Republicans Criticize Defense Secretary Austin for His ‘unacceptable’ Management of the Hospitalization

Credits: Axios

Republicans strongly questioned U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a hearing on Thursday, scrutinizing the handling of his hospitalization in January following a cancer diagnosis.

The focus of the hearing was on the delay in informing the President and others about Austin’s hospitalization after complications from prostate cancer surgery.

Rep. Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, expressed strong disapproval, stating, “It’s totally unacceptable that it took three days to inform the President of the United States that the Secretary of Defense was in the hospital, and not in control of the Pentagon.”

Other Republicans, including Michael Waltz, criticized Austin’s judgment, comparing it unfavorably to the standards expected in various professions.

Defense Secretary, Austin (Credits: NBC Los Angeles)

Austin reiterated his apology, acknowledging the breakdown in notifications during his hospital stay and taking full responsibility. Despite the acknowledgment of handling the situation poorly, he emphasized that there were no lapses in Pentagon authority during that period.

The hearing followed a recent Pentagon internal review that recommended improvements in the process for transferring the secretary’s authority. However, the review found no evidence of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate.

Republicans argued that the incident posed a risk to national security and raised questions about President Joe Biden’s awareness or Austin’s involvement in decision-making.

Rep. Jim Banks stated, “Our adversaries should fear us, and what you’ve done is embarrassed us.” Democrats, while acknowledging the need for improved transparency, urged lawmakers to focus on funding the government and providing aid to Ukraine.

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, suggested moving past the scrutiny of the Secretary of Defense’s handling of the situation and prioritizing critical issues such as national security funding.

Democrats emphasized that Austin’s lack of transparency should be addressed but not at the expense of more pressing matters.

Austin mentioned that the Pentagon has already implemented some of the changes recommended in the internal review, most of which are classified.

Additionally, the Defense Department’s inspector general is conducting a separate review of the incident. The incident and subsequent scrutiny reflect broader concerns about transparency, decision-making processes, and national security protocols within the Defense Department.

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