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From the E Ring to the Convention Floor: Retired Flag Officers and Presidential Elections

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Technical Report,01 Jun 2018,31 May 2019

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Although the concept of an a political professional military has widespread acceptance, active and retired general and flag officers have been involved with presidential politics throughout US history, either running as candidates for office, or endorsing candidates for office. Many observers consider such partisan endorsements by retired flag officers problematic. They view this partisan advocacy as potentially upsetting US civil-military relations and opening debates surrounding the apolitical professional ethic and its applicability after retirement. This monograph argues that partisan political activity by retired general and flag officers GOFOs is inappropriate and is potentially detrimental to effective civil-military relations between civilian leaders and serving senior officers. Retired senior military leaders have extensive and unique expertise with respect to many issues germane to national security strategy and policy, but partisan political endorsements fall outside that expertise, and may increase the challenges faced by currently serving GOFOs charged with providing best military advice to senior political leaders. Such advice requires political awareness and political acumen, unencumbered by partisan concerns, and enabled through trust in the military as an institution. This institutional trust should be reinforced through an apolitical professional ethic. Ultimately, this monograph finds that the militarys frequently cited apolitical professional ethic exists as little more than an abstract concept, without any foundational code of ethics.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science

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