SecDef Lloyd Austin Issues Statement on Secret Hospitalization; Does Not Explain Shocking Failure to Inform Biden or White House Staff, Congress or Pentagon Officials

File image of health-conscience SecDef Lloyd Austin.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, age 70, issued a statement Saturday evening on his secret hospitalization that failed to explain his shocking failure for days to inform Joe Biden or White House staff, Congress or even Pentagon officials that he had been laid up in the Intensive Care Unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland all week while the U.S. was engaging terrorists in Iraq and the Red Sea.

Biden and the White House were not informed until Thursday while Congress was notified on Friday. Some Pentagon officials learned about it from news reports Friday night.

In his statement, Austin took full responsibility for keeping his hospitalization a secret, but did not say why he kept it secret or what his ailment is.

Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks, is reported to be on vacation in Puerto Rico this week and did not return to Washington. The Pentagon claimed Hicks was able to manage the Pentagon from her vacation spot in the Caribbean.

Austin’s statement was an effort to clean up the Friday night news dump in which the Pentagon announced Austin had been in the hospital since Monday for undescribed “complications following a recent elective medical procedure”:

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following statement on Secretary of Defense Austin:

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 is recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today. At all times, the Deputy Secretary of Defense was prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required.

Austin’s statement released Saturday evening:

Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Medical Care

I want to thank the amazing doctors and nursing staff at Walter Reed for the exceptional care they have delivered to me and for the personal warmth they have shown my family. I also appreciate all the outreach and well wishes from colleagues and friends. Charlene and I are very grateful for your support.

I am very glad to be on the mend and look forward to returning to the Pentagon soon.

I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better.

But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.

NBC News reported National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was not informed until Thursday that Austin had been hospitalized (excerpt):

Amid tensions in the Middle East, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was hospitalized, including spending four days in the intensive care unit, according to two senior administration officials.

The Pentagon did not inform senior officials in the White House’s National Security Council of Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday — three days after he arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center, a U.S. official confirms. Politico first reported the delay.

…Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was on leave, has picked up his duties, the senior defense official said.

Hicks was on pre-scheduled leave when Austin was hospitalized this week, according to a defense official. She has been on vacation in Puerto Rico, the official said.

She “has maintained full communication with the DOD staff throughout,” the official said. “She has monitored DOD’s day-to-day operations and conducted some routine business.”

Politico updated its reporting Saturday adding that no one told Joe Biden until Thursday (excerpt):

The Pentagon did not tell President Joe Biden and other top officials about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization for three days, three U.S. officials said.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and other senior White House aides didn’t know of Austin’s Jan. 1 hospitalization until the Defense Department sent over word Jan. 4, two other U.S. officials said. Sullivan informed Biden shortly after DOD’s Thursday notification.

…The news of Austin’s situation came as a shock to all White House staff as they were unaware the Pentagon boss was dealing with complications following an elective medical procedure, the officials said. National Security Council staffers were surprised it took the Pentagon so long to let them know of Austin’s status. The Pentagon didn’t make the information public until Friday evening, notifying Congress about 15 minutes before releasing a public statement.

But Austin’s hospitalization was a closely guarded secret, kept from even senior Pentagon officials and congressional leaders until just before the public statement, according to nine DOD officials and two congressional aides. Some Pentagon officials only learned of Austin’s situation through Ryder’s news release. One of the DOD officials said their office was told by Austin’s aides that the secretary was working from home for the week.

The Pentagon Press Association wrote a sternly worded letter complaining about the Pentagon’s secrecy regarding Austin, TGP reported earlier.

Military Reporters and Editors also sent a sternly worded letter. Reporters were even more upset that the Pentagon held a press briefing on Thursday and failed to disclose Austin’s hospitalization (excerpt):

The Pentagon had ample opportunity to disclose Secretary Austin’s absence including during a media briefing on Thursday. The lack of disclosure has created a serious breach of trust at a critical juncture. It is also another troubling sign of a growing lack of transparency. That the information about a five-day absence was not released until Friday at 5 p.m. is keeping in the worst traditions of obfuscation and opacity.

There is no excuse for the lack of notification. Secretary Austin enjoys no privilege of privacy here given the important role he plays. The Pentagon only has to look at how the Marines handled the hospitalization of the Commandant, Gen. Eric Smith, to see how these matters should be handled.

More from the AP (excerpt):

…The Pentagon did not inform the White House National Security Council or top adviser Jake Sullivan of Austin’s hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, until Thursday, according to two administration officials. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization for days reflects a stunning lack of transparency about his illness, how serious it was and when he may be released. Such secrecy, at a time when the United States is juggling myriad national security crises, runs counter to normal practice with the president and other senior U.S. officials and Cabinet members.

…Ryder said members of Congress were told late Friday afternoon, and other officials said lawmakers were informed after 5 p.m. It was not clear when key senior members of Austin’s staff were told, but across the Pentagon, many staff found out when the department released a statement about Austin’s hospital stay just minutes after 5 p.m. Many believed Austin was out on vacation for the week.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who took over when Austin was hospitalized, was also away. A U.S. official said she had a communications setup with her in Puerto Rico that allowed her to do the job while Austin, who spent 41 years in the military and retired as a four-star Army general in 2016, was incapacitated.

Ryder said Saturday that Austin is recovering well and resumed his full duties Friday evening from his hospital bed. Asked why the hospital stay was kept secret for so long, Ryder said on Friday that it was an “evolving situation,” and that due to privacy and medical issues, the Pentagon did not make Austin’s absence public. Ryder declined to provide any other details about Austin’s medical procedure or health.

In some organizations this would be a firing offense.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called for “consequences” in a statement issued shortly before Austin’s statement was released:

“Secretary Austin must address promptly the troubling report that the Department of Defense didn’t immediately notify President Biden or the National Security Council that he was hospitalized and unable to perform his duties. The Secretary of Defense is the key link in the chain of command between the president and the uniformed military, including the nuclear chain of command, when the weightiest of decisions must be made in minutes. If this report is true, there must be consequences for this shocking breakdown.”

My statement following reports that the @DeptofDefense failed to disclose that Secretary Austin was hospitalized: pic.twitter.com/YjL4jSZURI

— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 6, 2024

UPDATE: Biden did not answer when asked about Austin while leaving mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware Saturday evening, reported Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs:

As he left church in Greenville, Delaware, Biden didn’t answer a shouted question about SecDef Austin.

— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) January 6, 2024

Photo:

President Joe Biden leaves St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church in Wilmington, Del., after attending Mass on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. Stephanie Scarbrough – staff, ASSOCIATED PRESShttps://t.co/kQKd0I8hjv via @reflectornews

— Kristinn Taylor (@KristinnFR) January 7, 2024

The post SecDef Lloyd Austin Issues Statement on Secret Hospitalization; Does Not Explain Shocking Failure to Inform Biden or White House Staff, Congress or Pentagon Officials appeared first on The Gateway Pundit.

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