Advisory 08-08 November 24, 2008

  1. Updated Holiday Guidance for Federal Personnel.

    SOCO has updated previous guidance on Standards of Conduct issues regarding attendance at holiday receptions, parties and involving gift exchanges including circumstances involving co-workers, contractors and supervisors. See here.

  2. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) Issues Opinion Concerning Displaying of Campaign Paraphernalia After the Election.

    Even though Senators McCain and Obama will still be Presidential candidates until January 6, 2009, OSC does not believe that civilians wearing campaign t-shirts or displaying candidate pictures after Election Day is activity directed at the success or failure of the candidates. Accordingly, the Hatch Act does not prohibit a federal civilian employee from doing so, even while on duty or in the federal workplace. See: (link inactive)

    By contrast, military personnel are governed by Department of Defense Directive (DoD) 1344.10, which is broader and more restrictive than the Hatch Act. The Directive prohibits any activity that could be viewed as directly or indirectly associating the Department of Defense with partisan political activity--not just those activities that are directed toward the success or failure of a particular candidate. Furthermore, military personnel should be sensitive to any actions that could undermine good order and discipline. Military personnel are encouraged to seek guidance from supervisors or commanders before displaying materials that might appear to associate the Department of Defense with partisan political activity.

    Military personnel should also be sensitive to requests for interviews and comments on the election by members of the media. Although allowed to express opinions about candidates, military personnel must always be clear that their views are personal and do not reflect the official position of the Department of Defense. Furthermore, they must realize that their partisan political statements to the media will be judged against the military's compelling interest in the preservation of good order and discipline, including the preservation of interests similar to those protected by Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (which limits contemptuous language directed against the President of the United States and other officials).

  3. Blanket Widely Attended Gathering (WAG) Determinations Will No Longer Be Made by SOCO.

    SOCO will no longer provide "blanket" WAG determinations for external events. As reiterated by OGE in its December 2007 memorandum on WAGs, the first criteria of the WAG rule is that an appropriate DoD official determine that an invitee's attendance at the proposed event is in the interest of the agency because it will further agency programs and operations. SOCO cannot make such a determination for the Services and other agencies, and we are concerned that the so-called blanket determination is being used as a substitute for individual analysis of agency interest. Once a determination of agency interest is made, the appropriate ethics office should then evaluate attendance at the event under the remaining WAG criteria. See U.S. Office of Government Ethics DAEOGRAM DO-07-047 for further information on WAGS here.

  4. Updated Top 100 DoD Contractors and Contactors with Contracts Exceeding $25,000.

    The most recent versions of the DoD top 100 contractors and DoD contractors with contracts exceeding $25,000 have been posted on the SOCO website.


DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this advisory is to disseminate relevant information and sources of general guidance, policy and law on Government Ethics issues to the Department of Defense ethics community. Advisories are not intended to be and should not be cited as authoritative guidance, DoD policy, or law.