Esper Reminds Troops of Ethics Responsibilities During Election Season

As the 2020 election season gears up, Pentagon leaders are urging military personnel to be on their best behavior, and reminding troops of their ethics requirements.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said all Pentagon personnel “must be steadfast in our commitment to defend the Constitution and our nation’s democratic principles,” according to a Feb. 5 memo.

“As public servants who have taken an oath to defend these principles, we uphold DOD’s longstanding tradition of remaining apolitical as we carry out our official responsibilities,” Esper wrote. “Maintaining the hard-earned trust and confidence of the American people requires us to avoid any action that could imply endorsement of a political party, political candidate, or campaign by any element of the department.”

The memo reminds DOD personnel who are required by regulation to complete ethics training that they must do so by the end of November, and that military and civilian leaders should “regularly discuss ethics and values with their teams.”

Pentagon leadership have repeatedly faced questions about the place of politics within ranks, with troops appearing in photographs and videos with signs and clothing of political causes or endorsing candidates. In August, Esper sent a similar memo to remind DOD personnel to “continue to aim beyond compliance with basic standards.”