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The Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Office (SOCO) is an element of the Defense Legal Services Agency (DLSA) under the Deputy General Counsel for Personnel and Health Policy (DGC/P&HP). Pursuant to Executive Order 12674, April 12, 1989, the head of each agency is charged to "[e]nsure that the rank, responsibilities, authority, staffing, and resources of the Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) are sufficient to ensure the effectiveness of the agency ethics program" (Sec. 301(e)). The primary DAEO within DoD and the DAEO for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), to include all DoD agencies and commands who do not have a separate DAEO, is the DoD General Counsel. SOCO administers the responsibilities of the DAEO, which are aligned along three main lines of effort: establishing DoD-wide ethics policies and regulations, managing the OSD DAEO Agency ethics program, and providing ethics advice and counsel to OSD personnel. This includes working with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to conduct ethics vetting of all incoming DoD Presidentially Appointed Senate confirmed (PAS) officials.
SOCO prepares policy guidance for Department-wide application through the DoD supplemental regulations at 5 C.F.R. Part 3601, the "Standards of Conduct" Directive (DoDD 5500.7), the "Joint Ethics Regulation" (JER) (DoD 5500.7-R), and written opinions. Through the Committee on Standards of Conduct and a monthly “Coordinating Group,” SOCO facilitates the consistent application of ethics policy by approximately 3,000 ethics counselors throughout the Department of Defense. SOCO also provides informal guidance and assistance to other DoD DAEO organizations, and SOCO attorneys routinely interact with OGE, Congressional staff, the news media, and industry to address myriad ethics matters.
As the Principal Staff Assistant with oversight of financial disclosure reporting systems used by 195,000 personnel throughout DoD, SOCO ensures the operational integrity of these online tools, while also authoring DoD policy for review and certification of financial disclosure reports throughout DoD.
SOCO attorneys provide ethics advice and counseling to personnel assigned to OSD and affiliated organizations. SOCO directly manages financial disclosure reporting, ethics training, post-government employment, and other ethics compliance requirements for OSD personnel. SOCO manages the OSD DAEO Agency ethics program with the assistance of organizational Deputy DAEOs at Defense Agency, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Combatant Command levels. SOCO conducts periodic Program Assist Visits at DDAEO organizations to evaluate and identify best practices and areas where SOCO can provide assistance.