The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is telling troops to steer clear of politics during this extended campaign season.

According to The New York Times, Adm. Mike Mullen has written an open letter to the troops that appears in the current issue of Joint Force Quarterly, a military journal distributed widely among the officer corps.

In the letter, Mullen reminds troops of the prohibitions of politicking while in uniform.

"The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways," Mullen wrote, according to the Times piece. "It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway."

"As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times," Mullen’s letter said. "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

The Times article noted veteran officers said they couldn’t recall any similar reminders for military personnel to "remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate."

The issue of military members participating in the political process surfaced earlier this year.

In February, the Defense Department released revised directive with tighter restrictions on servicemembers participating in the political process. The new directive (Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces) expanded restrictions to include National Guard and Coast Guard members even when not on active duty.

The Times article also noted concerns raised by the Joint Chiefs about the presence of retired officers advising political campaigns and serving as news commentators on the war.

Veterans seeking office at higher rate than in ’06

More Iraq war veterans are running for Congress than in 2006, and so far Republican candidates outnumber Democrats, according to a report in Tuesday’s USA Today.

Many of the veteran candidates still face primaries, but the paper found at least 10 Democratic and 20 Republican Iraq veterans are running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

There are currently 35 combat veterans in Congress, down from 41 in 2001, according to figures from the Military Officers Association of America. Only Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., served in Iraq.

In 2006, about a dozen Iraq veterans ran for office, almost all of them Democrats. Murphy, the only successful one, faces a challenge this year from Republican Tom Manion, a Marine veteran whose son Travis was killed by sniper fire in Iraq last year.

Kieran Michael Lalor, a Republican candidate in New York and the founder of Iraq Vets for Congress, told the newspaper that the GOP veteran candidates are making victory in Iraq a major part of their campaigns.

"No good comes from a precipitous withdrawal and a lot of good would come from a stable functioning democracy in the Middle East," he told the newspaper.

Other candidates include:

Former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, a Republican, and Former Army Capt. Jon Powers, a Democrat, are among several candidates vying for the seat of retiring Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-N.Y.;Three of seven candidates seeking the seat of retiring Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., have military experience: his son, Marine reservist Duncan D. Hunter; retired Army colonel Rick Powell; and former Navy SEAL commander Mike Lumpkin.Democrat Adam Cote, an officer in the Maine Army National Guard, could face off against Republican Charlie Summers, an officer in the Naval Reserve, in the race to replace Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine.From staff reports

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