Air Force

September 6, 2012

Regulations govern political activities for federal employees

Capt. Bronson Malcom
5th Bomb Wing Legal Office

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. — If you’ve turned on your TV lately, you may have noticed that campaign season is in full swing. Air Force members are encouraged to carry out the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. As you choose where to cast your votes, however, it is important to remember that military members and federal civilian employees are subject to rules regarding participation in political activities.

When it comes to participating in political activities, always avoid the appearance of official endorsement or approval. Never wear your uniform to a political event. And if you are expressing your opinion on a political candidate or issue, ensure it is clear that they are your views and not those of the Air Force or Department of Defense.

For more detailed guidance, Air Force members should refer to AFI 51-902, Political Activities by Members of the Air Force. Federal civilian employees should refer to the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §7324. For questions, contact the Legal Office or your Union Representative.


Military members are permitted to:

  • Vote.
  • Join a partisan political club and attend it’s meetings as a spectator when not in uniform.
  • Sign a petition for specific legislation or to place a candidate’s name on a ballot.
  • Write a letter to the editor expressing the member’s personal views, so long as it is clear that they are not the views of the Air Force or DoD.
  • Make monetary contributions to a political organization, party, or committee favoring a particular candidate or slate of candidates.
  • Display a political bumper sticker on their private vehicle.
  • Wear a political button or t-shirt so long as there is no appearance of official endorsement.
  • Participate fully in the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Military members are prohibited from:

  • Participating in partisan political fundraising activities.
  • Using official authority or influence to interfere with an election.
  • Publishing partisan political articles, letters, or endorsements signed or written by the member that solicit votes for or against a candidate or cause. This is distinguished from a letter to the editor.
  • Serving in any official capacity or sponsoring a partisan political club.
  • Speaking before a partisan political gathering.
  • Participating in a radio, TV, or other program as an advocate of a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.
  • Marching or riding in a partisan political parade.
  • Displaying a large political sign, banner, or poster (as distinguished from a bumper sticker) on a private vehicle.
  • Displaying a large political sign, banner, or similar device at a residence on a military installation, even if that residence is part of privatized housing.
  • Participating, while in uniform, in any activity which may imply Air Force sanction of the cause for which the activity is conducted.
  • Using contemptuous words against the office holders described in 10 U.S.C. §888.

Federal civilian employees are permitted to:

  • Vote.
  • Be a member of a political party or partisan group.
  • Serve as officers of a political party or partisan group.
  • Participate in a political caucus, convention, or rally.
  • Display a political sticker or button off duty.

Federal civilian employees are prohibited from:

  • Receiving or soliciting political contributions.
  • Conducting any political activity that creates a real or apparent conflict of interest with the full and impartial performance of their official duties.

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Photo by Tech Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen, NC Air National Guard.

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