Chief of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin questioned about his secret hospital stay

Lawmakers have pushed US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to notify the White House of any recent hospital stays; one senator called the lapse a “embarrassment”. During a heated session on Thursday, the Pentagon chief said that there had been “a breakdown in notifications” over his medical stay in January. The 70-year-old Mr. Austin is receiving treatment for prostate cancer. No “indication of ill intent” by Mr. Austin has been discovered by the Pentagon. Mr. Austin testified before the House Armed Services Committee, the first opportunity legislators had to interrogate him since the event surfaced earlier this year. “I never told anyone not to inform the president, White House, or anyone else about my hospitalization,” he said.

 

Rep. Mike Rogers called it “totally unacceptable” that the president wasn’t notified that Mr. Austin was in the hospital for three days. “Our ships were being fired upon in the Red Sea, wars were raging in Ukraine and Israel, and our bases in Syria and Iraq were ready for attack.” However, he stated early in the hearing that “the commander in chief was unaware that his secretary of defense was not in action.” “Who will be held accountable for this embarrassment?” After questioning Mr. Austin, Republican Congressman Jim Banks pressed him on the duration of their silent period while he was in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with President Joe Biden.

 

“Either the president is that aloof or you are irrelevant,” added Banks. Mr. Austin retorted, “The president is not aloof,” stressing that he participates in all important decision-making. “What happens when a soldier goes AWOL?” posed Republican Nancy Mace. What’s the penalty?” Mr. Austin retorted, “I wouldn’t equate going to the hospital with going AWOL.” “I didn’t vanish. I was in a Washington, DC, military hospital.” In his opening remarks, Mr. Austin informed the committee that the chain of command procedure had been reviewed and that the “system must be postured better” to ensure that this does not occur again.

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