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NEWS | June 11, 2020

Know before you post: politics in the service

By Staff Sgt. Kaylee Dubois 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When it comes to politics, Department of Defense employees are restricted from engaging in political activities in the federal workplace, during duty hours, or on federal property at any time.

For civilian employees, the law limiting their political activities is commonly referred to the Hatch Act. Military members are held accountable for their political activities under the DoD Directive 1344.10 and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Hatch Act

Introduced in 1939 by Congress as Title 5 of the United States Code, Section 7321-7326, and Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations, parts 733 and 734, the Hatch Act ensures federal employees don’t engage in activity that results in the success or failure of a political party, candidate or group.

According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the Hatch Act guarantees the government functions fairly and effectively by keeping federal employees free from political coercion in the workplace, while also ensuring promotions are based on merit rather than political affiliation.

Restrictions for federal employees when in pay status, other than paid leave, or if representing the government in an official capacity:

  • Use of government equipment to send or receive political content or post to social media sites.
  • Comment or post to social media sites advocating for or against a political party, candidate, office or group.
  • Distribution of campaign materials, performing campaign-related activities, displaying partisan political support to a candidate, office or party or contribute to a campaign on government time or equipment.

Employees who violate the Hatch Act are subject to a range of disciplinary actions including removal from their employment.

Although the act does not apply to active duty military members, as they are under DoD Directive, it does apply to National Guard or Reserve members working as federal civilian employees.

Political Activities by Uniformed Services

“The big thing for military members is that we’re on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and always subject to the UCMJ,” said Capt. Michelle Laurence, 633rd Air Base Wing staff judge advocate. “Any activities that military members could be punished for under the UCMJ apply, regardless of whether they’re in the office and in or out of uniform.”

According to DoD Directive 1344.10, members on active duty should not engage in political activities while in uniform to avoid creating the appearance that their political activities imply official DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a candidate, campaign or cause.

Active duty service members may not:

  • Participate in a political fundraiser, meeting, rally, convention or debate. For example managing a campaign or making speeches at rallies is seen as participation.
  • Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, solicit votes or contributions for a particular candidate or issue.
  • Serve in any official capacity with or be listed as a sponsor of a political club.
  • March or ride in a partisan political parade.
  • Display a large political sign, banner or poster on a privately-owned vehicle on and off a military installation.
  • Display a partisan political sign, banner or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation, even if part of a privatized housing development.
  • Make, receive or solicit campaign contributions from another member of the Armed Forces on active duty.

However, active duty service members may:

  • Register, vote and express a personal opinion on a political candidate and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.
  • Promote voting, as long as the member does not use their official authority or influence to interfere with the outcome of any election.
  • Join a partisan or nonpartisan political club and attend meeting not in uniform.
  • Display a political bumper sticker on a privately-owned vehicle.
  • Make monetary contributions to a political organization, party or committee favoring a particular candidate or candidates.
  • Attend a political fundraiser, meeting, rally, convention or activity as a spectator when not in uniform and when no inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval or endorsement can be reasonably drawn.

For more information and guidance on engaging in political activities as an active duty member or federal civilian employee, visit

The DoD Directive 1344.10 is available at

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel offers additional resources to civilian employees on how to avoid violating the Hatch Act and resources on proper social media etiquette. Visit their website at