Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL-01) issued a statement Monday calling on Chairman Mike Rodgers and the House Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing immediately regarding Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s failure to communicate his hospitalization.
The Pentagon revealed Friday night that Austin was admitted to Walter Reed Hospital last Monday following unspecified complications that arose from an elective medical procedure.
He was recovering on Saturday when White House National Security Council (NSC) officials said they were not notified of Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday, while Congress and most of the Department of Defense (DOD) leadership did not know until Friday.
Austin was in the hospital’s intensive care unit for four days, NBC News reported, citing two administration officials. He remained in the hospital on Saturday.
“At all times, the Deputy Secretary of Defense was prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in the Friday statement.
On Monday, Rep. Matt Gaetz called for an immediate hearing regarding Lloyd’s failure to inform.
“Over the weekend, a breaking news report found that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had been quietly admitted to an intensive care unit for four days on New Year’s Day. His backup, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, supposedly took over his duties while vacationing in Puerto Rico,” said Gaetz
“The Secretary of Defense serves as the linchpin through which the President commands and controls our armed forces. The DoD’s failure to inform the White House, Congress, and the American People of Secretary Austin’s incapacitation reflects the lack of leadership, competency, and transparency throughout the entire Biden administration.
“The White House has already signaled that Secretary Austin will face no consequences as a result of this scandal. Therefore, Chairman Mike Rogers and the House Armed Services Committee should immediately hold a hearing and receive testimony from Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks regarding Austin’s absence and Hicks’ failure to return from vacation to preform her duties,” said Congressman Gaetz.
The Pentagon’s second-in-command “has maintained full communication with the DoD staff throughout and “monitored DOD’s day-to-day operations and conducted some routine business,” an official said over the weekend.
Austin said he expected to recover and looked forward to returning to the Pentagon “soon.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. conducted a targeted retaliatory airstrike on a militia commander in eastern Baghdad in response to a spate of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria early Thursday morning local time. Iraq’s prime minister on Friday threatened to oust all forces assigned to a U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in the country following the airstrike.
On Saturday, the guided-missile destroyer USS Laboon shot down a one-way attack drone fired by the Iran-backed Houthis “in self-defense,” U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. The Houthis have attacked commercial vessels and sent drones near U.S. warships dozens of times.
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