Home » White House firms up notification rules for Cabinet members after Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization

White House firms up notification rules for Cabinet members after Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization

by NBC News

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is standardizing rules aimed at ensuring the White House is promptly notified when a Cabinet secretary is unable to carry out their duties.

In a memo obtained by NBC News, White House chief of staff Jeff Zients on Friday detailed the steps federal agencies must now follow when it comes to delegating authority. The move comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin failed to disclose his hospitalization to the White House for several days earlier this month.

“While there are variations in your submitted protocols due to different authorizing statutes, regulations, and executive orders, through this process we are assured that all agencies have a set of standard protocols they must follow in the event of a delegation of authority,” Zients said in the memo.

The White House previously asked agencies to submit their notification plans in the event of a Cabinet secretary’s authority being delegated elsewhere.

Zients said Friday that the guidelines include requirements that an agency notify the White House chief of staff, document the delegation in writing and ensure that agencies delegate authority if a Cabinet member is “undergoing hospitalization or a medical procedure requiring general anesthesia.”

The memo aimed to make sure all agencies are on the same page and that there is no room for interpretation, according to an administration official.

When Austin was hospitalized on Jan. 1, some of his duties were transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks the following day, though she was not notified about the secretary’s hospitalization until Jan. 4.

The delay in Austin notifying the White House prompted widespread scrutiny. The defense secretary said he took full responsibility for the lack of disclosure.

“I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed,” he said in a Jan. 6 statement.

Austin spent multiple days in the intensive…

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