Good news for US Military servicemembers: Divorce rates leveled off in 2010

The divorce rate in the military was on a steady ascent since the start of “Operation Enduring Freedom” but has levelled off in 2010 according to recent reports from the Pentagon.

Newly released Pentagon statistics show that the overall military divorce rate leveled off in 2010 after a consistent increase over the previous five years.
Officials suggest the stall is evidence that programs designed to aid military marriages are starting to work despite almost a decade of war and stress on families.
“All military services have a variety of programs focused on strengthening and … enriching family bonds among couples,” Maj. Monica Bland, a DoD spokesperson, said in a statement. “We believe these programs are instrumental in mitigating the stresses deployment places on marriages.” Read more.

But the news is not being met with applause by everyone. Some are calling for restraint in interpreting the new numbers, saying that until the numbers begin to actually drop for a few years, rather than simply leveling off for one year, there is no discernible trend worth getting excited about. Additionally, according to the article linked above, there are sub-groups in the military that are actually seeing increases in their divorce rates, to wit:

Despite the overall rate remaining stable, subgroups did see small increases similar to those in years past. For example, the divorce rate for enlisted males increased slightly among Marines and Airmen while remaining constant for Sailors and Soldiers.
Divorce rates among enlisted female servicemembers also increased in every service except the Navy, where they remained unchanged at 7.8 percent — still more than double that of their male counterparts. In the Army, the female enlisted divorce rate is three times that of enlisted males.

But there is no question that the military officials at the Department of Defense are taking the marriage/divorce crisis in the military very seriously and are doing everything they can to help servicemembers hold on to their families and marriages. The army, for example, is said to be spending billions of dollars on a program to be launched next year, targeted towards supporting marriage, mental health services, and child care services for enlisted members, to wit :

The Army, the largest of the services, plans to pour about $9 billion into its “Army Family Covenant” program in 2011, Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, said recently.The program covers services such as family mental health care, free childcare during deployment and on post housing improvements. Each service also has its own marriage support programs, largely run out of chaplains’ offices.
The active-duty Army, which spends the most on its programs, plans to devote more than $700 million in fiscal 2011 to Strong Bonds, a free retreat that takes participants to a nice resort and provides childcare while teaching relationship skills. The Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force host similar

It is commendable that programs like this are in the works and these can only help and certainly will not hurt in the quest to stem the divorce rates in the military. No question, though, that for some sub-groups, it may take more than just throwing money at the problem. In the case of female servicemembers, for example, specific studies probably need to be done to see why these numbers are so high to begin with.