In 2012, the U.S. military hit a record for the number of suicides among troops on active duty — 319 — since the Pentagon began closely tracking the numbers in 2001.
Preliminary Pentagon figures issued early this year indicated that figure dropped in 2013 to 261.
But no one outside the Defense Department knows for sure.
That’s because as of July 17, DoD has not released any official suicide data for the fourth quarter of 2013. Neither has it published suicide data for the first two quarters of this year.
The data has been further obscured in the wake of a Pentagon decision last year to be the sole source of the information, instead of the individual services, as well as a move by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office to redefine the methodology for calculating rates and exclude previously counted suicides among mobilized National Guard and reserve troops.
For example, an Army news release in February said that in 2013, the service saw 125 suicides in the active-duty force, 117 in the Army National Guard and 59 in the Army Reserve. The release also noted that in 2012, there were 165 suicides in the active-duty force, 110 in the Army National Guard and 50 in the Army Reserve.
But an end-of-year report for 2012 also issued by the Army said the service had 182 active-duty suicides and 143 potential “not on active duty suicides” — the same total, 325, but not by the same accounting. That report eliminated an entire group of people — full-time Army Guard and Reserve members with access to the same programs and health care as active-duty personnel, placing them instead with demobilized Guard and reserve members.