Surgeon general testifies before Senate on budget request

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The medical capabilities honed from 13 years of war must continue to expand for future needs, the three military surgeon generals’ told Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense April 9.

Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas Travis, the Air Force surgeon general, testified with Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general; and Vice Adm. (Dr.) Matthew Nathan, the Navy surgeon general, at a hearing on defense health programs.

Despite the war winding down and the fiscal challenges that lie ahead, military medicine has a “clear responsibility” to make sure its medics are well trained and prepared for any future contingencies, the Air Force surgeon general said.

In addition to psychiatric intervention and care for suicide prevention and various mental health issues, the services have made other gains in the medical arena.

Air Force mental health providers also are readily available at duty locations to “provide early intervention and care for those experiencing occupational stress that affects their performance,” Travis said.

Combat and stability operations, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief must be sustained by well-trained personnel, Travis said.

“(Medical professionals) must have robust opportunities to practice their skills (and we must) continue to pursue critical research and modernization initiatives in the future,” he said.

According to Horoho, when the Army, Navy and Air Force began embedding behavioral health professionals at duty stations, for example, service members were able to access outpatient behavioral health care more often, and fewer subsequent acute crises occurred, the surgeon generals’ told Senate members.

“As the way we fight war evolves, the way we provide medical support to operators is also evolving,” Travis said. “Not only will access and care be more customized for the mission, but so will prevention. Even in the face of budget challenges, we have to be as ready for the next war as we are at the end of the current war.”

(Courtesy of American Forces Press Service, content provided by Terri Moon Cronk of AFPS)