Members of both houses of Congress are calling for the Defense Department to comply with federal law and submit overdue suicide-related reports to legislative committees.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., said they need the information to create policy addressing systemic suicide risks across the force.

But according to Senate staff, the Defense Department has missed its deadline on three mandatory reports from the fiscal year 2023 defense policy bill that were due in December 2023. One report called for post-9/11 suicide numbers broken down by occupational specialty and military component. Another directed the agency to craft a standardized definition for “suicide cluster,” and the third required the Pentagon to study the relationship between low recruitment, operational tempo and physical/mental health. An Army Times reporter went to the Capitol on Friday and verified that the reports were not there.

In January, the Defense Department sent a letter to Congress saying it had gathered the numbers for the by-occupation suicide report. But the letter’s author, acting defense undersecretary Ashish Vazirani, said the data “requires more intricate statistical approaches to make appropriate and reliable comparisons.” Vazirani estimated his office will submit the report June 28 — nearly six months late.

King, who wrote the law mandating that DOD study suicides by their military job specialty, said the data is crucial to “address [military and veteran suicide] with a clear focus.” The Senate Armed Services Committee member praised Army Times’ Broken Track investigation — which revealed a link between repeated deployments and elevated suicide rates in recent years among armor brigades and tankers — as a “complex research project ... [that] will save lives by informing how we better support those who defend America and our principles.”

Maine resident and retired Air Force Master Sgt. Chris McGhee, who suggested the suicide report to King, published an open letter Tuesday calling for members of Congress to use their “full [oversight] authority to expedite the release of this study.” McGhee told Army Times he was inspired to dig into specialty-specific suicide rates after a series of deaths among Air Force aircraft maintainers.

Pentagon officials plan to meet with lawmakers about the overdue data in late March or early April, King’s office said.

Houlahan, a former Air Force captain, said Army Times’ report confirms that “specific [military] professions are impacted disproportionately” by suicide.

“Now that we have the data, and more forthcoming, it’s Congress’ responsibility to act,” Houlahan said. “If that means giving the DOD additional tools to address this, I look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers, especially Senator King, to get it done.”

A third member of Congress, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said Thursday that the Army should “re-evaluate its global posture for armor and give serious consideration to permanently basing an additional [brigade combat team] in Europe.” A think tank issued a report Monday that found the Army should permanently base an armor brigade in Poland.

King said the full suicide data, once received, will help Congress to “address underlying causes of suicide, reevaluate training methods and deployments, and improve care for the men and women who have stepped up to serve our nation.”

According to Houlahan, the report can’t come soon enough.

“Lives are at stake and any delay is deadly,” she said.

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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