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A letter of reprimand is a United States Department of Defense procedure involving a letter to an employee or soldier from his or her superior that details the wrongful actions of the person and the punishment that can be expected. A Formal Letter of Reprimand is one in which a copy of the letter is kept on record.

In military contexts, a formal letter of reprimand can be career ending,[1] even without prescribed punishments, because it makes it difficult to secure advancements in rank or to enjoy the respect of one's peers.

In legal contexts, a letter of reprimand is sometimes called a letter of admonition. It is the lowest form of attorney discipline under the Code of Professional Responsibility.

United States Armed Forces

The Manual for Court Martial, R.C.M. 306(c)(2), states:

Administrative action. A commander may take or initiate administrative action, in addition to or instead of other action [e.g., non-judicial punishment (Article 15 or "NJP") and court-martial] taken under this rule, subject to regulations of the Secretary concerned. Administrative actions include corrective measures such as counseling, admonition, reprimand, exhortation, disapproval, criticism, censure, reproach, rebuke, extra military instruction, or the administrative withholding of privileges, or any combination of the above.

A letter of reprimand may be issued in lieu of punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A formal letter of reprimand is placed in the service member's permanent personnel record.

A letter of admonishment is less severe than a letter of reprimand, a memorandum of concern is less severe still; and a letter of counsel is the least severe formal written administrative action of this type.


On September 25, 2008, the United States Department of Defense announced that six U.S. Air Force and two U.S. Army generals and nine colonels had received letters of reprimand, admonishment, or concern because of the mishandling of fuses for nuclear weapons which were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan. Two U.S. Air Force major generals were asked to stay in their current position; the others either retired, planned to retire, or were removed from their position. Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz met with each officer personally before issuing the letters. He noted they committed no offense under the UCMJ, but "did not do enough to carry out their leadership responsibilities for nuclear oversight. "For that they must be held accountable."[2]


  1. Zuchino, David (May 29, 2010). "U.S. report faults drone crew, command posts in Afghan civilian deaths". Los Angeles Times.,0,4107014.story. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  2. The Associated Press. "Military cites poor oversight in mistaken shipment of warheads to Taiwan". MSNBC, Thurs., Sept. 25, 2008,; accessed 2008-09-26.

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