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Rules for political activities apply to troops, civilian employees


With the national election less than two weeks away, Defense Department officials are stressing to troops and civilian employees that federal law and DOD directives limit their involvement in certain political activities.

Political-related "dos and don'ts" pertaining to members of all service branches are proscribed within Defense Department Directive 1344.10, titled, "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty."

The federal Hatch Act delineates what federal civilians, including those working for the Defense Department, may or may not do in the political realm.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians may attend political events such as meetings and rallies, but military members must only be spectators and may not wear their uniforms. In addition, servicemembers aren't permitted to make public political speeches, serve in any official capacity within political groups or take part in partisan political campaigns or conventions.

Under Hatch Act rules, government civilians may be active in and speak before political gatherings or serve as officers of political parties or partisan groups. They're also allowed to manage political campaigns and may distribute literature, but not at work. They also may write political articles, or serve as spokespersons for political parties or candidates.

Military members generally aren't allowed to campaign for political office. Civilians can campaign for office in nonpartisan elections. Partisan political activity is defined as activity directed toward the success or failure of a political party or candidate for a partisan political office or partisan political group.

Yet, basic rules apply to both military members and government civilians. Neither can use their position in the military or the government to influence or interfere with elections. Servicemembers and federal civilians never can engage in political activity on the job, in a government vehicle or while wearing an official uniform.

For example, servicemembers and government civilians are not to distribute political literature at work. This also applies to politically partisan e-mail messages forwarded over the Internet.

Servicemembers and government civilians are encouraged to exercise their right to vote and participate in the democratic process. But they should know there are rules in place that govern the extent of their involvement in political activities, officials said.

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