The Army blocked public access to a report on the status of forthcoming publications after Army Times referenced the report in an April 1 story on how the service has failed to publish a long-awaited regulation that will coordinate its suicide prevention programs.
The service initially announced it would create a dedicated suicide prevention regulation in 2020. In September 2021, the Army said it would publish that fall. Then, in November 2021, the Army said it would come “in the first quarter of 2022.”
The Army Publishing Directorate fiscal 2022 publication status report, which was publicly available at the time, said on April 1 that the 90-page draft regulation was due on March 22. But it hadn’t yet published.
An Army spokesperson later confirmed the regulation would be delayed until the summer of 2022.
The publication status report offered a public way to forecast major updates to regulations and doctrine.
But less than a week after the April 1 story, the Army moved the publication status report to a website that requires users to sign in with their Army-issued Common Access Cards in order to access the document.
Archived versions of the Army Publishing Directorate website available via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine reveal that the website was updated between 5:24 p.m. EDT on April 6 and 6:31 p.m. EDT on April 7. One change to the website, according to the Wayback Machine’s version change analysis tool, was the addition of a note saying that the status report now required a CAC for access.
Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Gabe Ramirez did not specify whether the decision to restrict access to the publication status report was made directly in response to Army Times’ use of it to describe the suicide prevention regulation’s delay.
“The Army Publications Status Report is an internal management tool and a working document intended to assist members of Army publishing management,” Ramirez said in an emailed statement. “This document contains the status of publications and pre-decisional information; as such, it is not appropriate to make this information publicly available and the report was moved to an Army internal site.”
Although the Army said that having the status report publicly available is “not appropriate,” it had been publicly available since at least July 17, 2016, when the Wayback Machine first archived it from the Army Publications Directorate website.
The removal of the status report appears to be the latest in a long pattern of anti-transparency actions the service has taken in recent years in response to accountability reporting.
A June 2021 Task & Purpose investigation found that the service “has a transparency problem” where officials sometimes obscure access to information in an effort to control the narrative.
If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you can confidentially seek assistance via the Military/Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, via text at 838255 or chat at http://VeteransCrisisLine.net.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.