Defense Secretary Austin is “actively involved and engaged” while hospitalized

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan at the Rayburn House office building on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Olivier Douliery | Afp | Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remains hospitalized on medical advice, but “is actively engaged and engaged,” according to national security spokesman John Kirby.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Kirby said Austin was involved in discussions planning strikes against Iran-allied Houthi fighters in Yemen several days ago.

“It’s also important for people to remember that cabinet officials don’t have to sit and discuss every day to make every decision,” Kirby said. “A lot of the work that is done in national security is done at the staff level.”

Austin has been treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since Jan. 1, following complications from surgery nearly two weeks earlier to treat prostate cancer. Kirby said Sunday that physical therapy is part of the reason doctors kept Austin in the hospital.

The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization to the White House or the public has sparked controversy, though President Joe Biden is standing by Austin.

For two days, Pentagon officials also failed to tell Austin’s second-in-command that he had transferred his authority to her while he was in the intensive care unit.

“The Pentagon is looking into this, and we’ll see what comes of it, but that’s not how the process is supposed to work,” Kirby said.

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