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The Road to Poor Policy is Paved with Good Intentions

Navy’s DAT Policy Revisited

Written by
Published: July 3, 2014
Updated: February 25, 2018

MAJOR UPDATE: The Delayed Entry Program Non-Instrumented Drug Testing program (NIDT) has been eliminated. Drug testing in the Navy DEP will no longer take place. The rules for a positive drug test at MEPS and at boot-camp remain the same — it you are positive for any illegal drug, you will be discharged immediately — no waivers authorized.

Ever since Navy Recruiting Command has implemented its policy of zero tolerance for when an applicant fails the Military Entrance Processing Station’s initial drug portion of the Drug and Alcohol Test (DAT), it never sat right with me. It is a policy that was originally implemented in an effort to help reduce boot-camp attrition for drugs by sending a strong message that the Navy meant business. Admirable motives, but there are flaws, and I voiced my concerns while on active duty, and well, I am bringing it up again. It still bothers me.

I am 100% for drug testing. I think the Navy, and the military as a whole, has a much better and safer work environment as compared to the time before testing and zero tolerance. But, I am also for a consistency in policy.

From Commander, Navy Recruiting Command Instruction (COMNAVCRUITCOMINST) 1130.8J – VOLUME II, Chapter 1, Section 1, pg. 3-4;

a. Automatic Rejections. Application for enlistment or affiliation shall be rejected from any individual who:

(17) Has ever tested positive for drugs on a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) drug and alcohol test (DAT).

It is clear, if an applicant fails the drug portion of the DAT at MEPS — it doesn’t matter how long ago, or from what service the applicant may have been originally processing — that applicant is barred from enlistment, and no waivers are authorized. Period.

Now, here is where it gets confusing.

If the Navy is going to take this step to send the message that drugs will not be tolerated, then the following is a serious head-scratcher;
COMNAVCRUITCOMINST 1130.8J – VOLUME II, Chapter 2, Section 9, pg. 8, Exhibit 020902;

If applicant self-admits or has received adverse adjudication for: Marijuana use while in Delayed Entry Program (DEP), Then the waiver authority is, Navy Recruiting District Commanding Officer (NAVCRUITDIST CO) (Note 3).

Note 3 states;

This requires a personal interview by the NAVCRUITDIST CO/XO. An additional review by the appropriate level authority may be required if the individual’s drug use puts them into an eligibility/waiver category. No applicant may be shipped to RTC who has used marijuana within the previous 90 days. A waiver may be granted for those in DEP; however, shipping must not occur until a minimum of 90 days has elapsed since last use.

But, that is not all! The Exhibit also states;

Positive Non-Instrumented Drug Test (NIDT) for cocaine while in DEP, Must be DEP discharged. [Then] COMNAVCRUITCOM (N32) waiver after 12-month waiting period. 2nd positive test — Ineligible. No waivers authorized.

The NIDT is an over-the-counter test kit utilized by Navy recruiting personnel to test DEP members at 30 days and 24 hours prior to shipping to RTC.

Pop positive for cocaine while in DEP, not barred until you fail a second time. What?

The person who failed the DAT test — the person who has never officially attended a DEP meeting — the person who has not completed a single portion of the PQS — this person is barred from ever having an opportunity to serve in our Navy. And, that is fine, but why does the person who has had the opportunity to officially attend DEP meetings, complete PQS, etc., have an opportunity to continue?

Shouldn’t this policy be consistent; or at least be flipped to where the person who used while in DEP is barred, and the person with no training whatsoever allowed the waiver consideration?

33 Responses to “Navy’s DAT Policy Revisited”

  1. Jamie says:

    That is a perfect article! I completely agree.. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Shanae says:

    That is backwards!

  3. NCCM(Ret) says:


    I happen to share your conclusion.

  4. Jimmy E. says:

    Hello, my name is Jimmy. I was a 14 years old, I was charged with a first degree burglary felony in 2009. I was placed in DEJ and put on probation for 1 year in which i finished my community service. i did not have any prior criminal history or after. when i was 16 the record was sealed. What would be the chance for me being able to receive a waiver for that? I took the asvab once before and got a 67. I also have 2 tattoos that kinda large. One is a tribal that covers my calf, and another is on my upper arm. Neither of the tattoos are gang related or offensive. Is there any chance that I’d be able to enlist on active duty?

