Ask a JAG: Unit fundraising on base

holiday partiesBy Capt. Chip Ladd (U.S. Army)
Stuttgart Law Center

Q. Help! My unit is throwing a holiday ball and the tickets are $50 each! My buddies and I don’t have that kind of money at this time of year. Our section chief said we can sell bratwurst on the J-Mall during the duty day to pay for our tickets. Is that legal?

A. No. Official duty time is considered an official federal resource, similar to government purchase cards, computers, or vehicles. Federal government resources, which include equipment, property, and personnel, shall be used by Defense Department employees for official purposes in accordance with the Joint Ethics Regulation (DOD 5500.7-R).

The DOD’s official purpose is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.

Fundraising in the federal workplace or during official duty time is generally prohibited.

Congress enacted the Department of Defense Appropriations Act to fund your unit’s mission. Congress funds charities through other programs. Further, Congress provides over $50 billion per year to parents to defray childrearing costs through the Earned Income Tax Credit and $60 billion per year for scholarships through the Department of Education.

Additionally, Congress funds over $150 billion each year in regular pay and allowances for service members.

Service members are authorized to pay for personal expenses such as office parties or holiday balls out of pocket.

Office parties or holiday balls are important to the morale of an organization but we often forget they are not official events. Therefore, official resources may not be used to plan, conduct or fundraise for them. Meaning, if you are a federal government employee, you cannot use duty time to fundraise.

However, service members and DOD employees may also use ordinary vacation time, accrued leave, or weekends to conduct unofficial activities such as fundraising.

Conservation of government resources is especially important in our current fiscal environment of sequestration and force reductions. Leaders must make difficult decisions on how to prudently manage DOD resources.

If you are having problems paying for your holiday parties, you can contact the Army Community Service Financial Readiness advisors for budget advice. ACS is located in Building 2915, Panzer Kaserne, or call 431-3362/civ. 07031-3362.

If you are motivated to give to a good cause, but do not want to violate the Joint Ethics Regulation and lose your job, contact your Combined Federal Campaign coordinator or visit http://cfcoverseas.org.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152. If you have a legal question you would like to see answered in The Citizen, write “Ask a JAG” at stuttgartmedia@eur.army.mil.