affairs job is as dictated by the Department of Defense and each branch of service. 2) How public affairs professionals do their job. Does the job being performed by PAs match the job that is dictated by DoD and does it meet the needs of commanding officers and the media? The dependent variable is operationalized on four levels based on the perceptions of the four groups mentioned above. The independent variables will be manipulated to adjust the perceptions of the four groups. The goal of the project is for the perceptions of each group to become more similar and for each of the four groups to understand the role of PAs and how each are related.

The theoretical perspectives used for this project will employ a combination of the Palo Alto Theory as well as the Agenda Setting Theory. The Palo Alto Theory allows us to look at the public affairs function and its relationship with commanders, the media, the internal audience, and PA professionals as a system within the suprasystem of the military. Inputs into that system affect the transformation of communication and information and subsequently affect the outcome, which is the information that is generated by the public affairs office. The Palo Alto Theory also applies in that the public affairs function often becomes a series of individual relationships between the public affairs professionals and the other individuals involved. A change or attitude of one of the four groups affect how the entire relationship interacts. The project will also employ the Agenda Setting Theory to disseminate a uniform perception of the job of public affairs, as well as educate all groups in the system as to how each perceives the function of public affairs. (See Flow of Communication Model Fig. 1-1)