Inquiry Launched Into Defense Secretary’s Secretive Hospitalization

A House committee is launching a formal investigation into the hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin which has subjected the Pentagon chief to intense scrutiny in recent days.

According to the Armed Services Committee, it sent letters to Austin as well as his deputy Kathleen Hicks and his chief of staff Kelly Magsamen, asking for information on the events of the past few weeks.

The letter, signed by Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), stated that members of the committee have “grave concerns” about the secrecy with which Austin’s hospitalization and absence were handled.

“It is unacceptable that neither the Department of Defense (“Department”), the White House, nor the Congress were accurately informed of your position or capacity. With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own Deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable,” the latter read.

“Everything from on-going counterterrorism operations to nuclear command and control relies on a clear understanding of the Secretary’s decision-making capacity. The Department is a robust institution, and it is designed to function under attack by our enemies, but it is not designed for a Secretary who conceals being incapacitated,” he added.

News of the panel’s inquiry comes after doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center revealed that Austin had been hospitalized for complications from a procedure to treat prostate cancer.

Austin had been checked into the hospital on Jan. 1, leaving some of his duties to Hicks, who was away on vacation. However, it was not until Jan. 5 that the Department of Defense put out the news of the Pentagon chief’s hospitalization. Controversy around the issue grew when it came out that White House officials, some top DoD officials, Congress and the Pentagon press corps were also not informed of the situation.

Since the revelation, Austin has faced heavy criticism, including calls to resign or to be dismissed.

Over the weekend, Austin admitted that he could have “done a better job” with communicating his situation appropriately. “I commit to doing better. But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure,” he said.