Republicans criticize Defense Secretary Austin’s ‘unacceptable’ handling of hospitalization

Republicans grilled U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a hearing Thursday about his handling of his January hospitalization after a cancer diagnosis.

“It is completely 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, R-Ala., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Services of the Parliament.

Thursday’s hearing centered around why the deputy defense secretary and the White House were not immediately informed that Austin was hospitalized after complications from surgery to treat prostate cancer.

“This is about judgment and bad judgment,” said Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla. “My teenage daughter knows how to tell her boss if she’s not going to work. The American people, the truck drivers, the bartenders know they have to tell their boss or they will be fired. .”

Austin doubled down on his apology earlier this month and said that while there was a breakdown in alerts during his hospital stay, there were never any lapses in Pentagon authority.

“We didn’t handle that right and I didn’t handle it right … As you know, I apologized, including directly to the president, and I take full responsibility,” Austin said at Thursday’s hearing.

The hearing came days after an internal Pentagon review said the process for transferring the secretary’s authority needed to be improved, but that “nothing reviewed during that review showed any indication of bad intent or attempted obfuscation.”

Republicans said the incident put national security at risk and said the incident shows President Joe Biden is either distant or Austin is out of the loop.

“Our adversaries should fear us, and what you’ve done embarrasses us,” said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.

Democrats said Austin’s lack of transparency should not be repeated, but said lawmakers should focus on funding the government and helping Ukraine.

“Instead of not picking on the defense secretary about his exact process in this situation, we should go ahead and pass the national security supplemental,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. .

Austin said the Pentagon has already implemented some of the internal review’s changes, which are mostly classified. The Defense Department’s inspector general is also conducting a review of the incident.

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