Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remained within the hospital Sunday as extra particulars emerged about key decision-makers, even President Joe Biden, being stored in the dead of night for days that the Pentagon chief had been within the intensive care unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The Pentagon’s failure to reveal Austin’s hospitalization displays a surprising lack of transparency about his sickness, how critical it was and when he could also be launched. Such secrecy, at a time when the United States is juggling myriad nationwide safety crises, runs counter to regular follow with the president and different senior U.S. officers and Cabinet members.
A senior protection official stated Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks was not notified till Thursday that Austin had been hospitalized since Jan. 1. Once notified, Hicks started getting ready statements to ship to Congress and made plans to return to Washington, the official stated. Hicks was in Puerto Rico on go away however had communications tools along with her to stay involved and had already been tasked with some secretary-level duties on Tuesday.
The Pentagon didn’t say if Hicks was given an evidence on Tuesday for why she was assuming a few of Austin’s duties, however non permanent transfers of authority will not be uncommon and the official stated it’s not unusual for authorities to be transferred with out a detailed clarification. Hicks determined to not return after she was knowledgeable that Austin would resume full management on Friday. The official was not licensed to offer particulars of the switch of authority and spoke on situation of anonymity.
Biden additionally was not instructed of Austin’s hospitalization till he was knowledgeable on Thursday by his nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan. That’s based on three folks with data of the hospitalization who weren’t licensed to talk publicly and spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity.
In a press release issued Saturday night, Austin took duty for the delays in notification.
“I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” stated Austin, acknowledging the issues about transparency. “But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”
Austin, 70, remained hospitalized as a consequence of issues following a minor elective medical process, his press secretary stated, because it turned more and more clear how carefully the Pentagon held details about his keep at Walter Reed. In his assertion, Austin stated he’s on the mend and is wanting ahead to returning to the Pentagon quickly, however he supplied no different particulars about his ailment.
Sen. Roger Wicker, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated the episode erodes belief within the Biden administration and referred to as on the division to offer lawmakers with a “full accounting of the info instantly.”
“I am glad to hear Secretary Austin is in improved condition and I wish him a speedy recovery. However, the fact remains that the Department of Defense deliberately withheld the Secretary of Defense’s medical condition for days. That is unacceptable,” Wicker said in a statement.
But it’s not just Republicans expressing alarm. In a joint statement, Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Adam Smith, D-Wash., said they were “concerned with how the disclosure of the Secretary’s condition was handled.”
Among the questions that they had had been what the medical process was and what the ensuing issues had been, how and when the delegation of his duties was made, and the rationale for the delay in notification to the president and lawmakers. Rogers is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Smith is the rating Democrat.
“Transparency is vitally essential. Sec. Austin should present these extra particulars on his well being and the decision-making course of that occurred up to now week as quickly as doable,” said the two lawmakers.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced support for Austin at a news conference in Qatar on Sunday.
“He is an extraordinary leader in this country, in uniform and now out of uniform. And it’s been a highlight of my service to be able to serve alongside him,” Blinken stated. “And I’m very much looking forward to see him fully recovered and working side by side in the year ahead.”
The Pentagon Press Association, which represents journalists who cover the Defense Department, sent a letter of protest on Friday evening, calling the delay in alerting the public “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 PPA stated in its letter.
Other senior U.S. leaders have been rather more clear about hospital stays. When Attorney General Merrick Garland went in for a routine medical process in 2022, his workplace knowledgeable the general public every week upfront and outlined how lengthy he was anticipated to be out and when he would return to work.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Michael Balsamo and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.