Lloyd Austin Questioned In Front Of Congress

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in late February appeared before the House Armed Services Committee to answer questions about his secret hospitalization in early January, CBS News reported.

Austin’s hospitalization sparked outrage after it was learned that his office kept the White House, Congress, and Pentagon officials in the dark for several days.

The secretary’s office failed to notify the president until January 4 – three days after he was admitted to Walter Reed. Austin’s second-in-command, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, was also kept in the dark for three days. By that time, she was vacationing in Puerto Rico.

Austin admitted to the Armed Services Committee that he “did not handle it right,” but argued that it was never his intent to hide it from the White House “or from anybody else.”

The Pentagon released a summary of its internal review of the matter on February 26, concluding that there had not been a deliberate attempt by the secretary or his aides to keep his hospitalization quiet. At the same time, the Pentagon acknowledged that improvements must be made to the policy outlining the transfer of the defense secretary’s responsibility in the event of an emergency.

During the hearing, Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks asked why the Pentagon’s review failed to hold anyone responsible for the delay. The secretary insisted that despite the delay in notifying the White House or other Pengaon officials, there had been no “break in command and control.”

Austin insisted that authority was transferred “in a timely fashion,” but admitted that the failure was not informing senior leaders.

Throughout questioning, Austin appeared to toss his staff under the bus for the delay, saying at one point that he expected his “organization would do the right things” by notifying the White House and Congress that he was in the hospital.

The Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General is also conducting an independent review of the matter.

During the February 29 hearing, Democrat committee members spent much of the time pressuring their Republican colleagues to vote on the supplemental foreign aid package passed by the Senate that would provide additional funding to Ukraine and Israel.