With suicide rates among America's troops approaching a rate of one every day -- far more than the number dying in action -- Senator Murkowski today made a personal appeal to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and asked that he make it a top priority when he appeared before her in the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss the Pentagon's FY2013 budget.
Senator Murkowski: I will conclude my comments with just a direct appeal. The focus as we look at the infrastructure is all very keen, but it always comes down to our human assets. I remain very, very troubled with the high level of suicide that we are seeing with our military -- also with our veteran population. I think most are staggered to learn that we are actually seeing more deaths due to suicide than we are actually out in theater in Afghanistan. How we deal with this reflects on who we are as a nation and our commitment to those who serve us.
Secretary Panetta: Senator I thank you for pointing that out. I'm very concerned by the high rate of suicides, talking with the service chiefs, they share those concerns. And as a matter of fact, they highlighted the fact that they were seeing higher rates of suicide than they had seen in the past. And what I've asked all of them to do -- plus the under-Secretaries that are responsible for this -- is to immediately look at that situation and determine what's behind it, what's causing it, and what can we do to make sure it doesn't happen.