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.