Pentagon Warns Troops Against Uniform at Political Events After DNC Video

Questions were being asked of the Pentagon and Democratic National Committee on Tuesday after two uniformed soldiers flanked American Samoa party delegates casting their vote for Joe Biden to receive the presidential nomination.

The two masked service members stood with their name tags visible and their patches identifying them as members of the U.S. Army. Uniformed service members are not supposed to participate in political events, and are instructed to remain strictly apolitical per the Department of Defense Directive 1344.10.

Asked to comment on the incident, a Pentagon spokesperson told Newsweek: "All members of the Armed Forces, including active duty members, members of the reserve component not on active duty, and retired members, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign or election events."

A U.S. Army spokesperson told Newsweek the service branch is investigating the two soldiers, both of whom belong to the 9th Mission Support Command—an Army Reserve unit based at Fort Shafter in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"Wearing a uniform to a partisan political event like this is prohibited," the spokesperson explained. "The Army follows the Department of Defense's longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign or cause."

"Examples of prohibited political activities include campaigning for a candidate, soliciting contributions, marching in a partisan parade and wearing the uniform to a partisan event."

American Samoa has a small military footprint, with no National Guard and no active duty Army deployment. The islands are home to a small Army Reserve Center that oversees several hundred reservists there.

A DNC spokesperson told Newsweek: "The composition of that shot was an oversight. Each state was asked to highlight issues and values that matter most and the American Samoa delegation wanted to highlight their commitment to military service when they filmed their segment."

Members of the military are allowed to publicly support political candidates and attend rallies, but must do so in their private time and never in uniform.

An unnamed defense official told ABC News that the appearance of the two soldiers will raise questions as to how they ended up in the DNC feed, given the political restrictions covering all active and reserve troops.

Democrats have long criticized President Donald Trump and the GOP of using the military as a political prop to win votes. But the American Samoa incident could raise concerns that the DNC is seeking to do the same—allegations Biden could do without as he tries to unseat the incumbent.

Trump has sought to cast himself as an ally of the military, regularly boasting about his push to increase America's mammoth military budget and framing his pardons for convicted and suspected war criminals as pro-military decisions.

Biden, meanwhile, plans to cut the U.S. military budget, which at $738 billion is larger than the next 10 highest spending nations combined.

This article has been updated to include statements from the DNC and the U.S. Army.

American Samoa, Pentagon, uniform, Troops, DNC, Biden
In this screenshot from the DNCC's livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Chairman of the American Samoa Democratic Party Alitama Sotao addresses the virtual convention on August 18, 2020. Handout/DNCC via Getty Images/Getty