Drinking Age in the U.S. Military

Seven of every eight (88%) of the 1,323 respondents to a nonscientific nation-wide poll said that active military personnel should be allowed to consume alcohol on base regardless of their age.

Traditionally active duty U.S. military personnel could consume alcoholic beverages, while on any federal military installation, regardless of the drinking laws of the state in which their base was located.
However, in the 1980s, Congress was lobbied to prevent this. “Federal law (United States Code) requires military installation commanders to adopt the same drinking age as the state in which the military base is located. The only exception to this rule is if the base is located within 50 miles of Canada or Mexico, or a state with a lower drinking age, the installation commander may adopt the lower drinking age for military personnel on base.”

The Department of Defense (DoD) codification of this legislation specifies that on bases within 50 miles of“Mexico or Canada, the minimum drinking age on that DoD installation shall be the lowest applicable age of the State in which the DoD installation is located or the State or jurisdiction of Mexico or Canada that is within 50 miles of such DoD installation.

The minimum drinking age on a DoD installation located outside the United States shall be 18 years of age. Higher minimum drinking age will be based on international treaties and agreements and on the local situation as determined by the local installation commander.”



  • Powers, Rod. U.S. Military: Military Drinking Age. (http://usmilitary.about.com/library/polls/blmildrinkingage.htm)