Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. --
During this election season there are things that active duty service members need to know to stay out of trouble when showing support for a political party.
Service members and federal civilian employees are encouraged to register and to vote. The Federal Voting Assistance Program helps facilitate the voting process.
However, active duty military and federal civilian employees cannot take part in partisan political activities.
As defined by Department of Defense Directive 1344.10, “political activities by members of the armed forces may not be permitted to engage in campaign or election based activities while on a United States military installation.”
All of this is to avoid giving the appearance of DOD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political party.
The DOD has a longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DOD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign or cause. The DOD encourages and actively supports its personnel in their civic obligation to vote, but makes it clear that members of the Armed Forces on active duty should not engage in partisan political activities to avoid perception, according to DOD Directive 1134.10.
None of this prohibits the free discussion about political issues or candidates for public office. But there are certain things that active duty military members can't do.
All members of the Armed Forces, including active duty, reserve and retired members are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaigns or election events. This is stated in all DOD branches' uniform regulations.
Some other examples of prohibited political activities include campaigning for candidates, soliciting contributions and marching in a partisan parade. A full list of prohibited activities is listed in DOD Directive 1344.10.
All of these restrictions apply to social media forums as well. While you are allowed to express your personal view, the same restrictions apply online as they do in the real world. An active duty service member can not engage in any partisan political activity, even online. Service members cannot post or link to a political party, candidate, campaign, group or cause. It is considered equivalent to distributing literature on behalf of those entities or individuals, according to DOD Directive 1344.10.
If a social media site user is identified as an active duty member, on their site, all political based entries must prominently state that the views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the DOD.