Politics in the military

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Military and civilian employees of the Air Force are subject to special restrictions when it comes to partisan political activity. While we are encouraged to participate in the democratic process, we must be careful to do so within the rules set by Federal law as well as Department of Defense and Air Force regulations.

These rules are designed to prevent Air Force employees from engaging in conduct that might improperly associate the Department of Defense and Air Force with a partisan political cause or candidate. Any violation of these regulations could result in punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (for military) and The Hatch Act (for civilians).

Therefore, it is important to think about how we as Air Force members can participate in the political process without finding ourselves on the wrong side of the law. An important principle to remember is that you should not use your official status as a member of the Air Force to engage in partisan political activities.

Airmen should be careful to not make partisan statements or engage in conduct that would create the appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political party or candidate, even in informal venues such as personal Facebook pages and other forms of social media.

A high profile example of improper conduct can be found in a recent report on violations of the Hatch Act from The Office of Special Counsel (OSC). An Air Force civilian employee was disciplined under the Hatch Act because he sent "numerous partisan political emails using a government account to a list of as many as 60 federal employees" while on duty. Had this individual been a military member, he may have been punished under Article 88 or 92 of the UCMJ for this conduct. It is a lesson to Air Force employees, both military and civilian, on what not to do when it comes to engaging in political activity.

Department of Defense employees are encouraged to review and become familiar with Air Force Instruction 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the US Air Force and The Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. § 7321-7326. Questions or concerns regarding politics in the military should be addressed to the legal office, at 321-494-7357.