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Military Folks and Politics -- What You Can and Cannot Do

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It's interesting to note at this point that Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) makes it a crime for commissioned officers to use contemptuous words against the above officeholders. Commissioned officers who violate this provision can be court-martialed for a direct violation of Article 88. But, what about enlisted members and warrant officers?

DOD Directive 1344.10 - POLITICAL ACTIVITIES BY MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES ON ACTIVE DUTY, extend these same requirements to all individuals on active duty. Active duty enlisted members and warrant officers who violate these provisions can be charged under Article 92 of the UCMJ, Failure to Obey an Order or Regulation.

So, what about retired members? Well, DOD Directive 1344.10 only applies to active duty, so retired enlisted and warrant officers can pretty much say anything they want concerning the above office-holders. However, Article 2 of the UCMJ specifically states that retired members are subject to the provisions of the UCMJ. Does that mean that retired commissioned officers are prohibited from using contemptious words against the above officeholders? Technically, yes. A retired commissioned officer who utters contemptuous words against the President or other designated officeholders is technically in violation of Article 88. However, DOD Directive 1352.1 - MANAGEMENT AND MOBILIZATION OF REGULAR AND RESERVE RETIRED MILITARY MEMBERS, prohibits recalling a retired military member to active duty solely for the purpose of subjecting them to court-martial jurisdiction. Therefore, unless that retired commissioned officer was recalled to active duty for other purposes, it would not be possible to subject them to court-martial for a violation of Article 88.

Holding or Running for Political Office

Cannot - Hold civil office in the federal government, if that office:

  • is an elective office.

  • Requires an appointment by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or

  • Is a position on the executive schedule under sections 5312 through 5317 of title 5, U.S.C.
This prohibition does not apply to retired and reserve members who have been called to active duty for a period of 270 days or less, as long as the office does not interfere with military duties. If the retired or reserve members receives orders which state active duty recall will be for more than 270 days, the prohibition begins on day one of active duty.

A member on active duty may hold or exercise the functions of a civil office in the U.S. Government that does not fall into one of the three categories described above, including when assigned or detailed to such office to perform such functions, provided there is no interference with military duties.

Cannot - Hold local civil office (state, county, city), with the following two exceptions:

Any enlisted member may seek, hold, and exercise the functions of nonpartisan civil office as a notary public or member of a school board, neighborhood planning commission, or similar local agency, provided that the office is held in a non-military capacity and there is no interference with the performance of military duties.

Any officer may seek, hold, and exercise the functions of a nonpartisan civil office on an independent school board that is located exclusively on a military reservation, provided that the office is held in a non-military capacity and there is no interference with the performance of military duties.

Again, this prohibition does not apply to retired and reserve members who have been called to active duty for a period of 270 days or less, as long as the office does not interfere with military duties. If the retired or reserve members receives orders which state active duty recall will be for more than 270 days, the prohibition begins on day one of active duty.

Finally, a catch-all: When circumstances warrant, the Secretary concerned or the Secretary's designee may permit a member covered by the prohibition against holding public office, above, to remain or become a nominee or a candidate for civil office. What that means is that if a Congressman, retired from the military were recalled to active duty for more than 270 days, the Secretary of the service could allow them to retain their public office (or, even become a candidate for re-election).

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