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Report poor testing prompts many false drug accusations in military

SEATTLE -- The military's war on drugs has become deeply mired in administrative tangles that have caused thousands of personnel to be accused of illegal drug use without proper evidence, it was reported Sunday.

Errors at the Navy's Drug Testing Laboratory in Oakland, Calif., are responsible for false accusations against more than 1,800 sailors, the Seattle Times said in a copyright story.

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The Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines have conducted 6 million drug tests in the past 2 years, with 375,000 showing positive drug use, leading to disciplinary action against 72,000 servicemen and -women.

But the Navy and Air Force have found that sloppy testing and paperwork have prompted legally unsupportable accusations against as many as 5,000 sailors and airmen, and the figure may be tens of thousands higher in the Army.

Navy officials now admit the extensive testing program led to false positive test results for drug use and wrecked many sailors' careers, the newspaper said.

The laboratory, a key part of the Navy's drug testing program, has suffered an administrative collapse under the weight of thousands of bottles of urine stacked in hallways waiting to be tested, the newspaper said.

The Army and Air Force are reportedly suffering their own problems after similar improper testing at some of the eight military labs involved.

The Air Force, unlike the Navy, does not concede its tests produced false results, but officials have identified 3,400 personnel whose positive tests lack proper documentation or proof, the paper said.

The Army, meanwhile, has begun notifying the 60,000 to 70,000 GIs whose urine tests were handled improperly so they may exercise their right to appeal.

The problems stem from inadequate laboratory staffing and improper training, the paper said.

Former Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, chief of naval operations, began the military's extensive drug-testing program in 1982 when he ordered each of the Navy's 600,000 officers and enlisted personnel to submit urine samples three times a year for drug testing. The other military branches then joined the program.

Hayward ordered the program after military officials became concerned about a 1980 survey that showed 48 percent of 2,000 soldiers interviewed had smoked marijuana.

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