US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin doesn't want the storm surrounding his hospital stay to die down. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, who was put on hold for four days, still has faith in Austin. Yet interventions are expected at the top of the Pentagon.
According to new details released by the Pentagon on Sunday, Secretary Austin was hospitalized for an unnecessary procedure on December 22, 2023, and was allowed to go home the next day. But on Monday, January 1, Austin had to go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in “severe pain” after complications. This time the minister also had to stay in the intensive care unit. He didn't return to work until Friday, January 5 – still from hospital. Austin is reportedly still hospitalized today, and it is unclear when he will be allowed to leave the hospital.
On Sunday, Austin apologized because his ministry didn't announce he was in the hospital sooner: the news didn't become public until the end of the workday on Friday. Congress was informed fifteen minutes before the general public.
“I know I could have done a better job of making sure the public is informed,” Austin wrote in a brief statement. “I promise I'll be better.” Even today, no one in the Biden administration and the Pentagon knows exactly why Austin should be reinstated and how he is now. I do not know.
As Secretary of Defense, Austin (70) holds a key position in the command structure of the US Armed Forces. He is second in line to Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden. He is the link between the military top brass and the president. But Biden and the US National Security Council were only informed on Thursday, January 4. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was told on Jan. 2 that Austin would be temporarily replaced — something that often happens — but the reason for her boss's absence was not clear to her until Thursday.
The possibility of such a thing in geopolitically turbulent times, with wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip and conflict with Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, has led to a storm of outrage. Sen. Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Republican, is seeking clarification from Austin, as is Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the defense committee. “I'm glad to hear Secretary Austin is doing well and wish him a speedy recovery,” Wicker said in a statement. “But it is unacceptable that the Ministry of Defense willfully concealed the Minister's condition for several days.”
'Transparency is very important'
Criticism is also being heard from Democrats. In a joint press release, Congressmen Mike Rogers and Adam Smith expressed their “concern over the manner in which the announcement of the Secretary's status was handled.” “Transparency is very important,” they said.
Officially, the White House says Biden still has full confidence in Austin. According to Politics The chances of Biden beating Austin are slim, but “someone's head is expected to roll,” a senior Pentagon source was quoted as saying. “Not telling the White House, Congress or the press that he's sick, telling Pentagon staff that he's working from home is real. The next level. This is a big problem. Someone decided not to communicate. That person will be fired soon.
“Passionate analyst. Thinker. Devoted twitter evangelist. Wannabe music specialist.”