Dereliction of duty widely refers to failure, through negligence or obstinacy, to perform a legal or moral duty to a reasonable expectation. In actuality, it is a specific offense under military law. Under the various regulations of military law, avoidance of a duty or failure to follow an order from a superior can result in this charge. The term has also been included in the title of two books centered around issues facing former Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Though dereliction of duty refers to a specific military offense, the same term is used to describe an occurrence of an elected official failing to perform his or her elected duty. The result of such dereliction on the part of an elected official isn’t the same as the military consequence. Under military law, a person convicted of dereliction of duty can be given a dishonorable or bad behavior discharge from his or her branch of service, and may forfeit pay or be sentenced to six months confinement. Conversely, an elected official accused of it may not be reelected or may be impeached.
The 2003 book, Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Endangered America's Long-Term National Security, authored by Robert Patterson, discusses how President Clinton neglected to lead the country with responsibility and honor in the opinion of Colonel Patterson, who served as a military aide to President Clinton. The similarly titled Dereliction of Duty : Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, authored by H.R. McMaster and published in 1998, discusses the political roles of Washington before and during the Vietnam War.
Dereliction is a form of the word derelict, derived from the Latin word derelictus, and is synonymous with "negligent," "neglectful," "abandoned" and "deserted." Derelict is also used in slang to refer to a vagrant person or a person who refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions.