The Best Defense

JAMA study: Gates is wrong, longer deployments do not increase suicides

The other day I quoted Robert Gates as stating in his book that, ""I believe those long tours [in Iraq] significantly aggravated post-traumatic stress and contributed to a growing number of suicides."

A savvy at MIT graduate student who reads the blog sent me a link to an article that ran last summer in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says that Gates's assertion is incorrect. "Risk Factors Associated With Suicide in Current and Former U.S. Military Personnel" explicitly concludes that "The findings from this study are not consistent with the assumption that specific deployment-related characteristics, such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences, are directly associated with increased suicide risk."

But not everyone agrees. One issue is that older soldiers tend to be affected more by deployments -- which tends to mean that Guard and Reserve soldiers may be at greater risk.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Freire

The Best Defense

New evidence that Hagel may be awake

A spokesman says that the defense secretary is concerned by recent news of even more problems in the Air Force's nuclear missile units and suspects "there could be something larger afoot here."

Also, Robert Burns of the AP is hereby awarded Best Defense's prestigious Birddog Prize for staying on this story. Anyone can break a scoop, but it takes a determined, energetic reporter to track, develop, and deepen it.

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images