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A Briefing on Standards of Conduct for Service Personnel

AS IS THE CASE with all regulations, it is wise for each Navyman to familiarize himself with the prescribed "standards of conduct" that have become policy for components under the Department of Defense.

Regulations require naval personnel to comply with the high ethical standards demanded of all public servants. These standards of conduct regulations are particularly aimed at preventing any possible conflict between private interests and official duties. They are based on standards prescribed by the President for personnel within all departments of the federal government, and on laws passed by Congress.

Generally, the standards require all personnel to refrain from any private business - or professional activity, or from having any direct or indirect financial interest, which would place them in a position of conflict between their private interests and the public interests of the United States.

In particular, in the case of Navymen, this applies to activities related to an individual's duties and responsibilities within the Department of Defense. Even though, technically, a conflict may not exist, individuals must avoid the appearance of such a conflict from a public confidence point of view.

Also prohibited is the use, or appearance of use, of "inside" information gained through a DOD position to further a private interest.

The, regulations governing standards of conduct, contained in SecNav Inst 5370.2D of 29 Jun 1966, do not preclude Navymen from having financial interests or engaging in other legal financial transactions that do not create a conflict of interests.

Some acts which are prohibited include:

  • Having dealings with military, ex-military or civilian personnel of the government if such action violates a statute or DOD policy.
  • Pursuing activities in behalf of nongovernmental associations or organizations that are incompatible with an individual's government position;
  • Soliciting and selling commercially to other military personnel junior in rank or rate (including, but not limited to, the solicitation and sale of insurance, stocks, mutual funds, real estate, goods, commodities or services). Note: This prohibition does not apply to the one-time sale by an individual of his own personal property or private dwelling.
  • Behaving in a criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral or notoriously disgraceful manner, or any other way which would be considered prejudicial to the government.
  • Accepting or agreeing to accept anything of value in return for performing or refraining from performing an official act.

The restrictions on accepting gratuities are covered in detail. Except as provided below, DOD personnel may not solicit or accept any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or any other thing of monetary value from any person or organization which:

  1. Is engaged or is endeavoring to engage in procurement activities or business or financial transactions of any sort with any agency of the DOD;
  2. Conducts operations or activities that are regulated by any agency of the DOD; or
  3. Has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the official duty of the DOD personnel concerned.

Any gratuity or consideration bestowed upon members of the immediate families of DOD personnel is viewed in the same light as those bestowed upon DOD personnel.

A gratuity includes any tangible item, intangible benefits, discounts, tickets, passes, transportation and accommodations or hospitality given or extended to or on behalf of the recipient.

However, the regulations in this area take into consideration varied situations. The following circumstances do not violate prescribed standards of, conduct:

  1. Instances in which the interests of the government are served by participation of DOD personnel in widely attended luncheons, dinners and similar gatherings sponsored by industrial, technical and professional associations for the discUSSion of matters of mutual interest to government and industry. Participation by DOD personnel is appropriate when the host is the association and not an individual contractor. However, acceptance of gratuities or hospitality from private companies in connection with an association's activities is prohibited;
  2. Situations in which the interests of the government are served by participation of DOD personnel in activities at the expense of individual defense contractors when the invitation is addressed to and approved by the employing agency of DOD. These activities include public ceremonies of mutual interest to industry, local communities and the department;
  3. Luncheons or dinners at a contractor's plant on an infrequent basis, when the conduct of official business within the plant will be facilitated and when no provision can be made for individual payment;
  4. Situations in which, in the judgment of the individual concerned, the government's interest will be served by participation of DOD personnel in activities at the expense of a defense contractor. In any such case when DOD personnel accept any gratuity, favor, entertainment or the like, either directly or indirectly, from any person or organization, a report of the circumstances should be made within 48 hours to the appropriate office;
  5. Accepting specialty advertising items of trivial intrinsic value;
  6. Customary exchange of social amenities between personal friends and relatives on a personal basis;
  7. Accepting things that are available impersonally to the general public or classes of the general public;
  8. Accepting trophies, entertainment, rewards or prizes given to competitors in contests which are open to the public generally or which are officially approved for participation in by DOD personnel;
  9. transactions between and among relatives which are personal and consistent with the relationship;
  10. Accepting loans from banks or other financial institutions on customary terms to finance proper and usual activities of employees such as home mortgage loans;
  11. Attending social activities engaged in by officials of the department and officers in command or their representatives with local civilian leaders as part of community relations programs;
  12. Utilizing contractor-provided local transportation while on official business and when alternative arrangements are clearly impracticable;
  13. Participating in civic and community activities when the relationship with the defense contractor can be reasonably characterized as remote; for example, participating in a little league or Combined Federal Campaign luncheon which is subsidized by a concern doing business with a defense agency;
  14. Receiving bona fide reimbursement, not prohibited by law, from other than defense contractors for actual expenses for travel and other necessary subsistence for which no government reimbursement is made. However, a member may not be reimbursed, and payment may not be made on his behalf, for excessive personal living expenses, gifts, entertainment or other personal benefits.

Except as provided above, personnel on official business may not accept contractor-provided transportation, meals or overnight accommodations in connection with such official business so long as government or commercial transportation or quarters are reasonably available. Where, however, the over-all government interest would be served in specific cases, the order-issuing authority may authorize contractor-provided transportation or overnight accommodations.

Several other regulations pertaining to standards of conduct include:

  • No officer or employee of the United States shall solicit contributions from other officers or employees to buy a gift for a superior; nor shall any such superior accept any gift from people who receive less salary then he.
  • DOD personnel may not use government property of any kind for other than officially approved activities. Government facilities, property and manpower, such as stenographic and typing assistance, mimeograph and chauffeur service, may be used only for official government business.
  • Civilian personnel and military personnel on active duty may not use their titles or positions in connection with any commercial enterprise, except as authors of material that has been properly cleared with the Department of Defense for publication.
  • Retired military personnel and members of Reserve components not on active duty are permitted to use their military titles in connection with commercial enterprises. However, titles should not be used in any way that casts discredit on the military services, and no implication should be made that sponsorship, sanction, endorsement or approval of the commercial enterprise has been made by any of the services or the Department of Defense.


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