Support our mission
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for a new independent review committee to address and prevent suicide in the military, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for a new independent review committee to address and prevent suicide in the military, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for a new independent review committee to address and prevent suicide in the military, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.

“As part of the secretary's priority of taking care of our people, he has directed the department to create a Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee,” Kirby said. “This committee will conduct a comprehensive review of the department's efforts to prevent suicide.”

The committee, which is expected to begin their work no later than May 14, will visit military installations in the United States and throughout the world as part of their research, he said.

“It's imperative, the secretary believes, that we continue to take care of all our teammates and reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority,” Kirby said. “You’ve heard the secretary say many times, ‘mental health is health, period.’ Ultimately, that health is critical to our readiness.”

The committee will begin visiting installations in August and is expected to send an initial report for Austin’s review by Dec. 20, according to the Pentagon.

They will then send a report of its final findings and recommendations to Congress by Feb. 18.

“This independent review committee will help us wrap our arms around this and really try to come up with some more innovative solutions for how to prevent suicide and how to make sure that everybody's getting the mental health support that they need and deserve,” Kirby said.

In 2020, 580 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard troops died by suicide, he said, “so clearly, obviously, we have more work to do.”

Suicides in the military in 2020 increased from 504 in 2019 and 543 in 2018, according to a Defense Department report in September. Suicide data for 2021 has not yet been made available.

“[Austin has] seen enough based on the 2020 data and the anecdotal reporting that's been coming in throughout the course of 2021 … to know that we've got to do something different,” Kirby said. “We've got to try to take additional and more creative action here.”

The committee will be made up of mental health professionals and “people with senior organizational leadership expertise,” he said. Individuals selected for the committee will be announced at a later date.

“There'll be a significant amount of reliance on outside experts — that's what independent [reviews are] all about,” Kirby said. “We want them to be able to be brutally honest with us about what they're finding and therefore, their ability to do that — the freedom that they have to do that — is going to be important to the secretary.”

author picture
Caitlin Doornbos covers the Pentagon for Stars and Stripes after covering the Navy’s 7th Fleet as Stripes’ Indo-Pacific correspondent at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Previously, she worked as a crime reporter in Lawrence, Kan., and Orlando, Fla., where she was part of the Orlando Sentinel team that placed as finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Caitlin has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas and master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the University of Texas at El Paso.
twitter Email

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up