Ethics 101: Off Duty Employment


Many Airmen find themselves looking to pursue off-duty employment in conjunction with their full time military duties. In many cases, these opportunities allow for Airmen to expand their knowledge in fields outside of their normal military duties. As such, everyone from the Airman entrepreneur trying to develop and sell their own App, to the Airman looking to supplement their income as an Uber driver, have some great opportunities to pursue. Yet, there are very specific rules in place that put limitations on these commitments due to our military obligations.  In short, all military members are required to submit an AF Form 3902 to their supervisor for approval of off-duty employment at least two weeks prior to starting off-duty employment according to ACCI 51-901, Off-duty Employment. 

What Employment May I Seek?

Generally, Airmen may seek employment from a plethora of businesses in the local community; like a grocery store, restaurant, or even self-employment. These are very common scenarios that Airman take advantage of everyday in the Air Force with the proper concurrence by their commanders. However, some arrangements that don’t look exactly like employment still need to be routed through the appropriate channels for approval.  For example, a military member getting paid or receiving a benefit for posting in a blog, Social Media page (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, Youtube channels), or motivational speaking all require the same processing as traditional off-duty jobs. Additionally, there are many collateral issues that Airman should be aware of as they seek employment.

Conflicts of Interest

One of the most important issues to be aware of is a Conflict of Interest. Off-duty employment prohibits Airmen from accepting or participating in positions that would create a conflict of interest. Specifically, even if there is not an actual conflict of interest but there is an appearance of one, the presence alone would potentially prohibit the employment. 5 C.F.R 2635.802.

You may not engage in off-duty employment or an outside activity that conflicts with your official duties.  A conflict of interest rises if the activity requires your disqualification from matters critical to performance of your official duties.  See 18 U.S.C. § 208.

Federal Government Employment

Active Duty Military Members may not accept compensation for holding another Federal position because their military duties make them “on call” 24 hours a day. JER 5-404. Although, military personnel on terminal leave pending separation under honorable conditions may accept a Federal position. 5 U.S.C. § 5534a.

Civilian Employees may hold separate and distinct federal positions. 5 U.S.C. § 5536. JER § 5-405.

Active Duty Military may NOT receive compensation for official acts or duties. Federal employees may not receive compensation for performing official acts or completing their official duties from any source other than their Federal Government employer. Further, 18 USC 209, a criminal provision, prohibits employees from receiving any salary or contribution to or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States as compensation for services as a government employee.

Military personnel may not wear the uniform in connection with furthering political activities, private employment, or commercial interests or when participating in activities such as unofficial public speeches, when Service sponsorship or sanction may be implied.


A military member cannot endorse a product or company in connection with their military service.  This is commonly seen when military members are solicited for endorsement as fitness models, supplement promoters, or financial management promoters. A military member must seek the proper approval through the off-duty employment process before accepting these roles. Even if no money is exchanged, the endorsement and acceptance of products or services is still considered compensation making the arrangement subject to the off-duty employment rules. There are also additional ethical considerations when military members are working with these companies as they still must be mindful of their military role. For example, a MSgt cannot be soliciting junior members to try a product or service even though they are doing so off duty. These ethical and professional standards should be reviewed before approving this type of employment.

How much can I work Off-Duty?

The amount of time a member is allowed to work off-duty is left to the discretion of supervisors and Commanders.  It is important that off-duty employment not be allowed to interfere with a member’s military duties.  For example, an Aircrew member would not be allowed to work off-duty during their allotted crew-rest time. Or, a member working a night club and having to perform their military duties early the next day would not be appropriate.  The golden rule that most Commanders apply is no more than 20 hours a week outside of normal duty hours.

Getting Approval

Before beginning any off-duty employment a member must first complete an AF IMT 3902. Every block needs to be completely filled out and submitted through the chain of command. The concurrence of the member’s supervisor must be signed and routed through the JA office and eventually to the Commander for final approval. Only after the Commander has approved the off-duty employment may the member begin working.

Too many rules?

This process may appear to be more complicated than it is, however if you are confused about the rules, or not sure you’re taking the appropriate actions, please call the legal office. We’re here to help in any way possible!