The Department of Defense (DOD) encourages all military and civilian personnel and their eligible family members to register and vote. Certain provisions on campaign participation, however, apply to federal employees and members of the armed forces.
As a matter of long-standing policy, military service members and federal employees acting in their official capacity may not engage in activities that associate the DOD with any partisan political campaign or elections, candidate, cause or issue. The limitations of participation can be found in DOD Directive 1344.10, Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces, and the Hatch Act.
Under DOD Directive 1344.10, members of the armed forces who are on active duty are permitted to express their personal opinions on political candidates, make a monetary contribution to a campaign, sign a petition to place a candidate's name on the ballot, and attend a political event as a spectator. Members on active duty may not participate in partisan activities such as soliciting or engaging in partisan fundraiser activities, serving as the sponsor of a partisan club, or speaking before a partisan gathering. In addition, all military members, including National Guard and Reserve forces, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign events.
The Hatch Act allows most federal employees to actively participate in political activities on their own time and outside of the federal workplace. There are, however, significant restrictions on fundraising, running for office in partisan election and using one's official authority in the political arena. Senate-confirmed presidential appointees and non-career SES employees are subject to additional limitations. Additional restrictions are also applicable to career members of the Senior Executive Service.