Saturday, March 4, 2017

What an ADSEP board looks like

Courtroom photo, from Wikipedia

This past week I sat on my first ever Administrative Separation (ADSEP) board.  Having never been on an ADSEP board before, I wanted to share my experience to try and remove some of the myths out there about this process.  Please note, I am NOT going to give any specifics on the people involved, as that is privacy act information.

An ADSEP board is the Navy's way of giving a fair shake to a Sailor that got in trouble.  Typically, you see them for offenses like positive urinalysis for drugs, physical fitness assessment failures, or other lower offenses where someone runs afoul of Navy rules, but it's not a violent offense that demands jail.

The ADSEP process starts when a Sailor is either recommended for ADSEP processing by Captain's Mast or when an instruction mandates it (for example, the PFA).  The Sailor's command will pick at least three board members, arrange a location and send a letter that establishes the date and time of the board.  The Sailor will have a defense attorney assigned by the local legal service office, and the government's case will be researched by a prosecutor from a legal office (but the two are separate).

On the day of the board, the following people will be present:

- The service member
- Service member's defense (called "Counsel")
- Government prosecutor (called "Recorder")
- Someone taking minutes
- Board members
- Witnesses

The Senior Member will read off a script (from MILPERSMAN 1910-516) which walks everyone through the board.  Rights are read, and the procedure is outlined.  Then both sides question the board members to determine if they object to anyone on the board.  Ideally, the convening authority has picked board members that don't really know the Sailor.  After that, the Recorder and Counsel make opening statements and present evidence.  Each side gets a chance to object to evidence, although hopefully this doesn't happen and should have been hashed out before the board.

Since the board members have not seen the evidence, the Senior Member will likely dismiss the Sailor, Counsel and Recorder for some time while the members read through the evidence.  Once they return, each side will present their case.  Each side can call witnesses, and after each witness is examined and cross-examined, the board members can ask questions of them.

Once that is complete, each side makes a final argument, then all except the board are dismissed.  At that point the board members discuss the facts.  They first discuss whether there is enough evidence to prove that the offense happened.  Their level of proof is called "preponderance of evidence," meaning that as long as they are greater than 50% sure, then that is good enough.

After that, they determine whether the circumstances merit separation.  They use MILPERSMAN 1910-212 as a guideline, which says you consider:

a. The seriousness of the offense. 
b. The likelihood of a recurrence. 
c. Member’s potential for further service. 
d. Member’s military record.

The members then consider whether to recommend the member be kept in the reserves, although this is a recommendation and not a determination.

Once complete, the Sailor, Counsel and Recorder come back in.  The Senior Member reads off the results, and the board concludes.

Having now sat on one, it's about as fair as you can get.  I didn't know the person I sat the board for, didn't see the evidence until that day, and had all the correct procedures and pieces of information there to work with the board members and make a decision.  I always worried that we were becoming a zero-defect Navy, but the ADSEP process showed me you can get a fair shake even if you screw up.

This post represents the views of the author and not the views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or any other government agency.


  1. It is not something to be recommended during CO's mast. Either the JAGMAN discusses that particular point. The two are supposed to be separate and distinct processes. A series of misconduct can be grounds for ADSEP, but not one directly causing the other.

    The courtroom analogy may help simplify understanding; however, it is important to note that an ADSEP or BOI is not a legal proceedings. It is how the Navy essentially provides Sailors a fair process before early termination of employment (i.e. firing Sailors).

  2. Downside of phone-typing...meant to put JAGMAN or MCM

  3. I've sat on two ADSEP boards: one was for PRT failure (over bodyfat) and the other for positive urinalysis. The Sailor with body fat issues was allowed to continue; the weight loss required exceeded safe standards and the Sailor was making progress (and passing the PRT). This was a very gratifying exercise and the Sailor had exemplary evals (enough so that I requested copies of the narratives for my own files!).

    The other ADSEP involved a Sailor with a positive urinalysis who was recommended for separation. It was devastating to see the effects this separation would have on the Sailor's family. There was nothing I could do; there were no mitigating factors.

    1. I sat on one where all 3 of us on the board tried to get the Petty Officer who popped positive for THC to simply admit that he might have inadvertently ingested it at a party at someone else's house where it might, unknown to him, have been added to the food. Each of us tried to get him to simply admit that there was some remote posibility that he had been given contaminated food and the otherwise very smart ET1 listened to his lawyer and resolutely denied that he had been out to any dinner parties, or nightclubs, or strange restaurants and left us no choice but to recommend adsep. Afterwards the 3 of us asked each other if we'd been trying to find some mitigating circumstance that we could hang a vote for the man on and agreed that we had been looking for such a hook but the guy and his lawyer were just too clever for his own good.

  4. Thanks for the info. Are you eligible for an ADSEP Board if you have been in the Reserves just under 4 years? I know someone that had a BCA failure in 2015, and recently failed the run part of the PFA.