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Military Ethics and Conflicts of Interest

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Responsible Citizenship. It is the civic duty of every citizen, and especially DoD employees, to exercise discretion. Public servants are expected to engage (employ) personal judgment in the performance of official duties within the limits of their authority so that the will of the people is respected according to democratic principles. Justice must be pursued and injustice must be challenged through accepted means.

Pursuit of Excellence. In public service, competence is only the starting point. DoD employees are expected to set an example of superior diligence and commitment. They are expected to be all they can be and to strive beyond mediocrity.

Ethics and Conflict of Interest Prohibitions

DoD policy is that a single, uniform source of standards on ethical conduct and ethics guidance be maintained within DoD. Each DoD agency will implement and administer a comprehensive ethics program to ensure compliance.

Bribery and Graft. All DoD employees are directly or indirectly prohibited from giving, offering, promising, demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting, or agreeing to receive anything of value to influence any official act. They are prohibited from influencing the commission of fraud on the United States, inducing commitment or omission of any act in violation of a lawful duty, or from influencing testimony given. They are prohibited from accepting anything of value for, or because of, any official act performed or to be performed. These prohibitions do not apply to the payment of witness fees authorized by law or certain travel and subsistence expenses.

Compensation from Other Sources. All DoD employees are prohibited from receiving pay or allowance or supplements of pay or benefits from any source other than the United States for the performance of official service or duties unless specifically authorized by law. A task or job performed outside normal working hours does not necessarily allow employees to accept payment for performing it. If the undertaking is part of one’s official duties, pay for its performance may not be accepted from any source other than the United States regardless of when it was performed.

Additional Pay or Allowance. DoD employees may not receive additional pay or allowance for disbursement of public money or for the performance of any other service or duty unless specifically authorized by law. Subject to certain limitations, civilian DoD employees may hold two distinctly different Federal Government positions and receive salaries of both if the duties of each are performed. Absent specific authority, however, military members may not do so because any arrangement by a military member for rendering services to the Federal Government in another position is incompatible with the military member’s actual or potential military duties. The fact that a military member may have leisure hours during which no official duty is performed does not alter the result.

Commercial Dealings Involving DoD Employees. On or off duty, a DoD employee shall not knowingly solicit or make solicited sales to DoD personnel who are junior in rank, grade, or position, or to the family members of such personnel. In the absence of coercion or intimidation, this does not prohibit the sale or lease of a DoD employee’s noncommercial personal or real property or commercial sales solicited and made in a retail establishment during off-duty employment. This prohibition includes the solicited sale of insurance, stocks, mutual funds, real estate, cosmetics, household supplies, vitamins, and other goods or services. Solicited sales by the spouse or other household member of a senior-ranking person to a junior person are not specifically prohibited but may give the appearance that the DoD employee is using public office for personal gain. If in doubt, consult an ethics counselor. Several related prohibitions in this area include:

  • Holding conflicting financial interests.
  • Engaging in off-duty employment or outside activities that detract from readiness or pose a security risk, as determined by the member’s commander or supervisor.
  • Engaging in outside employment or activities that conflict with official duties.
  • Receiving honoraria for performing official duties or for speaking, teaching, or writing that relates to one’s official duties.
  • Misusing an official position, such as improper endorsements or improper use of nonpublic information.
  • Certain post-government service employment. See DoD 5500.7-R, Joint Ethics Regulation (JER), for specific guidance.
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