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US defense chief was AWOL in ICU

The Pentagon did not inform the White House or the nation promptly that Lloyd Austin, the U.S. secretary of defense, was in the hospital, at times unable to perform his job.

Pictured L-R: IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discuss the ongoing war in Tel Aviv on Dec. 18, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Pictured L-R: IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discuss the ongoing war in Tel Aviv on Dec. 18, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Austin, we have a problem.

The Pentagon did not notify Congress or the White House until Thursday that Lloyd Austin, the U.S. secretary of defense, had been hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., since Monday.

A spokesman said it was due to “complications following a minor elective medical procedure.” There were times when the secretary, who spent four days in an intensive-care unit, could not perform his duties, reportedly.

“The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization for days reflects a stunning lack of transparency about his illness, how serious it was and when he may be released,” the Associated Press reported. “Such secrecy, at a time when the United States is juggling myriad national security crises, runs counter to normal practice with the president and other senior U.S. officials and Cabinet members.”

“I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” Austin, 70, stated on Saturday. “But this is important to say: This was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”

“Secretary Austin must address promptly the troubling report that the Department of Defense didn’t immediately notify President Biden or the National Security Council that he was hospitalized and unable to perform his duties,” stated Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

“The secretary of defense is the key link in the chain of command between the president and the uniformed military, including the nuclear chain of command, when the weightiest of decisions must be made in minutes,” added Cotton, ranking member of the Land Power Subcommittee, of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If this report is true, there must be consequences for this shocking breakdown.”

“Yikes! There are attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East (Red Sea and Iraq) every day, and no one knew our secretary of defense was in the hospital,” posted the Jewish Policy Center.

The Pentagon has said that Kathleen Hicks, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, has picked up Austin’s duties. She is vacationing in Puerto Rico, NBC News reported.

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