Just over 26 years, 5 presidents and 14 congresses ago, I raised my right hand and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. The martial aspects of “support and defend” are obvious. The Army is prepared to use military force at the direction of constitutional authorities to protect the nation.
Soldiers, however, are not the only people who promise to support and defend the Constitution. Federal civilian employees take essentially the same oath as military officers. The oath for both is prescribed by 5 U.S.C. §3331. Apart from the use of armed force, what does “support and defend” mean? Here is how I interpret it in my setting:
I will, to the best of my ability, accomplish the missions given me by the chain of command headed by the lawfully elected President of the United States, the constitutional Commander in Chief of the Army, in a manner consistent with the orders, regulations and policies established by those in command over me, under the authority of acts of Congress signed into law by the President, determined to be lawful and consistent with the Constitution by the Supreme Court of the United States.