Austin takes 'full responsibility' for keeping hospitalization a secret


We have already discussed the mystery surrounding the hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin which was kept secret from the American public and even the White House for nearly a week. He remains in the hospital this morning, though his office has claimed that he had “resumed his duties” on Friday night. We don’t know much more now about the details of his medical condition, but his office released a statement last night saying that Austin was assuming “full responsibility” for the timing of the release of the news of his condition. Questions remain about who was actually in charge of the Defense Department last week (more on that in a moment), but it would appear that DoD is back up and running in a mostly normal fashion as of this morning. 

From ABC News:

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is taking “full responsibility for [his] decisions” in having the Pentagon announce that he had been hospitalized for days following complications from what was described as a minor medical procedure.

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the White House did not learn about Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday night – three days after he was hospitalized on the night of New Year’s Day for complications resulting from what was characterized as “a minor, elective procedure.”

The surprise disclosure of Austin’s hospitalization had raised questions inside and outside of government about why it was disclosed so late into his medical treatments at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

I’m glad to hear that Austin is doing better, particularly at the age of 70. But if he were taking “full responsibility” for the situation, it seems like we would already know a lot more than we currently do about how things went off the rails and who has been making all of the decisions. When a cabinet member is taken offline for a medical procedure or for any other reason, their deputy is generally in the loop and ready to take charge in their absence. When Austin was hospitalized, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was on vacation in Puerto Rico. The DoD is saying that she “automatically” assumed Austin’s duties, but she did not cancel her vacation and return home.

Austin’s statement included the following concession. “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.” That’s nice to hear, and there is certainly plenty of room for improvement. But the normal order of ascension obviously fell apart in this instance.

Who was running the show at the Department of Defense last week? Did anyone even inform Kathleen Hicks that she was now in charge of Defense? How much control could she have been exercising from her vacation villa in Puerto Rico? For that matter, how is Lloyd Austin handling all of his current duties from Walter Reed? We’re in the middle of a proxy war in Ukraine, we’re providing supplies and logistical support for a war in Gaza, our military is being attacked daily by Houthi rebels out of Yemen, and China is constantly threatening to invade Taiwan, whom we have to supply with military hardware. It seems like this is an inopportune time to have nobody minding the shop at the Defense Department, to say the least.

It sounds to me like Austin is being made to fall on his sword and take responsibility for failing to publicly address the situation when the chain of command broke down. We now know that he was in the intensive care unit for at least part of the week. Was he really in a position to release an official statement and simply chose not to do so? Was he even conscious? The SecDef never travels alone. He had to have had at least one aide with him. If Austin’s “minor medical procedure” suddenly turned so serious that he had to be taken to the ICU, you would assume that an aide would have immediately contacted Hicks and she would have flown back from Puerto Rico at once. The fact that nothing of the sort happened suggests that the Biden administration is engaging in a rushed PR campaign to cover up what was probably a very serious screw-up at the DoD.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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