MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NORTH CAROLINA --
With the 2016 presidential election swiftly approaching, Department of Defense personnel are reminded of their restrictions and rights as voters to ensure a thorough, professional and well-coordinated transition without regard to political party affiliation this election year.
On Nov. 8, voters across America will take to the polls to elect the President of the United States, Vice President, House of Representative seats, Senate seats, state and territorial governors and various state representatives.
“This Fall our Nation again exercises one of our greatest freedoms, electing our next President,” said U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter in the Preparation for Orderly Transition memorandum. “With the leadership and support of each of you, we will provide the next administration with the most effective and seamless transition possible.”
While it is the right of all American citizens to cast their votes, DOD personnel must remain aware of specific responsibilities and expectations they are required to abide by, before, during and after the election.
Service members and DOD civilian employees are encouraged to exercise their right to vote in the election, but should be aware of limitations on participation in partisan political activity, which are outlined in the Hatch Act, departmental policies and DOD Directive 1344.10.
According to the Hatch Act, political activity is defined as an activity directed toward a success or failure of a political candidate or party for partisan political office or political group.
The Hatch Act groups individuals appointed by the President and confirmed by senate and non-career Senior Executive Service positions, as well as career members of the SES, contract appeals board members, employees of the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency as further restricted employees who fall under strict guidelines in terms of election and political related policies and procedures. DOD civilian employees and schedule C appointments fall under the less restricted category and are subject to a different set of political activity guidelines.
Employees labeled as further restricted are prohibited from taking part in any political activity sponsored or supported by a political party partisan political group or candidate for political office. These activities include soliciting and receiving political contributions.
DOD Employees considered less restricted are permitted in their own capacity, to volunteer with political campaigns and organizations, including organizing rallies or meetings, assisting in call centers, serving as a delegate to a party.
While it is acceptable for less restricted employees to participate in various political aspects of the election, all civilian and DOD employees, regardless of restriction level, are prohibited from engaging in political activity while on-duty or in a federal building. This includes, but is not limited to sending emails or engaging on social media even if the employee is on a personal electronic device, according to DOD Directive 1344.10.
DOD Directive 1344.10, which provides guidance for military personnel states that active duty personnel may not participate in partisan political activities and may not campaign for a partisan candidate, engage in partisan fundraising activities, serve as an office of a partisan club or speak before a partisan gathering.
Further restricted employees and active duty service members are permitted to express their personal opinions on political candidates and issues, make monetary contributions to a campaign or organization and attend political events as a spectator while not in uniform.
Social media is a rapidly growing platform used for getting our opinions, facts, information and visual content anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. DOD Directive 1344.10 states that civilian and military personnel employing the use of social media sites are permitted to express their personal views on public issues or political candidates, however, the posts must clearly and explicitly state that the views expressed in the posts are those of the individual and not of the DOD as a whole.
Active duty service members and further restricted personnel are permitted to “follow,” “like,” and “friend” political candidates or parties but are not permitted to “share” or “re-tweet” comments or posts from those running for partisan office.
In addition, service members must be mindful that their posts, comments and links fall within the guidelines set forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and their particular services regulations.
For more information and guidance, visit www.osc.gov, or http://go.usa.gov/xcTEP.