Insubordination in the Military: 101

What is military insubordination, and how serious is it if you are accused of this infraction?

A core principle of military service is a respect for the chain of command. The military takes this principle so seriously that a failure to abide by it can result in serious ramifications. An allegation of failing to follow this chain of command can result in an administrative hearing. Depending on the event that led to the accusation, a military member could face allegations of insubordination.

What is insubordination?

Insubordination is defined as an enlisted member or warrant officer who:

  • Treats with contempt or disrespect a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer or petty officer while the superior is in execution of their office. Any comments that are disrespectful to a superior officer can result in allegations of insubordination. The superior officer does not need to be present or hear the comments for the allegations to move forward. Examples can include a failure to salute or the use of obscene language.
  • Willfully disobeys a lawful order from a superior. Military rules require service members to obey orders given by superior officers. For disciplinary matters, the reviewing body will consider an instruction an "order" for these purposes when it contains a lawful command that pertains to the individual's military duty.
  • Strikes or assaults a superior officer. Article 90 prohibits the use of force against a superior officer. Similar to assault and battery for civilians, the Articles refer to these matters as "offering violence" in the military world. Examples can include striking an officer and physically threatening gestures.

Insubordination can result in a court-marital. If the claim is supported, the accused could face suspension or removal from their position within the military.

What is evidence of insubordination?

Military service members may find their actions broadcasted on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. This can serve as evidence in a case of insubordination or conduct unbecoming. Additional examples can include testimony from other military service members or other available recordings.

What if a service member is accused of insubordination?

Due to the severity of penalties that can result from a successful allegation, it is important to take the accusations seriously. Defenses are available. Examples can include gathering evidence to establish the superior acted in a way that was unbecoming of their position or that the accused was unaware the other person was a superior officer at the time of the alleged act of insubordination. An attorney experienced in these military matters can tailor a defense strategy to your case, better ensuring a more favorable outcome.