Active-duty personnel must remain nonpartisan

Whoever becomes president of the United States on Jan. 20 needs to have trust and confidence that the military “is completely loyal and completely prepared to do what must be done,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on July 31.

“Importantly, as an institution, the American people cannot be looking at us as a special-interest group or a partisan organization,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford told reporters traveling with him. “They have to look at us as an apolitical organization that swears an oath to the Constitution of the United States — not an individual, not a party, not a branch of government — the Constitution of the United States.”

Active Duty Only

The chairman emphasized he was speaking only about those currently wearing the uniform. He said he will not weigh in on the arguments about retired military officers who have taken political stands.

Being apolitical has been a touchstone to Dunford throughout his career. “It’s been part of my DNA since I was a lieutenant,” he said. The chairman said the officer who swore him into service went over the Constitution with him so he would understand the purpose of the oath.

He has long emphasized the importance of the military being an apolitical organization to leaders across the services, he said, and the Joint Chiefs themselves discussed it in a recent session.

Critical Element

Being nonpartisan is a critical element of the profession of arms in the United States, Dunford said.

Being apolitical and nonpartisan does not mean he will not vote in November, the chairman added. “I didn’t spend 39 years in uniform not to exercise my responsibility and right as a citizen,” he said. 

“I’ve got a stake in the future of our country, and I care about my children and your children and everybody else’s children. So I care about the future of our country, and I will exercise my right to vote, but no one knows the lever I pull.”

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