SEATTLE (AP) _ The Boeing Co. announced Friday it will start screening prospective employees for drug use and left open whether it give similar tests to its current workers.

The aerospace company said it has no plans to test current employees, who number 114,000 nationwide, but ''it's certainly an open question for the future,'' Boeing spokesman Lee Lathrop said.

The new policy, Lathrop said, was prompted ''by a desire to try and make our work place as drug-free as possible.''

''It isn't a reaction to the president's call (for a war on drugs),'' Lathrop said. ''We've been studying this longer than that.''

The company's research shows that 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies either have or will soon have pre-employment tests, the Boeing spokesman said.

Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, called the proposed drug tests ''a highly intrusive search of every single person who (is offered) a job.''

Tom Baker, local president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said he was afraid the Boeing action might be the first step toward random testing of all employees.

However, Robbi Miner, a spokeswoman for the Seattle Professional Engineering Employees Association, said that union didn't oppose the company's decision, but expressed concern that Boeing doesn't plan to tell applicants they failed the drug test unless they asked why.

Boeing is the Puget Sound area's largest employer, with about 80,000 employees in Washington state. It also has employees in Wichita, Kan.; Huntsville, Ala.; Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Philadelphia.

Testing will begin at Boeing plants in the Seattle area in February, Lathrop said. ''Soon after, we'll start it at all our locations around the United States,'' he added.

Everyone offered a job at Boeing will have to take the drug test, Lathrop said. However, he said the company won't require urine tests for each applicant.

''We're not on a witch hunt on this thing,'' Lathrop said. ''We're screening for the drug abuser.''

Lathrop noted that Boeing was searching for a testing company that can guarantee its results are ''99.9 percent accurate, which is technologically achievable.''

People shown to be using drugs can apply for another Boeing job but Lathrop said they would have to wait at least 18 months.

Company managers and union officials were briefed on the new test policy Thursday.

''The company made it very clear to us that it was not subject to bargaining,'' Baker said. ''We do have some concerns because other companies started off this way and moved into some testing within the work place.''

In an effort to ensure prospective employees don't test positive because of prescription medication, Boeing will ask job candidates to disclose what drugs doctors have ordered them to take.