  5. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jimmy E.,

    The fact that a record is later sealed is irrelevant; you would require a moral waiver for the Major Misconduct Offense. Currently, waivers that require that level of consideration are not being processed/approved, but I highly recommend that you maintain contact with your recruiter because when the opportunity does once again present itself, he/she will be the first to know.

  6. Jimmy e says:

    Now that answer one question would tattoos need waivers as we’ll or how does that work? 2 large tattoos both non gang related and non offensive?

  7. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jimmy E.,

    If the tattoo on your arm is larger than your hand, and it can be seen while wearing a short sleeve shirt, then it would require a waiver. The other based on your description (although, I don’t know what you mean by “tribal”), should not pose a problem.

  8. albert [Last name redacted for privacy] says:

    How often to these rules get updated? I have been on here before..and every single year I go back into an armed service center, tell them about my mistake (i popped hot for Marijuana at meps a day after taking 2 in house tests by my recruiters and passing) and how I’m really trying to get in. Its been almost 4 years and i’ve almost gotten my bachelors degree in the meantime. I’m just trying to stay on top of things because “never” and “always” are terms best suited for eternity and the human condition often changes needs and perspectives in different times.

  9. NCCM(Ret) says:


    As you can tell by my article, I am not a fan of the current policy. Based on recent conversations, there is no move to change what is current. I really wish I could offer some sort of hope, but i can’t.

  10. NCCM(Ret) says:

    MAJOR UPDATE: The Delayed Entry Program Non-Instrumented Drug Testing program (NIDT) has been eliminated. Drug testing in the Navy DEP will no longer take place. The rules for a positive drug test at MEPS and at boot-camp remain the same — it you are positive for any illegal drug, you will be discharged immediately — no waivers authorized.

  11. Jack says:

    Question for the author, why would the navy eliminate the 30 day NIDT? Its not that I don’t believe you, I just don’t understand why they would do such a thing, I also can’t find anything else that confirms this.

  12. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Any reason why that I provide would be speculation, but this went out as an Operational Notice from CNRC, and I was made aware of it.

    The MEPS testing and the boot-camp testing remain the same.

  13. Alexxus says:

    I’m kind of confused. I failed my drug test at MEPs, however they sent a letter in the mail stating I could return in 45 days at their(NAVY) discretion. So what do I do now?

  14. NCCM(Ret) says:


    MEPS follows the Department of Defense’s minimum guidelines which is 45 days, the Navy does not follow that minimum, the Navy does not allow any waiver for a MEPS positive DAT.

  15. Albert says:

    Is there a forum similar to this one for the army? An enlistment recruiter offered me a waiver for kissing hit for the 4 years ago but then when I told him I had a bachelor’s degree and wanted to talk about officers school he said I couldn’t do that and I want confirmation

  16. NCCM(Ret) says:


    I am not aware of an Army site similar to this one. I do recommend that you make contact with an actual officer recruiter to ask questions to about officer programs — many enlisted recruiters just are not aware of the nuances. For the Army, I recommend that you call 1-888-550-2769 and tell them you need a local officer recruiter to call you. They will ask you questions to verify you are otherwise qualified, and as long as you meet the minimum requirements, they will make the contact happen.

  17. Jollyholly says:

    Does the navy drug test while in the delayed entry program ?

  18. NCCM(Ret) says:


    The Navy recruiters no longer drug test. An applicant will get their first drug test when they take their physical at MEPS — if the applicant fails that drug test, they are currently banned from ever enlisting in the Navy. The next drug test is upon arrival to boot-camp, if that is failed, or any drug tests that follow while in the Navy (test are random and frequent), the Sailor is discharged with no opportunity to reenlist.

  19. Jollyholly says:

    Thank you for explaining, does it depend on the recruiter or is it just policy to not drug test during dep ?

