Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin was admitted to a military hospital in Washington on Monday. The public was only informed about his hospitalization on Friday. President Joe Biden himself learned about his hospital stay a few days later. Republicans point out that “the secretary of defense is a key link in the chain of command between the president and the armed forces” and such information should be provided to the public as soon as possible. “I realize I could have done a better job (…) I am committed to doing better,” Austin said.
70 years old Lloyd Austinthe US Secretary of Defense, was admitted to a military hospital in Washington on January 1. Pentagon stated that the reason for hospitalization were complications after a medical procedure. The Pentagon informed the public that Austin was in the hospital only on Friday, four days after his hospitalization.
As Reuters reports, citing an anonymous American official, himself Joe Biden He was not to be informed of Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday evening. Lloyd Austin ranks just behind Biden in the U.S. military’s chain of command. The head of the Pentagon and the US president were scheduled to hold a telephone conversation on Saturday.
Lloyd Austin Statement. “I commit to improving”
“I recognize that I could have done a better job of keeping the public informed. I am committed to doing better,” Austin said in a written statement.
“It is important to say: this was my medical procedure and I take full responsibility for my decisions regarding the disclosure of information,” the Pentagon chief noted.
A Department of Defense spokesman said Austin returned to full duty on Friday, although he remains in the hospital.
Republicans criticize Austin
The BBC notes that Republicans have expressed serious concern about the situation. It is unclear to what extent Austin’s responsibilities were transferred to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, who was on leave in Puerto Rico, or whether Austin was involved in any key decisions while in the hospital.
Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused the Pentagon of not informing Congress about the hospitalization earlier, even though it should have been informed immediately. Wicker said the situation may have reduced public confidence in the Biden administration. – The Department of Defense intentionally hid the Secretary of Defense’s health for days. This is unacceptable, Wicker said.
– The Secretary of Defense is a key link in the chain of command between the president and the armed forces, including the nuclear chain of command, when the most important decisions must be made within minutes (…) If this information is true, there must be consequences – he said in turn Senator Tom Cotton.
“It is essential that the American public is informed.”
The Pentagon Press Association, made up of journalists working for the Defense Department, also criticized the Pentagon’s lack of information. The association argues that Austin is a public figure who cannot claim medical privacy in such a situation. It has been noted that even US presidents disclose when they have to delegate responsibilities due to medical procedures.
“At a time when threats to American military service in the Middle East are growing and the United States is playing a critical national security role in the wars in Israel and Ukraine, it is especially important that the American public is informed about the health of its top defense leader.” said in a statement.
Reuters, BBC, “The Guardian”
Main photo source: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE