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News | Oct. 26, 2023

Hatch Act ensures federal employees remain professional, observe rules

By Sarah Gauvin and Patrick Tremblay DCMA Public Affairs

As political tensions and available technologies increase, the election season brings more challenges for federal employees who must abide by Hatch Act rules throughout the year.

Defense Contract Management Agency reminds personnel that Department of Defense and agency leadership encourage and actively support personnel in their civic duty to vote, and the department has a longstanding tradition and policy to avoid the perception of DOD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign, or cause.

The department’s guidance is driven by many things. The policy bedrock is found in the federal Hatch Act and DOD Directive 1344.10, which cover partisan political activities by civilians and military service members, respectively. Outside of these established rules, DCMA employees should also remember their behavior can have a profound effect on the workplace, and they ultimately represent the government to customers, non-federal entities, and the general public.

“The Hatch Act aims to curb the influence of partisan politics in the operation of DCMA, DOD, and the rest of the federal agencies,” said Matthew Ruzicka, senior associate general counsel with the DCMA General Counsel Office. “The basic definition is straight forward, but the rules can get complicated when dealing with social media, teleworking and remote work. Thus, if you have a question about the Hatch Act, it’s always best to contact your local ethics counselor.”

Social media platforms have transformed the way everyone communicates with family members, friends, colleagues, and extended professional networks. Hatch Act rules also apply to this predominant area of DOD employee lives. Policies regarding virtual and online activity are routinely updated to reflect changes in the cyberspace area. DOD released its first department-wide social media policy, DOD Instruction 5400.17, in August 2022 and issued an update in January 2023. While the new policy provides direction for official social media accounts, it also helps draw a clear line between official and personal online presences. Another helpful guide was released by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in 2021. The Hatch Act Social Media Refresher provides a quick reference for employee use of social media platforms.

According to this DOD guidance, placing a disclaimer in social media profiles wherever possible is a simple thing employees can do to actively let people know that they are not representing DOD or the federal government when they participate in social media activity.

“The views and opinions presented are my own and not those of the Department of Defense, the Defense Contract Management Agency, or any of its components.”

The following breakdown provides guidance for DMCA employees and military members.

Everyone at DCMA has a role in building and maintaining strong teams, and ensuring DOD remains apolitical in both reality and in public perception. DCMA’s Office of General Counsel has ethics counselors  ready to assist, and they maintain a comprehensive Hatch Act page for employee information (login required). In addition to the DCMA ethics team, supervisors and DCMA leaders can help employees navigate policy rules.