  20. Ryan M says:

    So, despite my 96 AFQT, no criminal background, years of JROTC, and college credits (and 4.0 GPA)….I’m permanently barred from all service because I tested ‘M’ (Metabolite?) at MEPS 7 years ago for the Army (at 19 years old)? I never drink, and I haven’t smoked pot since then (because it severely depressed me to not be allowed to serve, so I quit, with hopes I could someday return). When it happened, they said I could return in 45 days and/or after rehab(?)….but a week later I received a letter stating the enlistment standards changed and I was perm DQ’ed. All I’ve ever wanted was to serve. I can’t get any kind of waiver at all, but Obama and B. Clinton can run our country after admitting to smoking marijuana??? I just did a little at a graduation party once, and 21 days later I tested ‘m’ for it.

    I would agree to weekly drug tests, rehab, or any kind of crazy demands just to be allowed to serve.

  21. NCCM(Ret) says:


    If you tested positive for marijuana at MEPS, you are barred from the Navy; it is my understanding that the Army might have started processing those waivers once again — you would have to contact them.

  22. Albert says:

    Yes, the army is processing DAT waivers again as of now. I can confirm that.

  23. Austin says:

    So in a nutshell once a future soldier is in the Navy’s DEP program they can intake all the drugs under the sun, get away with it and still be clean for boot camp without a soul knowing? That’s not right.

  24. Roger says:

    If I have had a hospital visit related to drug use (alcohol and cocaine) and have been to rehab voluntarily, can I still sign up? Will I need a waiver to enlist? I have no criminal record, am 28, have a bachelors degree, 20/20 vision, and a clean bill of health, including multiple negative tests for any substances.

  25. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Submit all of your medical records (both hospital and rehab/counseling) for review. If the documents indicate a mental health issue, then you would not be able to move forward until a minimum of two years passes from the date of your final clearance from treatment; waivers are possible, but rare. Not only would you require a medical waiver, but a drug abuse waiver as well.

  26. Raven says:

    Is this drug testing policy still in effect

  27. NCCM(Ret) says:


    Yes, if you fail the DAT, you are not eligible to join the Navy.

  28. Dee says:

    My son was in bootcamp and 2 weeks in his drug test came back positive they have separated him but have told him he can re-enlist
    in 6 months. Why would they let him re-enlist? This information came from his Navy recruiter. I’m lost and confused

  29. NCCM(Ret) says:


    I have not seen a case where a person who shipped to boot-camp and received a discharge for a positive drug test receive waiver consideration.

  30. Jessica says:

    My situation, my son’s rather, is identical to Dee’s, I’m so worried about my son, he is devastated. Two, almost 3 weeks in at Bootcamp and he tested positive for marijuana. They separated him, and housed him in the psych ward, don’t know the process, but he says 20 days until they will send him home. He as well said that he was told he’d be able to try again in 6months.

  31. NCCM(Ret) says:


    I am assuming Navy, RTC may indicate six months, but the Navy will not entertain a waiver for a failed MEPS or in-service drug test.

  32. Isaac says:

    Hi I was sworn in as a sailor recently and would like some clarity on the revised DAT.

    1. You said the non instrumental drug test at the recruiting station has been discontinued that being said will the recruiter still want you do it any way?

    2. That being said if you refused the drug test given at your recruiters would that jeopardize the process of joining or push back the ship out date?(my ship out date is June 2020 by the way)

    3. From what has been said here and at other sites regarding the navy DEP program the test used to happen 90/60/30 day marks before shipping to RTC. That being said would that still be expected?

    4. On the day of ship out does the second urinalysis test occur again at MEPS or at basic which is usually expected?

    5. In DEP you are given the option to withdraw if the premise is reasonable as you are considered still a civilian in reserve(correct me if I’m wrong.) Would this entail emergency family situations such as death in the family or accidents occuring between the dates of being sworn in and ship out?

    6. Have other other branches revised their DAT policies as well or is it just the Navy’s?

  33. NCCM(Ret) says:


    1. The Navy is no longer providing test kits to the local Navy recruiting stations.
    2. If I had a Future Sailor who made me uneasy about potential drug usage in the DEP, I would discharge him/her.
    3. No.
    4. It is the first thing you do when you step off the bus at recruit training.
    5. You cannot be forced to ship to boot-camp. To make you go would be inconsistent with a “All Volunteer Force.”
    6. You would have to ask them. I have no idea.

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