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Chairman’s Corner: Civil-Military Relations and the Profession of Arms

By Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2012 – I talk about the importance of “trust” at every opportunity. Trust is the cornerstone of our profession. It binds us with those we serve-the American people and the elected officials who represent them. This trust relationship cannot be taken for granted. We must continually earn and re-earn it every day.

One way we earn this trust is by avoiding partisan activities. I wrote about this in a recent Joint Force Quarterly article. We must understand why our military as a profession embraces political neutrality as a core value. We show fidelity to the Constitution every day by embracing this foundational principle. We are not elected to serve; rather, we elect to serve.

Of course, we are all entitled to our private and personal opinions. And, I know we all take our obligations as citizens seriously. No uniformed member should ever feel constrained in their well-earned right to vote.

The uniform, however, brings its own obligations. All those who actively wear the uniform should be familiar with the regulations that guide political activity. The lines between the professional, personal—and virtual—are blurring. Now more than ever, we have to be exceptionally thoughtful about what we say and how we say it.

In my judgment, we must continue to be thoughtful about how our actions and opinions reflect on the profession beyond active service. Former and retired service members, especially Generals and Admirals, are connected to military service for life. When the title or uniform is used for partisan purposes, it can erode the trust relationship. We must all be conscious of this, or we risk adversely affecting the very profession to which we dedicated most of our adult lives.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic. To gain additional perspective, I commend to you a speech given in May 2006 by Gen. Charles G. Boyd, USAF (ret.) at Air University, available at


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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Chairman’s Corner Blog on DOD Live
The Chairman on Facebook
The Chairman on Twitter

Related Articles:
Joint Forces Quarterly Article
May 2006 Speech at Air University by Air Force Gen. Charles G. Boyd

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