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Can my Chain of Command require me to give them all personal information regarding my finances?

Can my Leader require me to turn in a paperwork about how much my wife and I spend? They want to know absolutely everything, including how much we use for groceries, entertainment, and how much we put into savings and how much is in our checking and savings.

Company Command: The Bottom Line - Army Leadership Guide

Short Answer

Based on the information you provided ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Discussion

It is a violation of your right to privacy protected under the Fourth Amendment.  It is an order without legal justification and thus, an unlawful order.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

 There is no basis possible that would allow a Leader, or Commander for that matter, to require a Soldier to provide all their financial information.  The only exception would be if the Soldier was under investigation and a warrant was issued ordering the Soldier to comply.

What financial expertise and training does the Leader have?

What is the basis for the request?  If the Soldier is having financial problems, then they should be referred to ACS, but the unit cannot force the Soldier to participate.  The Soldier can be disciplined under UCMJ for failure to pay debts and obligations, but not for refusing to provide his financial information.

The unit needs to realize that the information they are requesting also violates the Soldier’s spouse’s privacy.  Financial records of married couples are considered joint property by law.  The military has no authority over the Soldier’s spouse.  Even if the order was legal, which it is not, the simple fact that the spouse refuses to provide the documentation is enough to prevent the disclosure.

The command needs to look at it this way.  It is unlawful for a member of the command to go into the Soldier’s home and conduct a search for his financial records.  Ordering the Soldier to bring the financial records in is the exact same thing.  They are trying to obtain protected information by force.  It would take a warrant to enter the Soldier’s home and take the records; it also takes a warrant to force the Soldier to produce the records on their own.

Items to Consider

  • Discussing it with the chain of command
  • Entering  a complaint with the Commander
  • Making an IG complaint
  • Talking with the BDE Legal Office
  • Comply but with a certified finance person at ACS, etc.

Is this the Battle to Fight?

Is this the battle you want to fight?  Not all battle are worth the fight!  The command can highly encourage you to provide the information but cannot force you to do so.  Are they trying to help?  Do you need help? Do you really need to provide all the information? Do you want to be THAT GUY who bucks the system at every turn?  At some point every Soldier screws up.  If you are the Soldier who creates grief for his NCO leadership over trivial issues, you may not get the support you desire when you have to stand before the 1SG or Commander.  I am in no way saying this is correct I am just saying to think through your response.

Your Attitude and Tone

Your attitude and tone in handling issues like this are very important.  It is very important that you be factual, respectful, calm, and professional.  Take the high road.  If you get emotional it will not workout in your favor.

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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