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Service Member Suicide and Readiness: An Analysis

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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While many strategic leaders cite sequestration, a hollow force, troop reductions, and irregular fiscal outlays as reasons for the Joint Forces decline in readiness, the problem of service member suicide constitutes an equal, if not greater, impact. Since at least 1980, suicide has taken the lives of more US service members than all combat operations in every theater of operations combined. Before 2001, the average rate of suicide within the US military stood at 11.8 per 100,000 serving. In early 2017, it is nearly double that rate. Efforts to determine the factors causing the dramatic rise in service member suicide are ongoing. However, the blending of major combat and stability operations termed persistent or steady-state conflict has prompted a new normal. In the interim, the DOD continues to implement suicide prevention programs with unclear and uneven results. This monograph applies design and systems thinking to conduct a holistic examination of service member suicide. Application of a design methodology may help overcome the complexities of this problem and the environment in which the problem exists. Theory, doctrine, and history serve as lenses to help frame the environment, describe the problems, and explore potential limitations within the current approach. Finally, this monograph evaluates the impacts of service member suicide on readiness. Based on these findings, this monograph offers further insight and suggests some viable solutions beyond those currently utilized.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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