Biden Unaware Of DOD Head Diagnosis For A Month
According to sources, President Joe Biden was kept in the dark about his defense secretary’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent hospitalizations for about a month.
This raises questions about leadership within the military and could potentially be embarrassing for Biden as he faces multiple foreign crises in his reelection campaign year. The 70-year-old defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, failed to disclose his hospitalization and treatment, prompting an extraordinary row in Washington.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon came out with its first full account of Austin’s health issues. The timeline of events, starting from Austin’s hospitalization to his return, was shared by two of his doctors from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. They revealed that Austin’s prostate cancer was detected through routine screening in early December.
He underwent minor surgery to treat it on December 22 and was released the following day. However, he was readmitted to the same hospital on January 1 due to complications, which included a urinary tract infection.
According to the doctors, Austin’s situation was further complicated by abdominal, hip, and leg pain. After initial evaluation, it was found that he had abdominal fluid collections that were affecting the function of his small intestines. As a result, Austin was moved to the intensive care unit on January 2. The doctors added that Austin is responding well to treatment and they anticipate a full recovery, although it may be a slow process.
The White House was clearly upset by Austin’s failure to disclose his hospitalization and treatment. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby expressed that it is not “optimal” for the commander-in-chief to be unaware of such developments.
“It’s not good. We want to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said during a briefing at the White House. Kirby also mentioned that an urgent review of the procedures for when senior US officials are incapacitated has been ordered.
White House chief of staff Jeff Zients has also ordered an internal review of the rules governing such processes. Meanwhile, Kirby insisted that Biden continues to have “complete confidence” in Austin and is looking forward to his return to the Pentagon. However, this incident has caused an outcry from both Democratic allies in Congress and Republican opponents.
It has been revealed that Austin’s authority was transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on January 2, but she was not informed about his hospitalization until two days later. The Pentagon spokesman, Major General Pat Ryder, mentioned during a press conference on Monday that other senior officials were not made aware of the situation until January 4. The public was also not informed until January 7, the same day Austin made a statement taking full responsibility for his decisions.
Despite the mishandling of the situation, Austin has stated that he has no plans to resign. According to Ryder, the defense chief remains in good spirits and is in constant contact with his senior staff. He also has full access to secure communication capabilities and is monitoring the day-to-day operations of the Defense Department worldwide. However, Austin has admitted that he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.”