Soldier-Politicians

Bill Kelly points us to the story of Steve Stivers, a Columbus, Ohio Republican running for re-election to the state Senate who is being deployed “in support of the war in Iraq” in his capacity as commander of the 237th Personnel Services Batallion. He plans to hold on to his seat even though he’ll be gone for a year or more.

Interestingly, this contrasts with the story of State Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, who is being told she’ll have to give up her seat while she’s on active duty with the Hawaii National Guard.

A judge advocate general assigned to the Hawaii National Guard reached the conclusion based on an Aug. 2 Defense Department directive, said spokesman Maj. Charles Anthony. “It seems as though once you’re on federal active duty … for 270 days or longer, you cannot act in dual capacities,” Anthony said. “In other words, you can’t be an elected official and a soldier at the same time. That’s our read on it.” But Tamayo, 23, who was activated Monday along with some 2,000 members of the Hawaii Army National Guard and Reserves, said she believed the directive may apply only to full-time, active-duty military and not members of the National Guard. Tamayo had volunteered to leave the Hawaii Army National Guard’s medical command, which is not being deployed at this time, for a unit being deployed that provides medical support for the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade.

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Historically, it has not been at all uncommon for state level officials to also serve in the military reserves. In Alabama, for example, the Attorney General is automatically commissioned in the National Guard.

Several Members of Congress have also maintained commissions in the reserves. Perhaps the most notable modern case was Senator Barry Goldwater, who was a general in the Air Force Reserve. This situation is somewhat more complicated, since it would seem to violate the Constitution’s prohibition of officials simultaneously serving in both the Executive and Legislative branch. Still, in an era where very few of our political leaders have military experience, it seems like a bad idea to discourage those who want to serve.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bryan says:

    Sen. Lindsey Graham is also in the reserves as a JAG (I believe).