The General Officer Aide and the Potential for Misuse
[…] The sole mission of enlisted aides is to assist the general in the performance of military and official duties. They are “authorized for the purpose of relieving general and flag officers of those minor tasks and details which, if performed by the officers, would be at the expense of the officers’ primary military and official duties.”
There are several limitations on enlisted aides’ duties, however. First, officers are prohibited by statute from using “an enlisted member of the Army as a servant.” This generally precludes requiring an enlisted aide to perform duties that personally benefit the officer, as opposed to duties that professionally benefit the officer. Second, the duties of enlisted aides must “relate to the military and official duties of the [general officer] and thereby serve a necessary military purpose.” The language of Department of Defense Directive (DODD) 1315.9 more specifically prohibits the use of enlisted soldiers for “duties which contribute only to the officer’s personal benefit and which have no reasonable connection with the officer’s official responsibilities.” Finally, the Standards of Ethical’ Conduct for the Executive Branch, or the Joint Ethics Regulation (JER), further limit interaction between officers and their subordinates. Under the JER, subordinates’ official time may only be used for official duties.
The types of authorized duties that a superior may assign to an enlisted aide are diverse. Army Regulation 614-200 outlines a “not all inclusive” list of “official functions” or duties, including cleaning the officer’s quarters, uniforms, and personal equipment; shopping and cooking; and running errands. Many of the enumerated duties seem personal in nature. But, “[t]he propriety of the duties is determined by the official purpose they serve, rather than the nature of the duties.” In United States v. Robinson, the Court of Military Appeals asserted that a different interpretation “which would apply the proscription to the kind of work done, and not to its ultimate purpose, would so circumscribe the military community that the preparation for, or the waging of, war would be impossible.” The duties assigned to an enlisted aide only need to have a “reasonable connection” to the military duties of the general officer.
The general officer himself often determines what duties his aides are to perform and whether the duties are reasonably connected to the general’s official duties. Aides perform many of these assigned duties inside the officer’s quarters. Consequently, little or no monitoring of the enlisted aides’ activities occurs. Whether the duties actually are official is seldom questioned or known. Enlisted aides would unlikely protest if the rules were bent. After all, working for the general is a privilege and the position is highly sought. Consequently, a Specialist, or even a Master Sergeant, is unlikely to tell a general officer, “No, sir. I think that assignment crosses the ethical line.” Even if the aide knows that the task is personal, rather than official, the aide may perform the assignment loyally without ever considering a complaint. […]
Moreover, the general officer must take care to avoid requesting favors. Favors conjure the concept of personal, rather than official, requests. While requested favors may include chores reasonably related to the officer’s military duties, it may be more appropriate for the general to direct or order the performance of such official duties.
Favors may also require legal and ethical analysis. While an aide may voluntarily perform a favor, the nature of the aide’s willingness may be an issue. Whether a Specialist could freely decline to perform a requested favor is questionable. Additionally, if in performance of the favor the aide “labors or exerts himself for the personal benefit of an officer,” then the officer may be in violation of the prohibition against using a subordinate as a servant.
Moreover, favors may be improper for other reasons. Aides may only perform official duties during official time. To the degree that it is improper to use official time for personal purposes, it may be unethical for an aide to perform favors during duty hours. Furthermore, it follows that a supervisor may also violate ethical rules by allowing a subordinate to use official time for unofficial duties. Cognizant of the proscription against using official time for unofficial duties, an aide may volunteer to perform personal duties after duty hours.
An aide’s “off-duty” performance of a “favor,” however, could also be subjected to the Standards for Ethical Conduct’s gift analysis. As a general rule, subordinate employees may not give gifts to superiors, and superiors may not directly or indirectly accept gifts from subordinates. Although the Standards for Ethical Conduct provide several exceptions to the general rule, these exceptions do not apply to the “gift” of services. As most people realize, time is money; people do not normally undertake responsibilities without some sort of compensation. Therefore, the time an aide spends conducting the general officer’s unofficial or personal chores could be viewed as compensable. To the extent that the aide receives no remuneration, the favor may be a gift. That an aide conducts the service secretly should not affect the analysis. Consequently, both aides and general officers must be vigilant to ensure that aides’ duties are official, rather than personal, in nature.