HomeEthics Program ResourcesDoD Ethics GuidanceSOCO Advisories2016 SOCO AdvisoriesAdvisory 16-02 July 29, 2016

Advisory 16-02 July 29, 2016

SPECIAL EDITION
REMINDERS ON POLITICAL ACTIVITY
A. General Rules

All DoD personnel-military and civilian-must be aware of the various limitations that exist when it comes to participation in political activity. It is extremely important that you familiarize yourself with the applicable rules. A short summary of the rules and links to further guidance are included below.

The Hatch Act, its implementing regulations, and DoD policy govern civilian employees' participation in political activities. For purposes of the Hatch Act, political activity is defined as "an activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office or partisan political group." Although all civilian DoD employees are covered by these restrictions, some employees are subject to additional, heightened restrictions regarding their involvement in political activities. It is extremely important that DoD employees adhere to the restrictions that apply specifically to them.

  1. Civilian Employees
     

    Further Restricted Employees -- includes Presidential Appointees confirmed by the Senate (PAS), non-career and career members of the SES, contract appeals board members, all employees of the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Geo-Spatial-Intelligence Agency. These employees are prohibited from engaging in political activity. Partisan Political Activity Rules for (Further Restricted) DoD Civilians. Specifically, further restricted employees are prohibited from engaging in any political activity which is "in concert" with a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office. "In concert" activity is any activity that is sponsored or supported by a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office. Prohibited activities also include soliciting or receiving political contributions.

    Less Restricted Employees -- includes all other civilian employees not listed above, including Schedule C political appointees. These employees are permitted to engage in certain political activities while off-duty and outside Federal buildings. Partisan Political Activity Rules for (Less Restricted) DoD Civilians. Examples of permitted volunteer activities include: organizing political rallies and meetings, making phone calls on behalf of a candidate, serving as a delegate to a party convention, and working for a political party to get out the vote on Election Day.

    All civilian employees are prohibited from: engaging in political activity while on duty or while in a Federal building; misusing one's official authority to interfere with or affect an election; soliciting, accepting or receiving a political contribution (regardless of time or place); and running for public office in a partisan election.
    Special attention must be given to engaging in political activity while on-duty or in a Federal building.; Both further and less restricted employees are prohibited from sending or forwarding political emails, posting political messages to a Facebook account or engaging in political tweeting while in a Federal building (including when off-duty), even if the employee is using her personal smartphone, tablet, or computer. Employees should never use government equipment when engaging in political activities. The attached Office of Special Counsel Press Release illustrates these issues.

  2. Military Personnel
     

    The primary guidance concerning political activity for military members is found in DoD Directive 1344.10 [Guidance for Military Personnel]. Per longstanding DoD policy, active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.

B.Social Media and Government Equipment
 

Civilian and military personnel may generally express their personal views on public issues or political candidates via social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or personal blogs, much the same as they would be permitted to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. If, when expressing a personal opinion, personnel are identified by a social media site as DoD employees, the posting must clearly and prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not of the Department of Defense. See Social Media and the Hatch Act - FAQs Social Media - Guidance for the Armed Forces. You can find this and other related information on the DoD Guidance Index or the Ethics Counselor's Deskbook.

​C.DoD Support to Campaigns

 

Any activity that may be reasonably viewed as directly or indirectly associating DoD, or any component or personnel of DoD, with a partisan political activity or is otherwise contrary to the spirit and intention of this guidance must be avoided. Consistent with this, installation commanders must decline requests for military personnel or federal civilian employees to appear in or support political campaign or election events in their official capacities, with the exception of providing joint Armed Forces color guards at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, and other political parties formally recognized by the Federal Election Commission. In addition, installation commanders shall not permit the use of military facilities by any candidate for political campaign or election events, including public assemblies or town hall meetings, speeches, fundraisers, press conferences, post-election celebrations and concession addresses.

D.Use of Official DoD Seals and Emblems
 

Official seals of DoD and the Military Services may only be used for official purposes. Military Service marks, including those appearing on flags, "may not be licensed for use in a manner that creates a perception of DoD endorsement of any non-federal entity or its products or services." DoDI 5535.12, Encl. 2, ¶ 2.d. DoD personnel authorized to participate in political activities in their personal capacities must not sanction use of a Military Service mark or flag or otherwise create an actual or apparent endorsement of a candidate or campaign by DoD or a Military Service
 

​​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.