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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 'on the mend' after hospital stay

Senior administration officials at the White House and members of Congress were unaware of Austin's hospital stay for days.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 'on the mend' after hospital stay
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jan 06, 2024

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement on Saturday that he is now "on the mend" after spending days in the hospital after being admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Monday. 

Austin said in the statement that he received "exceptional care" and his family were shown "personal warmth" during the ordeal. Austin said he looked forward to returning to his work at the Pentagon "soon."

Senior Biden administration officials and other top officials at the Pentagon, along with members of Congress, said they were unaware of the defense secretary's hospital stay for days. 

The Associated Press reported that the Pentagon did not reveal the hospital stay to the White House National Security Council until Thursday and top adviser Jake Sullivan was reportedly unaware of Austin's hospital stay for days, as well. 

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U.S. officials said mystery still surrounded the details of his stay until Saturday when Austin released a statement with limited superficial details, complementing medical staff at Walter Reed. 

Austin, 70, said in the Saturday statement that he understood "the media concerns about transparency," and said he recognized that he "could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed." Austin said he would commit to "doing better."

He said, "this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure."

According to his press secretary, Austin's days-long hospital stay was due to complications from a "minor elective medical procedure," reports said. 

Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were told about Austin's hospital stay, but no details were immediately released on when the notification was sent. 

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said, "The Secretary of Defense is the key link in the chain of command between the president and the uniformed military, including the nuclear chain of command, when the weightiest of decisions must be made in minutes." 

Cotton said, "there must be consequences for this shocking breakdown."

The White House has referred questions to the Pentagon regarding a timeline for when Austin's staff notified administration officials. 

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