Recently, Cpl. Jesse Thorsen, an Army reservist, took the podium at a rally for presidential candidate Ron Paul in Iowa – disregarding Defense Department Directive 1344.10, which restricts political activity by DoD personnel.
The corporal’s impromptu appearance sparked quite the bit of controversy for the Army and led one Colorado lawmaker to believe troops need a reminder on political events.
Rep. Mike Coffman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who served in the Army and Marine Corps, wants the DoD to “reinforce what the regulations are and issue a warning to the respective service chiefs to ensure that this type of activity does not occur in the future.”
Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, released a memo Jan. 20, encouraging Marines to get familiar with the regulations applicable to service members and DoD employees.
“As the 2012 elections approach, I encourage all Marines and Marine Corps employees to exercise their civic rights to participate in our Nation’s political process to the maximum permissible extent,” he said.
“It is important to remember that there is a distinction between merely attending and fully participating in political activities, the latter of which has the potential to be perceived as improper sponsorship or endorsement.”
Here’s a quick guide to ensure you’re not “that guy,” this election year.
DoD Directive 1344.10: Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces is applicable to all DoD components.
While engaging in permissible political activities, members of the Armed Forces shall refrain from participating in any political activity while in military uniform.
Active duty members may:
Register, vote and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but NOT as a representative of the Armed Forces.
Sign a petition for a specific legislative action or to place a candidate’s name on an official election ballot, if the signing does not obligate the member to engage in partisan political activity and is done as a private citizen.
Display political bumper stickers on private vehicles.
Active duty members shall not:
Serve in any official capacity with or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club.
Speak before a partisan political gathering; including any that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.
Participate in any radio, television or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate or cause.
Display a large political sign, banner or poster on a private vehicle.
Display a partisan political sign , poster, banner or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation.
Cover your six:
The policy does not provide guidance for engagement on social media platforms specifically. If you’re going to express your opinion on political issues/candidates as a service member, be sure to clearly state that the views expressed are your own and not the perspective of the DoD, the Marine Corps and are not necessarily endorsed by either entity.
All military personnel are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 88 specifically prohibits commissioned officers from speaking out publicly about political leadership.
See more on DoD Directive 1344.10.