Army leaders are proposing to end a longtime policy that requires a commanding officer be notified when a soldier seeks counseling, in hopes of encouraging more GIs to seek aid, USA Today reported Monday.

The potential move comes as combat deployments have been linked to increased alcohol abuse, and the Army Substance Abuse Program (ASAP) is straining to keep pace.

The proposal being worked out between Army personnel and medical commanders is "an important part of a comprehensive effort to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care and to encourage more soldiers to seek treatment," Army Secretary Pete Geren said in a statement to USA Today on Friday.

Geren’s efforts come as the number of soldiers seeking help for substance abuse has hit record levels. In November, USA Today reported that the number of soldiers asking for counseling had increased 25 percent in five years.

The Army, however, can’t meet the demand. One-fourth of the 338 Army drug counseling positions are unfilled, spokeswoman Cynthia Vaughan told the paper.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told Geren in a November letter that current policies, such as notifying commanders about soldiers seeking help, "seem oriented to disciplinary concerns" rather than treatment, USA Today wrote. Geren told McCaskill on Dec. 22 that he is ordering "an immediate and complete review" of ASAP. Suspending the notification rule, he said, could "assure soldiers the program is not punitive."

Air Force stands Global Strike Command in D.C.

The Air Force stood up the provisional Global Strike Command Monday at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.

The command, which becomes initially operational in September 2009, will eventually be responsible for all Air Force nuclear operations.

Its location in Washington is temporary until a permanent home can be chosen, an Air Force news release said.

Right now, the command is headed by interim commander Brig. Gen. James Kowalski. Eventually, it will fall under a three-star general officer.

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