Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Under Fire for Delayed Disclosure of Hospitalization

 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Under Fire for Delayed Disclosure of Hospitalization

Photo by PBS

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is facing criticism for not promptly informing President Joe Biden and other senior officials about his hospitalization. The Pentagon announced on Friday, Jan. 5, that Austin had been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 1 due to complications from an elective medical procedure. This news came as a surprise to many, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was unaware of Austin’s condition when she assumed his responsibilities.

Pentagon Press Secretary Patrick Ryder explained that Austin had transferred certain duties to Hicks on Jan. 2 while she was on vacation, but did not disclose his hospitalization until Jan. 4. This lack of communication has raised national security concerns, with former Vice President Mike Pence calling it “totally unacceptable” and a “dereliction of duty” given the current global tensions.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker echoed these sentiments, expressing relief over Austin’s recovery but criticizing the Department of Defense for withholding information about his condition. Secretary Austin acknowledged the situation in a statement, admitting that he could have better informed the public and accepting full responsibility for his decisions regarding disclosure.

Representative James Clyburn emphasized the balance between Austin’s right to medical privacy and his duty to keep the public informed. A senior Biden administration official reported that President Biden and Austin had a warm phone conversation on Saturday night, their first since the hospitalization.

The Pentagon provided additional details on Sunday, stating that Austin was admitted to intensive care on Jan. 1 after experiencing severe pain following a medical procedure on Dec. 22. The exact nature of the procedure remains unspecified. Despite the controversy, the Pentagon assures that Secretary Austin is currently recovering well and in good spirits.

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