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Troops, civilian employees must follow rules for political activities

  • Published
As U.S. servicemembers and Defense Department civilians ponder candidates during the election season, they should realize there are limits placed upon their involvement in certain political activities.

Political-related "dos and don'ts" pertaining to military members of all service branches are proscribed within Defense Department Directive 1344.10, titled: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty.

The federal Hatch Act delineates what federal civilians, including those working for the Defense Department, may or may not do in the political realm.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians may attend political events like meetings and rallies, but military members must only be spectators and not wear their uniforms.

In addition, troops aren't permitted to make public political speeches, serve in any official capacity within political groups or take part in partisan political campaigns or conventions.

Under Hatch Act rules, government civilians may be active in and speak before political gatherings or serve as officers of political parties or partisan groups. They are also allowed to manage political campaigns; distribute literature, except at work; write political articles; or serve as spokespersons for political parties or candidates.

Military members generally aren't allowed to campaign for political office. Civilians can campaign for office in non-partisan elections. Partisan political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group.

Yet, basic rules apply to both military members and government civilians. Neither can use their position in the military or the government to influence or interfere with elections. Servicemembers and federal civilians never can engage in political activity on the job, in a government vehicle or while wearing an official uniform.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians are not to distribute political literature at work. This also applies to politically partisan electronic mail messages forwarded over the Internet.

Servicemembers and government civilians are encouraged to exercise their right to vote and participate in the democratic process. But, they should know there are rules in place that govern the extent of their involvement in political activities, officials said.

(Courtesy of American Forces Press Service)

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