During the September 10 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, retired Colonel William Campenni, who claims to have served with President George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard, suggested that Bush did not avoid a physical for fear of failing a drug test because the Air Force did not conduct drug tests at that time. "The formal Air Force drug-testing program -- and they can check this in the record -- I believe began in 1981," Campenni claimed.
This is, in fact, false. Drug testing in the Air Force actually began in the spring and summer of 1972; then-Lieutenant Bush was officially grounded from flying in September 1972 due to his failure to take a required physical by the end of July of that year.
From an exchange between Campenni and substitute host Jim Angle on the September 10 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: The whispering campaign is that he [Bush] was trying to avoid drug tests [by missing his physical]. When you took a physical in those days, was there any way to discover whether or not someone was using drugs?
CAMPENNI: I can't recall. The whole purpose of a physical in that era was to see if you were a healthy pilot, so you didn't get a dangerous pilot in an airplane where he might have a heart attack or some other problem, a kidney stone. So we did do a urinalysis testing. We did blood testing. But it was to ensure a healthy pilot. The formal Air Force drug- testing program -- and they can check this in the record -- I believe began in 1981. Now, at this time interval, in 1972, '73, the drug testing would have been command directed. That the commander would have been suspect of the individual first before he said you're going down to take a drug test or you're going to take a test for alcoholism or something.
In fact, as Salon.com pointed out on February 6, guardsmen at that time knew random drug testing would be implemented:
Air Force Regulation 160-23, also known as the Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program ... was officially launched by the Air Force on April 21, 1972, following a Jan. 11, 1972, directive issued by the Department of Defense. That initiative, in response to increased drug use among soldiers in Vietnam, instructed the military branches to "establish the requirement for a systematic drug abuse testing program of all military personnel on active duty, effective 1 July 1972." ... [A]ccording to Maj. Jeff Washburn, the chief of the National Guard's substance abuse program, a random drug-testing program was born out of that regulation and administered to guardsmen such as Bush. ... [A]s of April 1972, Air National guardsmen knew random drug testing was going to be implemented.