Download Our App

Follow us

Home » Business » Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin faces ire for concealing hospitalisation from White House – India TV

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin faces ire for concealing hospitalisation from White House – India TV

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin
Image Source : AP/FILE US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has sparked a furious debate after his intensive care hospitalisation was kept far more secret than previously known, adding his deputy Kathleen Hicks to a long list of people up to President Joe Biden who were kept in the dark for days, according to officials on Sunday.

The 70-year-old Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit on New Year’s Day after experiencing severe pain following a still-undisclosed elective medical procedure on December 22. As the Secretary of Defence, Austin’s duties require him to be available at a moment’s notice, something that would be difficult from an ICU bed.

Now it has emerged that Kathleen Hicks, who assumed some of his operational duties on January 2 while she was on vacation in Puerto Rico, was only told that Austin was unavailable on January 4, three officials told Reuters. This was the same day that Biden and other senior White House officials were told that Austin had been hospitalized since January 1.

The Department of Defence waited three days to inform the White House that Austin was hospitalised in ICU. The US Congress was only informed on Friday, shortly before the Pentagon published its public statement. President Joe Biden spoke with Austin on Saturday evening,  an administration official told NBC News, in what appeared to be their first conversation since the secretary’s hospitalisation.

The Pentagon said on Sunday that the delay in disclosing his whereabouts was at least partially due to Austin’s chief of staff Kelly Magsamen being on sick leave. While Austin was on leave, the US conducted a rare and controversial strike in Baghdad that killed a senior Iran-backed militia leader.

Austin takes responsibility for secret hospitalisation

The news that even Pentagon’s second-in-command along with other senior officials of the White House were unaware of Austin’s status added to growing questions about his condition and why it was kept secret, even from the White House and the US Congress. The Pentagon has not confirmed about Austin’s health condition.

“On the afternoon of January 2, the Secretary of Defense transferred to the Deputy Secretary of Defense certain operational responsibilities that require constant secure communications capabilities. This transfer occurs from time to time and is not tied chiefly to health related matters,” Pentagon press secretary Patrick Ryder said in a statement on Sunday.

After the brief transfer, Hicks began to make contingency plans to return to Washington, DC, on Friday. However, since Austin was supposed to return to duties as of Friday, Hicks decided to stay in Puerto Rico to ensure continuity of communications. This is in stark contrast to other top officials falling sick, which they have usually revealed in detail.

Moreover, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on another jam-packed visit to the Middle East, said that he “wasn’t aware of (Austin’s) medical issue”. “I’m very much looking forward to seeing him fully recovered and working side by side,” Blinken said.

Meanwhile, Austin said that he takes “full responsibility” for his decisions about disclosure. “I want to thank the amazing doctors and nursing staff at Walter Reed for the exceptional care they have delivered to me and for the personal warmth they have shown my family… I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognise I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. 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 in a statement.

Calls for transparency

Several lawmakers said that the communication breakdown raises serious questions about Pentagon leadership. A joint statement from the top Democrat and Republican lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee called for the Pentagon to be transparent about Austin’s health “and the decision-making process that occurred in the past week.”

“Several questions remain unanswered including what the medical procedure and resulting complications were, what the Secretary’s current health status is, how and when the delegation of the Secretary’s responsibilities were made, and the reason for the delay in notification to the President and Congress,” the joint statement said.

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Roger Wicker, also spoke on Austin’s handling of his ill health. “When one of the country’s two National Command Authorities is unable to perform their duties, military families, Members of Congress, and the American public deserve to know the full extent of the circumstances,” Wicker said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Sunday said that Austin remains hospitalised “but is recovering well and in good spirits”. He has also received operational updates and has provided necessary guidance to his team.

(with inputs from Reuters)

Source link

Gcd News
Author: Gcd News

Global community development

Leave a Comment


Top Headlines

Live Cricket