Lawmakers Balk at Military Funding Request for Physical Conditioning Programs to Curb Special Ops Suicides

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, according to those in charge of America’s elite commandos, who have experienced an alarming increase in suicides. That’s why the U.S. Special Operations Command has asked for more money to support therapies based on troops’ physical health to help those suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies.

But members of Congress have rejected the notion that what these elite troops —whose duties demand they be in top physical condition to begin with—require is more exercise or dietary advice.


Lawmakers argue the funding request of $23 million should go toward more mental health programs to help Special Ops warriors, like Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, who are killing themselves at a rate that exceeds that of those in the regular armed forces.


The House Armed Services Committee stated in a 2015 defense bill that it “is concerned that targeted suicide [prevention] programs within the command remain nascent and slow moving given the troubling suicide statistics across the forces.”


Lawmakers insisted that Special Ops’ approach to suicide prevention places “too much costly emphasis ... on improving physical readiness with costly military construction and multi-year service contracts for physical therapists, strength and conditioning specialists and sports dieticians.”


One congressional staffer told The Washington Post: “We agree that having enough sleep, being well-nourished and being in top physical condition makes it easier to overcome stress. But that’s not the total solution for someone who is in immediate mental health crisis. They have people with acute, immediate problems that aren’t going to be helped by a lot of physical training.”

Special Ops command, however, is sticking to its belief that “guys who are healthy physically” have “less problems,” according to a senior Special Ops official who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Post.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

To Curb Military Suicides, Does Money Go for Sit-Ups or Psychologists? (by Greg Jaffe, Washington Post)

Special Ops Troops Committing Suicide at Record Pace, McRaven Says (by Howard Altman, Tampa Tribune)

Suicides Rise for Army Reserves and National Guard, Drop for Active-Duty Soldiers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S. Military Suicides Outnumbered Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2012 (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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