Signal: Communication controversy over the hospitalization of the US Secretary of Defense

Controversy has erupted in Washington following claims that the hospitalization of US Defense Secretary Lloyd J Austin III was kept secret from the Pentagon, with US President Joe Biden not informed of the incident until days later.

According to Reuters reference Because of the apparent lack of communication about Austin’s hospitalization, three days passed between the Secretary of Defense being admitted for treatment on 1 January and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks being briefed on 4 January.

The lack of communication from the US Pentagon that its department head had been hospitalized has been criticized by political opponents and those worried about an apparent shortfall in a critical element of the US administration’s command and control network.

The first public disclosure from the Pentagon about Austin’s hospitalization did not come until January 5th.

A statement released by U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), on notification of the recent hospitalization of Austin detailed their “concern” with how the final reveal was handled.

Several questions remain unanswered, such as what the medical procedure was and the resulting complications, what is the current state of the Secretary’s health, how and when the Secretary’s responsibilities were delegated, and the reason for the delay in notifying the President and Congress. the HASC joint statement read.

“Transparency is vital. Minister Austin needs to provide these additional details regarding his health and the decision-making process that took place last week as soon as possible.”

Former Republican President Donald Trump was also quick to jump into the growing controversy, taking to social media to call for Austin’s “immediate firing” from his position.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton also took to social media to demand an explanation as to why Minister Austin’s hospitalization was apparently postponed.

In response to mounting calls for an explanation about this apparent breakdown in communications protocol, US Pentagon Secretary Major General Pat Ryder said on January 7 that Austin “remained hospitalized” but was “recovering well” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center .

“Since resuming duties on Friday evening (January 5), the Secretary has received operational updates and provided necessary guidance to his team. He has full access to the required secure communications capabilities and continues to monitor the day-to-day operations of the Department of Defense around the world,” Ryder said.

“The minister spoke with President Biden [on 7 January]. He was also in contact with Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General CQ Brown and his senior staff.”

No timeline has been revealed for Austin’s return to the office.

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