Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), a member of the National Guard, released a statement today saying he has requested to conduct his annual training in Afghanistan.
"As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I have service obligations that I fulfill each year," Brown said in the statement. "Following in the tradition of other lawmakers who have completed their military service requirements overseas, this year I have requested to conduct my annual training in Afghanistan. Doing so will help me to better understand our ongoing mission in that country, and provide me first-hand experience for my duties on the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs committees."
There is some question, however, as to whether that would be allowed for a candidate for office or an elected official generally. It appears he would need a waiver from the Defense Secretary in order to do so, and it's something Sen. Mark Kirk (R), when he was a congressman, ran into.
According to Section 4.2.2 of a Feb. 19, 2009 Defense Department Directive called, “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces”:
4.2.2. A regular member, or a retired regular or Reserve Component member on active duty under a call or order to active duty for more than 270 days, may not be a nominee or candidate for the offices described in subparagraph 4.2.1., except when the Secretary concerned grants permission.
188.8.131.52. Such permission is required regardless of whether evidence of nomination or candidacy for civil office is filed prior to commencing active duty service or whether the member is an incumbent.
184.108.40.206. If a member covered by the prohibition in subparagraph 4.2.2. becomes a nominee or candidate for civil office prior to commencing active duty, then the member must request permission in writing and submit the request to the Secretary concerned before entering active duty. The member must understand that if the Secretary concerned does not grant permission, then the member must immediately decline the nomination or withdraw as a candidate.
4.1.2. A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not:
220.127.116.11. Participate in partisan political fundraising activities (except as permitted in subparagraph 18.104.22.168.), rallies, conventions (including making speeches in the course thereof), management of campaigns, or debates, either on one’s own behalf or on that of another, without respect to uniform or inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement. Participation includes more than mere attendance as a spectator. (See subparagraph 22.214.171.124.)
126.96.36.199. Use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others.
188.8.131.52. Allow or cause to be published partisan political articles, letters, or endorsements signed or written by the member that solicits votes for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause. This is distinguished from a letter to the editor as permitted under the conditions noted in subparagraph 184.108.40.206.
220.127.116.11. Serve in any official capacity with or be listed as a sponsor of a partisan political club.
18.104.22.168. Speak before a partisan political gathering, including any gathering that promotes a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.
22.214.171.124. Participate in any radio, television, or other program or group discussion as an advocate for or against a partisan political party, candidate, or cause.
126.96.36.199. Conduct a political opinion survey under the auspices of a partisan political club or group or distribute partisan political literature.
188.8.131.52. Perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign, on an election day, or after an election day during the process of closing out a campaign.
184.108.40.206. Solicit or otherwise engage in fundraising activities in Federal offices or facilities, including military reservations, for any political cause or candidate.
220.127.116.11. March or ride in a partisan political parade.
18.104.22.168. Display a large political sign, banner, or poster (as distinguished from a bumper sticker) on a private vehicle.
22.214.171.124. Display a partisan political sign, poster, banner, or similar device visible to the public at one’s residence on a military installation, even if that residence is part of a privatized housing development.
126.96.36.199. Participate in any organized effort to provide voters with transportation to the polls if the effort is organized by or associated with a partisan political party, cause, or candidate.
188.8.131.52. Sell tickets for or otherwise actively promote partisan political dinners and similar fundraising events.
184.108.40.206. Attend partisan political events as an official representative of the Armed Forces, except as a member of a joint Armed Forces color guard at the opening ceremonies of the national conventions of the Republican, Democratic, or other political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Committee or as otherwise authorized by the Secretary concerned.
220.127.116.11. Make a campaign contribution to, or receive or solicit (on one’s own behalf) a campaign contribution from, any other member of the Armed Forces on active duty. Any contributions not prohibited by this subparagraph remain subject to the gift provisions of sections 2635.301-2635.304 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (Reference (f)). See subparagraph 18.104.22.168. for general prohibitions on partisan fundraising activity.
4.1.3. Commissioned officers shall not use contemptuous words as prohibited by section 888 of Reference (b) or participate in activities proscribed by DoD Directives 5200.2 and 1325.6 (References (g) and (h), respectively).
4.1.4. Subject to any other restrictions in law, a member of the Armed Forces not on active duty may take the actions or participate in the activities permitted in subparagraph 4.1.1., and may take the actions and participate in the activities prohibited in subparagraph 4.1.2, provided the member is not in uniform and does not otherwise act in a manner that could reasonably give rise to the inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval, or endorsement.