Home » ‘Totally unacceptable’: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faces grilling in Congress about secret hospital stay

‘Totally unacceptable’: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faces grilling in Congress about secret hospital stay

by The Grio

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under fire for his secret hospital stay last month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers Thursday that the Defense Department has made changes to improve the notification process if he must transfer decision-making authorities due to illness or lack of communications.

He said there were no gaps in control of the department or the nation’s security because “at all times, either I or the deputy secretary was in a position to conduct the duties of my office.”

Democrats and Republicans criticized his failure to quickly let President Joe Biden and other senior leaders know about his hospitalization for complications from prostate cancer surgery.

“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,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, adding that wars were raging in Ukraine and Israel at the time. “The chain of command doesn’t work when the commander in chief doesn’t know who to call.”

Rogers, R-Ala., and others said someone needs to be held accountable.

The incident led to concerns about lapses in the command and control of the armed forces, including the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The Pentagon has said Austin’s staff notified Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks when Austin went into intensive care in early January. But that only raised questions about why Austin didn’t do that himself and whether that suggested there was a gap in control.

Austin said at the committee hearing that “at no time during my treatment or recovery were there any gaps in authorities.” He offered a mea culpa that mirrored remarks early this month at a news briefing, saying he takes full responsibility for the communications failures and that he has apologized to Biden.

Acknowledging the breakdown in communications, he added,…

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