Military News

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Election year etiquette for armed forces

by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
673d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

1/13/2016 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska  -- During this election cycle, all Department of Defense personnel, military and civilian, should be mindful of the proper way to participate in the political process.

According to DoD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, it is the policy to encourage DoD civilians and active duty members to carry out the obligations of citizenship without endorsing or implying an endorsement for a political party.

Although guidance for political conduct is communicated through a variety of instructions, below are some basic rules to remember.

Social Media

Civilian and military personnel are allowed to express their personal views on public issues or political candidates via social media platforms.  However, if the person is identified by a social media site as a DoD employee, the posting must state that the views are those of the employee only.  Active-duty members and restricted civilian employees may follow, friend, or like a political party or candidate running for office, but may not post links to, share or re-tweet comments from the account of a political party or candidate running for a partisan office.  Service members must also be sure not to comment, link or post anything that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice or service regulations, like showing contempt for public officials, releasing sensitive information, or posting unprofessional material that is prejudicial to good order and discipline under the UCMJ.

Active duty members

'Active duty' includes those who are on full-time and annual training duty, at a service school, retirees, members of the Reserve components not on active duty, full-time National Guard duty, and members of the National Guard even when in non-federal status.

Active-duty personnel may register to vote, encourage other members to exercise voting rights, and express personal opinions on candidates and issues. They may also join a political club and attend meetings when not in uniform, sign petitions for specific legislative action or to place a candidate's name on the ballot.

Written letters to an editor expressing personal views are also permitted as long as it's not part of an organized letter-writing campaign or solicitation of votes for or against a partisan political party or candidate. When participating, the letters are required to have a disclaimer that the views are those of the writer and not the DoD when the letter identifies the writer as DoD personnel or the association can be reasonably assumed.

They can make monetary contributions to a political organization, party, or committee; display a bumper sticker on their vehicle or attend fundraising activities, meetings, rallies, debates, conventions or other activities when not in uniform and when no appearance of sponsorship or endorsement can be reasonably drawn.

Participation in local nonpartisan political activities is allowed as long as the member is not in uniform and does not use government resources or property, the event does not interfere with duty, and there is no implied government position or involvement.

Active-duty members are not allowed to campaign for a partisan club, or speak before a partisan gathering.  They also may not publish partisan political articles or letters that solicit votes for or against a partisan political party, candidate or cause.

In addition, active duty members can't participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate or cause.  Nor may they serve in an official capacity as a sponsor or advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate or cause.

Civilian Employees

According to the Hatch Act, DoD civilians' participation in political activities are regulated by a combination of categories which list them as "further restricted" or "less restricted".

Further restricted employees include those appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate, individuals serving in non-career senior executive service positions or career members of the SES, contract appeals board members, and some others.  Specific lists are available at, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel website.

Other DoD civilian employees are qualified as less restricted.

These employees may volunteer with a political campaign or organization while in their personal capacities, like organizing political rallies and meetings, making phone calls on behalf of the candidate, or working for a political party to get out the vote on Election Day.  They are, however, prohibited from soliciting or receiving political contributions.

No matter which type of civilian employee, neither may engage in political activity while on duty or in a federal building.  Forwarding political emails, posting political messages to a Facebook page or engaging in political tweets while in a federal building (to include when off duty or when using personal equipment) is prohibited.  Also, government equipment must never be used to engage in political activities.

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