At Hearing on Defense Budget, Senator Murray Underscores Importance of Passing Timely Funding Bills to Keep Pace with Competitors and Support Military Families

***WATCH: Senator Murray speaks at hearing on Defense budget request***


Washington, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing on the President’s fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlighted the importance of timely appropriations to keep pace with our competitors’ investments, keep our country secure, and deliver the support our servicemembers and military families are counting on—and deserve.


“We know that our competitors, like the Chinese government, are doing everything they can to gain ground. So we cannot afford to let our efforts get sidetracked and our investments fall behind. Our military needs the certainty of a regular and smooth appropriations process that they can depend on,” said Senator Murray. “As I have said, our most important military asset isn’t weapons or equipment—it is the brave and talented women and men who are willing to put their lives on the line to keep our country safe. So we owe it to them to work together, across the aisle, get our job done, get our government funded without drama, and get them the support they need.”


At Thursday’s hearing, Senator Murray asked Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III about what DOD is doing to get servicemembers the mental health care and counseling they need—especially given the devastating suicide crisis.


“Our nation’s suicide crisis is devastating—and we see serious risk among our servicemembers,” said Senator Murray. “The latest report on suicide in the military shows a steady increase over the past decade. And while we finally saw a decrease in 2021, there is still a great deal of work we need to do. Secretary Austin, you have previously noted how the stress caused by the unpredictability of life in the military, the demand for troops to confront so many threats abroad, and real challenges accessing counseling all contribute to the problem. I also understand the Department is facing challenges hiring enough specialists to provide servicemembers with access to mental health care and counseling. Can you tell us what steps you are taking to increase its hiring so servicemembers have adequate access to mental health care and counseling?”


In response, Secretary Austin replied that this is a top priority for the Department—and highlighted the importance of its budget request to increase access to mental health services for servicemembers.


Senator Murray also asked about what steps DOD is taking to address the seismic vulnerability of dry docks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.


“The Navy is sending a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time since the 1980s, and the USS George Washington will replace the USS Ronald Reagan in Japan so it can head to Bremerton, Washington for maintenance. These naval assets will only become more important as the U.S. works to strengthen our partnerships and support allies throughout the Indo-Pacific. Maintaining this fleet is really paramount to our success, and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is vital to the maintenance work,” said Senator Murray. “Those dry docks are currently vulnerable to seismic activity. Secretary Austin, I’m disappointed that despite knowing about the need to address those seismic issues, it was left out of the budget request this year. How is the Department ensuring this multi-year project is, and will continue to be, a top priority for the Navy?”