HomeMediaArticle Display

Commentary: The dos and don'ts of the political season

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- With the excitement of the presidential primaries lurking around the corner, there are a few things Airmen must remember during this upcoming political season.

When you joined the military or became a federal employee, you did so with the knowledge that this decision came with some sacrifice.

Everyone is encouraged to register to vote, research candidates and vote for the candidates. However, in order for this representative democracy to function properly, civil servants and military professionals cannot be seen as partisans.

Both military members and federal employees work for the government and in doing so they must support elected officials regardless of whether or not they voted for, or against, particular candidates. For this reason, among others, getting a paycheck directly from the federal government necessarily limits a person's ability to participate in some aspects of the political process.

Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty," and Air Force Instruction 51-902, "Political Activities by Members of the U.S. Air Force," outline permitted and restricted political actions for active military members.

Military members who violate these rules may face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

There are some reoccurring issues surrounding prohibited political activities. A frequent issue concerns whether or not an individual can display a large political sign on his or her car or truck. Displaying a large political sign on your automobile is prohibited; however, members are allowed to display a political bumper sticker on his or her car or truck.

Military members are prohibited from using official authority to influence an election or solicit votes for a specific candidate or issue.

Military members are limited in their involvement in the political process off duty as well. This includes being a candidate for, or holding, political office, except in those circumstances authorized by the AFI.

Speaking at any partisan political gathering, including a radio or television program, and advocating for a partisan political candidate or party is also prohibited.

Military members should reference AFI 51-902 when they have any questions regarding the legality of their political activities

Rules governing political activities by government civilians are found in a federal law known as the Hatch Act. DOD civilians who violate the Hatch Act face adverse personnel actions, including suspensions and employment termination.

Most restrictions surrounding the Hatch Act are centered on the prevention of supervisors influencing subordinates to participate in or contribute to partisan groups or candidates. Federal employees may not display partisan political campaign materials in the workplace.

While federal employees may express opinions about candidates and issues when off duty, when on duty, in uniform, in a federal building, or in a federally owned or leased vehicle, federal employees may not express opinions directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office or partisan political group.

There are three important things to remember during the upcoming political season. First, regardless of status, using command influence to sway subordinates to vote for a particular party, candidate or issue is prohibited by law or directive.

Second, when you receive a paycheck from the federal government, some aspects of your political freedom are limited.

Third, if you are unsure whether or not a political activity is approved, reference AFI 51-902 or contact your base legal office.

Original content found here.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Department of the Air Force does not exercise any responsibility or oversight of the content at external link destination.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of linked web sites or the information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided consistent with the mission of this web site.