Loyd In ICU Staff Never Told Biden
The Pentagon came under scrutiny this weekend after it was revealed that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been hospitalized on January 1st, but President Joe Biden and other top officials were not informed for three days.
According to three U.S. officials, the news of Austin’s hospitalization was not relayed to the White House until January 4th, when National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was briefed. It is unlikely that Biden was aware of Austin’s condition before Sullivan’s briefing, as the NSC and Pentagon both declined to comment on the matter.
The delay in notifying the White House and the public has raised concerns among officials and civilians alike. The news came as a shock to all White House staff, who were unaware that Austin was dealing with complications following an elective medical procedure. A National Security Council spokesperson stated that the President has complete trust in Austin and is looking forward to his return to the Pentagon, but multiple U.S. officials expressed frustration over the situation.
According to these officials, not even senior Pentagon officials and congressional leaders were informed until just before the public announcement on Friday evening. Some Pentagon officials only learned of Austin’s hospitalization through a news release from DOD spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.
This delay in sharing vital information about the Secretary of Defense’s condition has been met with outrage by members of the press, as well as politicians such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and SASC’s top Republican, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
The fact that Austin had relinquished some of his duties to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks also went unreported until the Friday announcement, according to one senior DOD official. The official stated that “the vast, vast majority of leaders were unaware” of Austin’s condition and Hicks’ temporary assumption of some of his duties. The Pentagon said that Austin’s hospitalization came during a tumultuous time for the military, as U.S. forces are facing near-daily attacks from Iranian-backed proxies in the Middle East.
On Thursday, U.S. forces killed the leader of a terrorist group targeting American personnel in Iraq, a decision which was approved by Austin and Biden before his hospitalization, according to a senior DOD official. However, the situation remains tense, and the U.S. is still working on potential responses to ongoing attacks in the region. This further highlights the need for timely and transparent communication between the Pentagon and the White House, as well as the public.
The delayed news of Austin’s hospitalization has led to speculation about why the Pentagon waited so long to disclose his condition. Brad Carson, a former undersecretary and chief management officer of the Army, stated that there is no standard protocol for such situations, and it may depend on the severity of Austin’s condition. However, he added that if the Secretary of Defense is still capable of making decisions, even under a doctor’s supervision, there may not be an obligation to inform the public.
In response to the criticism, Austin stated on Saturday that he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.” He added that while he takes full responsibility for his decisions about disclosure, “this was my medical procedure” and it was ultimately his call. But this statement did little to quell the outrage among some Pentagon officials, who said that the delay in sharing information was “so out of character for DOD.”
As the situation continues to unfold, questions remain about the transparency and accountability of top officials in the U.S. government. It is clear that the delayed notification of Austin’s hospitalization and temporary delegation of duties has caused frustration and concern among many in the public and on Capitol Hill. As the U.S. faces ongoing challenges from foreign adversaries, it is crucial that clear and timely communication between the Pentagon and the White House is maintained to ensure the safety and security of the nation.