Where is Secretary of Defense Austin? Still hospitalized on Day 9

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III speaks with Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa onboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) underway in the Eastern Mediterranean, Dec. 20, 2023, the day before he went into the hospital for an elective surgical procedure. Photo credit: Department of Defense.

Nine days after first being admitted to the hospital under a shroud of secrecy, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin remains bedridden at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

The Department of Defense issued a statement on Monday evening, detailing some of the course of events that led to the Pentagon not revealing to the president or American people that the secretary was in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Austin and the Biden Administration have been criticized for their lack of transparency, considering the unstable state of the world and ongoing conflicts that the United States is involved in, particularly in the Middle East.

“Since resuming duties on Friday evening, the secretary has received operational updates and has provided necessary guidance,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Monday evening. “He has full access to required secure communications capabilities and continues to monitor [Defense Department] day-to-day operations worldwide.” 

Austin had some undisclosed elective surgery on Dec. 22. He spent the night at Walter Reed and was discharged on Saturday, Dec. 23. The press secretary said that Lloyd worked from home through the holidays. But he experienced severe pain and was admitted to Walter Reed’s intensive care unit on Jan. 1.

At some point between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke with Austin, but the health situation was not revealed to him.

Austin was conscious but in quite a bit of pain, Ryder said, who added he assumed Austin was administered some sort of pain medication and did not know if at any time Austin was unconscious.

On Jan. 2, Gen. C.Q. Brown, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was informed that Austin had been hospitalized the night before.

Austin underwent testing and evaluation while in the ICU, and on Jan. 2, “certain authorities” were transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks “due to the secretary’s condition, and on the basis of medical advice,” Ryder said. Hick was not told that she was the top authority at the Pentagon.

Members of Austin’s and Hicks’ staff were notified that the transfer of authority had occurred through normal email notification procedures, Ryder said. However, no one outside his inner circle was told that he was in intensive care. Neither the president nor Hicks were informed of the gravity of his medical condition.

On Thursday, Jan. 4, at 4 a.m., the U.S. Air Force conducts an air strike in Bagdad, Iraq, killing one of the leaders of an Iraqi military group. The Pentagon later said the strike was approved by Austin before he was hospitalized. Ryder held a scheduled press conference on Jan. 4, but did not tell reporters that the secretary was hospitalized.

On Jan. 4, Austin’s chief of staff notified Hicks and the White House National Security Advisor of the secretary’s hospitalization and ICU stay. Ryder has since said that Austin’s chief of staff had been sick with the flu, which caused the delay in notification of Hicks and the president.

Once notified of the hospitalization, Hicks “immediately engaged on drafting a public statement and congressional outreach,” alongside Austin’s chief of staff, Ryder said. Hicks was in Puerto Rico vacationing at the time and the president was in the Bahamas.

On the afternoon of Jan. 5, just 15 minutes before the press corps was notified, congressional members were told of the hospitalization, but few details were provided.

That announcement did not disclose his stay in intensive care or that the White House hadn’t been informed for three days that he was in the hospital.

Ryder said the Defense Department is currently reviewing how it can improve its notification procedures, to include White House and congressional notifications. 

“I want to underscore that Secretary Austin has taken responsibility for the issues with transparency, and the department will be taking steps to improve our notification procedures,” Ryder told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon on Monday. “I’m also personally committed to keeping you informed.” 

“Nothing is more important to the secretary of Defense and the department than the trust and confidence of the American public we serve, and we will continue to work hard every day to earn and deserve that trust,” he said.

While acting as the secretary, Hicks made routine operational and management decisions for the department “and was fully authorized and ready to support the president on other military matters should the need have arisen,” Ryder said. But his statement is contradicted by the fact that she did not know she was the top person in command.

Austin resumed his full duties as secretary on Friday night.

White House spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden looks forward to having him back on the job.

“There is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job,” Kirby said to members of the press.

Tuesday, Jan. 9 marks the ninth day Austin, age 70, has been continuously hospitalized. Although he is not in the ICU, he is in a private area of Walter Reed, where he is said to be working from his bed. The nature of his illness has still been kept a secret.

Austin has been hospitalized for 10 out of the last 20 days, since his initial admission to the hospital on Dec. 21. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average stay in American hospitals is 5-1/2 days. Extended hospital stays can lead to infections and other health complications.

17 COMMENTS

  1. He’s being treated for clotting.

    Imagine forcing an experimental vaccine on the entire military, and then dying from said experiment. That’s karma!

    He’ll be toes up soon.

  2. Let’s see. The diversity hire SecDef dropped off the face of the earth. The senile President Grandpa Bloodstains was out of the country on vacation.

    Good thing nothing volatile happing in the world right now.

    • It is called AWOL—-Absent Without Leave. Punishable by Court Marshal In time of war you could be shot for it. It is Deriilection of D.uty.

  3. The SecDef gets hospitalized, the 2nd in charge then goes on vacation, nobody seems to think it’s significant enough to tell the POTUS about, while the US is conducting military strikes in Iraq against Iranian-backed militias. The adults are back in charge.

    • Sarge, the SecDef is NOT a military officer! He is part of the civilian command authority and NOT bound by military regulations.

      That being said, in his role as part of the command structure, his actions are inexcusable and strange. Further considering that this isn’t one guy doing his thing, but a person, who has a myriad of staff with him at most times, the “cone of silence” treatment has to be deliberate and come from SecDef himself.
      It is also concerning that he received pain medication, which can altered his state of mind, potentially making decisions under the influence of drugs. This lack of judgement disqualifies him from serving in this role and he should be removed.

      • Not sure about that. Post 9-11, in 2008, UJMC was amended in such a way that clearly implies (big word) civilians and appointees are subject to military law/
        punishment.

        Nobody will ever enforce it on the diversity hire SecDef, however.

        • MA from what I could find the changes to the UCMJ were aimed to include civilian contractors and certain civilian DoD employees. The SecDef is not a civilian employee. He is part of the executive branch civilian command structure of government.

  4. Vaccine injury. Hence the “shroud of secrecy.” Is anyone stupid enough to keep taking that toxic waste anymore?

  5. If Darth Covid remains in hiding much longer, he is going to hold up the inauguration of the anti-Trump Death Star. Emperor Palpatine-Soros will not be pleased.

  6. An ‘elective surgery’. Probably gender transition surgery so he could keep his job with this administration.

  7. I’m not clear in this matter, but isn’t there an obligation to inform CIC when the number one military official is out of commission?

    Certainly ethical, if not legal.

  8. Some illnesses needs months of time to manage. if our nation is at war in several arenas perhaps this position intensity (which is non-negotiable) requires for the best of the USA for him to step out of the position.

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