Does The Navy Have A Drinking Problem?

us navy sailor waving goodbye

Photo: Flickr/Official US Navy Imagery

With hand-held alcohol detection devices headed across the fleet, you might think the U.S. Navy has a drinking problem.The Navy said on Wednesday it would conduct random blood-alcohol tests on sailors based in the U.S. starting as early as next month, as part of a new “well-being” program implemented by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

“The abuse of alcohol degrades mission readiness by leading to destructive behaviours, including motor vehicle and safety mishaps, sexual assaults, self harm and poor fitness,” Admiral Mark Ferguson wrote in a Jan 23 naval message. “These behaviours have far-reaching effects on individuals, commands and our families.”

While off-duty sailors often drink alcohol, it’s not clear whether drinking on duty is a real problem. Over the past summer, the Navy did random tests across 13 commands, only finding 1.16 per cent testing positive.

Despite this, the Navy expects the devices to hit nearly 2,000 commands by May 24.

Sailors found with blood-alcohol levels of .04 or higher would not be allowed to work, and underage sailors with a reading of .02 would be referred to counseling. Officials say the results won’t be used to discipline sailors, instead referring them for treatment or other non-punitive actions.

Despite that guidance, being drunk on duty has long been a violation of the laws of military justice and subject to punishment up to court-martial.

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