Additionally, the military "is concerned with maintaining readiness and effectiveness. Drugs post a
major obstacle to this objective. In ordering gate searches or inspections, the commander's primary
objective is not to apprehend a particular drug offender but rather to deter and cripple the traffic
altogether. An entry-exit search program makes it difficult for the wholesaler to bring drugs on post.
The exit portion of the program forces the individual drug abuser to buy and use his drugs off post, use
the drug on post where the military authorities may observe him, or to carry the drug through the post
gateway, where he is subject to discovery." Based on these factors, the court concluded that the entry-
exit search "vastly enhances the effectiveness of both property and drug control programs, with
minimum impact upon personal liberties." The court continued: "Additionally, our overseas forces
constitute our first line of defense in the event of an armed conflict. There exists a special need to
insure combat readiness. Because of the proximity of potentially hostile forces, there also exists the
danger that military equipment or classified information may either intentionally or inadvertently fall into
the hands of our potential enemies. Preventing the flow of information or military hardware from the
installation is as vital a consideration as preventing contraband from entering. We are convinced that
nothing in the Constitution requires a distinction between searches made upon entering a military
installation overseas and those made upon departing that installation. Limiting such inspections to
those at entry (as opposed to exit) points would be at odds with the rationale for border searches."
In view of all of these considerations, it is hardly surprising that the courts uphold such overseas
border searches as "reasonable." Again, the concept of reasonableness is a fluid one, one that varies
as the circumstances change. The determination of what is and is not reasonable is made "by
balancing the need to search against the invasion which the search entails." U.S. v. Harris, 5 MJ 44
(CMA, 1978). If there is no need at all, then even a slight intrusion may be considered to be
unreasonable. If the need is great, then a substantial intrusion may become "reasonable." In one case,
for example, an individual objected to a search of carry-on luggage as he was about to board an airline.
In view of the serious threat of hijacking, however, the court found the search to be reasonable. U.S. v.
Davis, 482 F.2d 893 (9th Cir. 1973). The point to keep in mind regarding the gate inspection is that the
installation commander must have a basis for acting. Those who set up the procedures governing such
inspections must be familiar with the principles set forth by the courts. They should be prepared to
testify (in court, if necessary) as to the basis for their actions; i.e., what is the military need, and how
does it outweigh the Fourth Amendment considerations that are involved? If these questions are
thought out in advance, the government will be in a good position to defend its actions against attack.