The appearance of two uniformed Army soldiers during a presentation at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday appears to have violated a Department of Defense policy about military personnel participating in political events, raising new concerns about the politicization of the military in the political campaign season.
The incident – which a DNC official called an “oversight” – took place during the virtual roll call where representatives from American Samoa pledged the territory’s delegates for the party’s nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, and has triggered an Army investigation.
During the roll call, the representative for American Samoa was flanked by two junior enlisted soldiers wearing their uniforms.
The presence of uniformed military personnel at such an obviously political event appeared to violate Defense Department policy, but a DNC official told CNN that the inclusion of the soldiers in the broadcast “was an oversight.”
“The composition of that shot was an oversight. Each state was asked to highlight issues and values that matter most and the American Samoa delegation wanted to highlight their commitment to military service when they filmed their segment,” the official said.
The Democratic Party platform says, “Democrats believe that healthy civil-military relations are essential to our democracy and to the strength and effectiveness of our military,” adding that the party will end what it calls “the Trump Administration’s politicization of the armed forces.”
A Pentagon spokesperson told CNN that “all members of the Armed Forces, including active duty members, members of the reserve component not on active duty, and retired members, are prohibited from wearing military uniforms at political campaign or election events.”
The spokesperson referred additional questions about the incident to the US Army, which told CNN it is “investigating two soldiers from the 9th Mission Support Command who appeared in uniform during the Democratic National Convention” on August 18th.
In a statement, the Army said that “wearing a uniform to a partisan political event like this is prohibited. The Army follows the Department of Defense’s longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign or cause. Examples of prohibited political activities include campaigning for a candidate, soliciting contributions, marching in a partisan parade and wearing the uniform to a partisan event.”
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report