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Research Questions

  1. What are the current post-deployment reintegration practices for U.S. federal civilian deployees?
  2. How do civilian post-deployment reintegration activities, programs, and goals vary across non-Department of Defense (DoD) federal organizations and in relation to DoD?
  3. What promising practices can be identified to ensure that civilians receive the support they need to reintegrate into civilian life after deployment?

Over the past two decades, the United States has deployed an unprecedented number of U.S. federal government civilians to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to perform a wide variety of tasks. As more civilians have deployed, increasing numbers have been exposed to high-threat environments and high levels of stress. Studies of civilians (both government-employed and contractors) deployed to areas of conflict indicate that combat exposure and related stressors correlate with significant levels of deployment-related health conditions for this population. Anecdotal evidence further confirms that deployed civilians face similar deployment-related challenges to those experienced by military personnel, in terms of both health conditions and family challenges. This evidence demonstrates that there is a likely need for civilian post-deployment reintegration support. However, until now, a descriptive account of the specific policies, processes, tools, and outputs associated with reintegration for deployed civilians has been lacking.

This report reviews and analyzes assessments of the practices that U.S. federal agencies use to reintegrate civilians following domestic or overseas deployments to high-threat environments. The researchers aim to determine the extent to which such activities vary across the interagency community, and also identify promising practices for such agencies to pursue in the future. The authors leverage interview insights from federal agencies and a review of U.S. military post-deployment reintegration to accomplish these tasks. The authors also draw on U.S. military and Department of Defense civilian policy, programs, and experiences with redeployment to inform future reintegration efforts.

Key Findings

Policymakers and stakeholders should consider the following key findings when taking further steps

  • Civilian post-deployment reintegration concepts and practices vary across non-DoD federal agencies.
  • Civilian deployees must actively seek post-deployment reintegration assistance, but they often lack knowledge regarding the availability of reintegration activities.
  • Civilian deployees seeking reintegration assistance are stigmatized in some cases.
  • Personal services contractors typically do not receive post-deployment reintegration support and are more difficult to track following the end of their contracts.
  • No reliable data exist to date on the size and scale of the issues facing individual civilian deployees, and more evidence-based research is needed.

Recommendations

  • Both DoD and non-DoD federal agencies should work together to consolidate and standardize civilian post-deployment reintegration activities, practices, and programs.
  • Individual agencies deploying civilians should raise awareness of existing policies, programs, and activities—and thus destigmatize efforts to seek help.
  • Individual agencies should establish processes to effectively track civilians, including personal services contractors, following a deployment.
  • Individual agencies should mandate exit interviews during the redeployment process to assist organizations in tracking their deployees and to gain useful feedback on deployment-related issues.
  • Individual agencies and both DoD and non-DoD federal agency communities should conduct further evidence-based research on civilian deployees and post-deployment reintegration activities.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    DoD Post-Deployment Reintegration Policies and Practices

  • Chapter Three

    Federal Civilian Post-Deployment Reintegration Practices and Experiences

  • Chapter Four

    Key Findings and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Glossary of Relevant Terms

  • Appendix B

    Interview Protocol

This project is a RAND Venture. Funding was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted within the RAND National Security Research Division.

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