Administrative Separation in US Military (2023) – All You Need to Know

Administrative separation (sometimes called AdSep for short) is one of the legal instruments used in the US Military Justice system, serving as a mechanism to address misconduct, unsatisfactory performance, or other reasons for a service member’s separation from their United States Armed Forces post. The individual facing military administrative separation can benefit from the guidance of a qualified military lawyer, like the team at The Law Center P.C.

Administrative Separation 2023: Key Concepts

Let’s start by demystifying some key aspects of the Administrative Separation, or AdSep, process:

  • Administrative Separation Boards – Made up of enlisted personnel or boards of inquiry for officers, and play a pivotal role in determining the fate of fellow service members and can be thought of as somewhat analogous to a jury in these proceedings.
    Service members facing the possibility of administrative separation will have a chance to speak in front of these boards to make an argument for why they should not be separated from service or, if that is not viable, why they should at least be spared an “other than honorable” designation. Eligibility for serving on these boards can differ, sometimes significantly, from branch to branch.
  • Discharge Types – Administrative separation boards can recommend one of three different types of discharge: honorable, general, or other than honorable. As you might expect, the implications for each differ significantly. The type of discharge received should be an accurate reflection of the service member’s conduct and performance, as it can impact eligibility for benefits or even future job opportunities.
  • Convening an Administrative Separation Board – Specific policies and procedures must be followed when convening an administrative separation board. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force have all adopted similar, but not identical, processes to this end.
    Regardless of their branch of service, the process will typically begin with a service member receiving a written notice of the proposed separation action. The selection of board members can then commence, a crucial aspect of the administrative separation process.
    Different policies across the different military branches specify the composition of these boards, which will have a designated president, recorder, etc. They also have a legal advisor, underscoring the need for service members facing administrative separation to consult with powerful legal representation of their own.
  • Post-Separation Review Boards – In some cases, a second board can be convened, such as a Discharge Review Board or a Board for Correction of Military Records. These mechanisms within the military justice system are similar to appeals in the civilian courts and offer service members an avenue to request that their discharge type, or the characterization of their service, be amended after the fact.
    These review boards add an important layer of protection to the process, allowing for an official reassessment (and the potential correction) of any hasty or otherwise questionable decisions made during the initial AdSep process.

US Government Accountability Office 2023 Recommendations (and Potential Implications)

While there are no drastic changes to administrative separation procedures slated for 2023, it’s important to be aware that military justice policies are reviewed and updated with regularity.

One interesting development this year has been a review of the Air Force’s administrative separation policies by the United States Government Accountability Office, or GAO. While the report is largely specific to Air Force policy, it sheds some light on the current state of the administrative separation process in the US military.

This GAO report, dated February 2023, highlights various areas of inconsistency and concern:

  • The Impact of Administrative Separation on Service Members: The GAO report begins with an acknowledgment of the gravity of AdSep proceedings and the potentially massive impact they can have on the life and future of a service member. The report emphasizes the power AdSep boards have over whether someone is eligible for veteran’s benefits and future opportunities.
  • Uniform Policies Across Armed Forces Branches: The GAO report further acknowledges that the majority of AdSep policies, while separately adopted by each service branch, have been established in a way that makes the process more or less similar from branch to branch. While this uniformity can be helpful in many ways, it also makes the discrepancies more glaring and difficult to navigate.
  • Inconsistencies in NCO AdSep Board Member Policy: The report identified an issue with the Air Force’s criteria for selecting administrative separation board members, specifically when it comes to noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Not only did they identify conflicting requirements in this area, but also a requirement that appeared to be inconsistent with a potentially superseding Department of Defense (DOD) policy.
    The detail-oriented nature of AdSep board member criteria may offer a technical angle for you and your attorney to push back against an administrative separation proceeding if the selection of board members included procedural errors on the government’s part.
  • Recommendations for Clarification: The report concludes with its recommendation, which is that the Secretary of the Air Force provide clear guidance on administrative separation board policies for enlisted personnel that align fully with Department of Defense standards.


Q: Is Administrative Separation a Dishonorable Discharge?

A: No, administrative separation, or AdSep, is the process by which a board decides whether or not a service member should be separated from the military, and can result in a variety of discharge types (or no discharge at all). Potential discharge types under AdSep include “honorable,” “general (under honorable conditions),” and “other than honorable,” which is, in essence, a euphemism for dishonorable.

Q: Who Provides Administrative Separation of Soldiers?

A: Administrative separation is not a service that is “provided” to active-duty personnel, but rather a process within the United States military justice system that can lead to discharge from military service. Administrative separation decisions are made by administrative separation boards made up of other service members, which can be thought of as somewhat similar to a jury of peers in the civilian world.

Q: How Long Does It Take to Get Administratively Separated from the Military?

A: The duration of an AdSep proceeding will vary from case to case but always involves a thorough review process, which is to say it’s rarely quick. The skilled military justice team at The Law Center P.C. can review the details of your case to offer a more comprehensive estimate of timelines and likely outcomes.

Q: Can You Reenlist with an Administrative Discharge?

A: Depending on the type of discharge received, reenlistment eligibility after an AdSep proceeding will vary. Those who are discharged under “other than honorable” conditions should typically not expect to serve again unless they can have their discharge type changed by a review board.

A qualified military lawyer from The Law Center P.C. can assess your circumstances to offer personalized feedback on your eligibility for reenlistment or potential strategies for having your OTH discharge classification changed by a review board.

The Law Center, P.C. – Powerful Legal Guidance for Service Members and Military Families

If you’re facing administrative discharge proceedings, you don’t have to take on this stressful and overwhelming prospect on your own. The highly qualified military justice team at The Law Center P.C. will be happy to review your case and provide personalized advice focused on your own unique goals and aspirations for the future. Please reach out for a 100% confidential consultation at your earliest convenience.

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