Now that we are through the holiday season and charging forward towards Spring we face 2012, a presidential election year. That potentially spells problems for military personnel (active, Guard, Reserve, or retired) who want to be involved in the political process. This article is a quick reference to help you navigate the various political restrictions that apply to you as a Service Member.
Restrictions on Soldiers who want to be involved with politics
For a number of reasons, your ability to make political statements and decisions is limited while serving as a member of the Armed Forces. Here are some of the most important restrictions:
The greatest restriction is that Active-duty servicemembers are strictly prohibited from campaigning for political office or actively taking part in a political campaign–even behind the scenes.
You CAN attend a political rally as a spectator. You CANNOT wear your uniform to the rally. You CANNOT speak in front of the rally.
You CAN write a letter to the editor of a paper expressing your personal view calling for the repeal or passing of legislation and sign it as a service member.
Talking to or writing to your Member of Congress
You CAN express your personal opinion to Congress about legislation or personal issues. You CANNOT tell your Congressperson that you are speaking on behalf of your unit or the military when you tell him/her that (for example) DADT should be repealed. The right to communicate with Congress is found in Article 138, UCMJ, regarding complaints of wrongs. And you are protected from retaliation by statute, 10 U. S. Code 1034.
Talking on the radio/TV or at a program/group discussion
You CAN express your personal opinion when interviewed by the press, unless in uniform. You CANNOT tell the press that you represent the Armed Forces.
You CAN sign a petition. You CANNOT claim to represent the military when signing a petition.
You CAN put a political oriented bumper sticker on your personal car. You CANNOT put bumper stickers on military vehicles.
You CAN vote for candidates who support your views. You CAN encourage other people to vote during election times; but you cannot encourage them to vote for a particular candidate or party. You CANNOT campaign for a particular candidate representing yourself as a military member.
You CAN contribute money to political organizations.
You CAN attend a political dinner or similar fundraiser, but NOT in uniform. You CANNOT sell tickets for, or otherwise actively promote, the dinner or similar fundraising events.
- DoD Directive 1344.10, Subj: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces.
- Air Force Instruction 51-902., Subj: Political Activities by Members of the US Air Force.
- Army AR 600-200., Subj: Army Command Policy, Para. 5-3, Political Activity, and Appendix B.
- Coast Guard
- Navy. SECNAVINST 5720.44, Subj: Public Affairs Policy and Navy Regulations.
- Marine Corps Order 5370.7B., Subj: Political Activities.
- Here’s a reminder from Stars & Stripes that politicking in uniform is not allowed.
- Here is a piece by Bryant Jordan on Military.com with more on the recent “politicking” of a uniformed Reserve Soldier.
Know any other political CANs or CANNNOTs for Soldiers? Do you have any questions about the information in this article? Leave a comment below and sound off!