January 7, 2024
In one of the more bizarre Washington DC stories to surface, not only were the Pentagon press and the public not informed about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s ongoing hospitalization, neither was President Joe Biden, the Commander-in-Chief or the National Security Council, and none knew his stand-in was on vacation.
The Pentagon initially cited medical privacy issues, but privacy or not, the lack of communication to Oval Office and The National Security certainly breaches standards and protocols even based on common sense, and calls into question whether there is some serious cognitive dissonance in motion, considering the enormity of conflicts abroad and 8 million illegals, who have crossed the US border since Biden took office in Jan. 2021, and the Secretary of Defense position is somewhere in the nuclear chain of command.
Not only is the Pentagon press upset, but so are other lawmakers on the Hill and more so now knowing that Austin’s stand-in was in Puerto Rico on vacation.
Joe Biden was kept in the dark for days about Austin’s condition.
Austin was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, January 1, press secretary, Major General Pat Ryder, said on Friday. He suffered "complications following a recent elective medical procedure," Ryder said in a brief statement, as earlier reported by CDM's Armed Forces.
The president was informed on Thursday evening, several days later. A Biden administration official told CBS News that National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan and the White House's National Security Council were told on Thursday morning.
The Pentagon Press Association, an organization representing members of the media involved in U.S. Defense Department coverage, was more blunt, calling it an "outrage."
"At a time when there are growing threats to U.S. military service members in the Middle East and the U.S. is playing key national security roles in the wars in Israel and Ukraine, it is particularly critical for the American public to be informed about the health status and decision-making ability of its top defense leader," the association said in a letter to top Pentagon officials.
"The Department of Defense deliberately withheld the secretary of defense's medical condition for days. That is unacceptable," said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We are learning more every hour about the department's shocking defiance of the law."
Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has called for "consequences for this shocking breakdown," because Austin is the "key link in the chain of command between the president and the uniformed military, including the nuclear chain of command, when the weightiest of decisions must be made in minutes."
Austin said on Saturday that he takes "full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure," adding: "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," he added in a statement. "I am very glad to be on the mend and look forward to returning to the Pentagon soon."
The Pentagon said Deputy Defense Secretary, Kathleen Hicks, was prepared to stand in for Austin "at all times."
But, "Stand-In Hicks" was on vacation in Puerto Rico during Austin's hospitalization, and "periodically assumed" Austin's duties, as reported in CNN.
A Defense Department spokesperson told Newsweek on Sunday that Austin was still in the hospital, but was "recovering well" and resumed his full duties.
The mystery continues when Austin will be back at the office because no one seems to know when he will be discharged.
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Christine Dolan is a seasoned Investigative Journalist, television producer, author, and photographer. She is Co-Founder of American Conversations whose format focuses on in-depth analysis of critical issues about “the story behind the headlines.”