Questionable military drug testing uncovered
(New York- WABC, November 3, 2006) (WABC) -- Just how easy is it to pass a drug test to join the military? The Eyewitness News Investigators went undercover and discovered if your test comes back positive for drugs, it's not necessarily a problem.
When you take an employment drug test, you usually get one shot to pass it. But when it comes to joining the Army, we found you can try again and again until you test clean for drugs. What's more, some recruiters may be coaching you every step of the way.
When we sent undercover students into recruiting offices, we found some recruiters giving tips on how drug users can pass the drug test.
Yonkers recruiter: "It usually takes between 20 to 30 days for marijuana to get out your system. So you just gotta not smoke anymore and drink a lot of water."
And our undercover students heard it again and again, it seems in the Army failing the drug test is not an option.
Student: "And you drug test, say I come up positive?"
Mt. Vernon recruiter: "You're not the only one, this is New York ... If your hot, meaning it's still in your system, we'll just give you more time to keep going in and out ..."
Our investigation has found rather than screening out potential drug users, recruiters are repeatedly testing them until they come up clean.
Student: "What happens if you fail the drug test?"
Elizabeth recruiter: "Before you go to the processing center I'm gonna give you one ... If you fail it here, we wait until your system cleans out. And you come in every week, every two weeks. And once you're good to go, then I send you up there so you can take your physical."
Student: "So you keep taking the test until you pass it?"
Recruiter then shakes his head yes.
Jeremy Lewis is a former military recruiter.
Jeremy Lewis/former recruiter: "They're telling them, don't worry about the drug test, we'll get you pass that. So they're defeating the purpose of the drug test."
We asked the colonel in charge of Army recruiting for the northeast about this approach.
Colonel Robert Manning: "We should not be coaching and teaching potential applicants how to get around the test, that's clearly wrong."
Hoffer: "Colonel, nearly every single recruiter that we visited said we keep testing you and make sure that you're clean before you get the main test."
Colonel Manning: "I clearly appreciate you bringing this to our attention because that's something that we'll definitely have to look into and investigate."
We did our own investigation and Eyewitness News has learned that as of 10 months ago, pre-testing at recruiting centers is now mandatory. What's more is we've learned recruiters can still pre-test new applicants as often as they like.
A former assistant defense secretary says this practice could put drug abusers on the front lines.
Lawrence Korb, former Asst. Defense Secretary: "The real danger is that if we get a person who really hasn't given up drugs who will just give it up temporarily to pass the test, when he or she gets in a very stressful environment are they going to turn back to it again."
It could be coincidental, but the Army changed its drug testing standards at the beginning of 2006. The previous year, the Army fell short of its recruiting goals for the first time in years.
Recruiter: "We give you a drug test here in the office and then if you come up dirty, then we'll wait awhile."
The Army insists the repeated pre-drug testing is a way to screen out those with addiction problems before taking the main drug test. But it's interesting to note that even if you test positive for marijuana on the main drug test, you can come back 45 days later and try again.
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