Pentagon Press Association Expresses “Significant Concern” Over DoD Keeping Defense Secretary Austin’s Hospitalization Secret

On Friday, the Pentagon revealed that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the nation’s top defense official, was admitted to a Washington D.C. hospital on Monday following complications from elective surgery, something the Department of Defense (DoD) kept secret for four days.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said, “On the evening of January 1, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for complications following a recent elective medical procedure.”

He added, “He is recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today.”

Ryder told Fox News, “This has been an evolving situation in which we [have] had to consider a number of factors including medical and personal privacy issues. We are now in a position to update you.”

The Pentagon Press Association (PPA) sent a letter from its board of directors to Secretary Austin’s personnel on Friday evening expressing “significant concern” about the DoD’s release of the news.

Below is the letter from the PPA:

Dear Mr. Meagher and Maj. Gen. Ryder,

We are writing to express our significant concerns about the Defense Department’s failure to notify the public and the media about Secretary Lloyd Austin’s current hospitalization.

The fact that he has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for four days and the Pentagon is only now alerting the public late on a Friday evening is an outrage. It falls far below the normal disclosure standards that are customary by other federal departments when senior officials undergo medical procedures or are temporarily incapacitated.

The public has a right to know when U.S. Cabinet members are hospitalized, under anesthesia or when duties are delegated as the result of any medical procedure. That has been the practice even up to the president’s level. As the nation’s top defense leader, Secretary Austin has no claim to privacy in this situation.

At a time when there are growing threats to U.S. military service members in the Middle East and the U.S. is playing key national security roles in the wars in Israel and Ukraine, it is particularly critical for the American public to be informed about the health status and decision-making ability of its top defense leader.

We request a meeting with you to discuss this troubling situation as soon as possible.

The Pentagon Press Association board of directors
Luis Martinez, ABC News, president
Lolita Baldor, AP, vice president
Aaron Mehta, Breaking Defense, secretary
Phil Stewart, Reuters, at large board member

 

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