The Pentagon, looking for innovative ways to thwart deadly roadside bombs in Iraq, has launched an $11 million program using robots, body armor and a "first-ever advertising campaign aimed at the Iraqi" people, the weekly Inside the Army reports.

An Army-led joint task force, called the Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force, will spend $7.7 million to have an Iraqi ad agency produce "a series of media products . . . designed to influence Iraqi target audiences to support efforts to eliminate the IED threat," the Pentagon said last month.

The effort against improvised explosive devices will include video, audio and print campaigns. "The task force is looking at solutions across a wide spectrum, really," a spokesman told Inside the Army. "It's not just technology, it's not just jammers, it's not just armor. It's a holistic approach to solve the problem."

Also on the media front, the Pentagon in June said the U.S. Special Operations Command put out contracts worth up to $300 million to three U.S. companies for "media approach planning," producing and distributing media "products" and analyzing effectiveness.

That's a five-year effort, officials said, and would include using billboards, television and radio spots and such. Five years?

White House News Laundry Forgets Spin Cycle

The White House press office distributes news releases, announcements, transcripts and schedules via e-mail to reporters each day to keep them apprised of what's going on and to put the White House spin on the day's events.

So it came as some surprise Friday afternoon when reporters were sent a Reuters news service story about President Bush's motorcade blowing by a war protesters' encampment near the Crawford, Tex., White House. That's where "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, was holding a vigil demanding a meeting with Bush.

So was this an effort to highlight Bush's refusal to speak with her? reporters wondered. Nah -- turns out it was just a press office error.

A mere 39 minutes later, a second e-mail went out. "Please disregard the previous email. It is part of our news tracking system that was meant for our internal distribution list, not the press list. We apologize for the mistake."

Must be August.

Paving the Way to a Bigger Deficit

Speaking of August, if you've got some free time tomorrow, check out Sen. Jim Bunning's event in Louisville.

The Republican from Kentucky "will announce a $500,000 earmark that he secured for the University of Kentucky's Asphalt Institute," a news release Friday said. Bunning proudly "secured the federal funding in the 2005 Omnibus Spending Bill," a euphemism for the biggest hog trough in the nation's history.

"I am pleased to announce these funds for the University of Kentucky," Bunning said in the announcement. "These funds will be used by the University of Kentucky's Asphalt Institute to study construction practices that will make asphalt pavements last longer. With this research, we will hopefully be able to save time and energy constructing roads."

Not a big pork chop, as these things go, but any boost in the federal deficit is seen as a positive thing these days.

From Gingrich, a Thoughtful, Timely Gift

Political antennae quivered a bit last week on news that the Gingrich Foundation -- as in former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) -- had given $25,000 to establish the Newt L. and Callista L. Gingrich Scholarship at Luther College, which is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

And where is Luther College? Why, in Iowa, home of the critical, early Iowa political caucuses. So is this an indication Newt's running in 'o8? Well, turns out wife Callista is a Luther grad. Even so . . .

What Goes Around Comes Around

Robert Callahan, who has been spokesman for the director of national intelligence for a few weeks, is leaving to teach at George Washington University. Callahan, a career foreign service officer, was in Latin America with John D. Negroponte years ago. Negroponte brought him to Baghdad last year to be his spokesman at the embassy and then recruited him for the DNI job. Buzz is he'll be replaced by National Security Agency spokeswoman Judi Emmel.

Also on the security front, Maureen A. Baginski, executive assistant director for intelligence at the FBI for the past two years, is retiring from government service, sort of. She's returning as a senior adviser to the agency.

And John J. Danilovich, ambassador to Brazil and before that to Costa Rica, has been tapped to be chief executive of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the much-criticized new U.S. foreign aid program that has had a slow time getting off the ground.

Former senator Zell Miller (D-Ga.), who famously broke ranks with his party, denounced it at the GOP convention and then campaigned hard for President Bush, has received a fine reward. Bush last week appointed Miller to be a member of the little-known but prestigious American Battle Monuments Commission, the body that oversees U.S. military cemeteries and memorials around the world.

Tom Blank, acting deputy administrator at the Transportation Security Administration and former communications director to Speaker Gingrich, is moving to the lobbying shop Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates. Blank will join a new homeland security group and will also lobby for aviation clients beginning after Labor Day.