US defense secretary's hospitalization kept secretUS defense secretary's hospitalization kept secret

The hospitalisation of US defence Secretary Lloyd Austin turned out to be far more subtle than anybody had anticipated. Recently, it was revealed that even high-ranking officials, including his deputy and President Joe Biden, had been oblivious for many days.

Austin, 70, was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit on New Year’s Day. This happened after he experienced significant discomfort as a result of a medical operation conducted on December 22 that has yet to be published.

Lloyd Austin, the US defence Secretary, is a major official in the military chain of command, ranking just behind President Biden. His duty necessitates ongoing preparedness to deal with any national security crisis, which involves being ready for quick communication, particularly in situations involving a possible nuclear threat. However, his recent hospitalisation presented a challenge to this obligation, particularly in an ICU situation.

Kathleen Hicks, the Deputy Defence Secretary, temporarily took over part of Austin’s responsibilities while she was on vacation in Puerto Rico, but she was not apprised of the complete situation until a few days later. The delay in telling higher-level officials, including President Biden, of Austin’s hospitalisation until January 4 resulted in a substantial vacuum in vital communications. Interestingly, several Pentagon officials, including Air Force General Charles “CQ” Brown, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were aware of his hospitalisation earlier.

The Pentagon cited the absence of Austin’s chief of staff due to sickness as a reason for the delay in disclosure. Austin accepted responsibility for the secrecy surrounding his hospitalisation.

Congress didn’t learn of Austin’s hospitalisation until Friday, right before the Pentagon issued a public statement. However, important information regarding his health, the nature of the medical treatment, and the timetable for release remained unknown. Even Secretary of State Anthony Blinken admitted to being uninformed of Austin’s physical state.

Lawmakers expressed worry about the breakdown of communication inside the Pentagon, pushing for openness in Austin’s health and decision-making processes during the last week. Senator Roger Wicker emphasised the significance of openness, particularly as a major member of the National Command Authority confronts health difficulties.

The Pentagon reported that Austin was still in the hospital but was showing signs of improvement and remained upbeat. Despite this, comprehensive information on his health state, the medical treatment, and the reasons for the communication delay remained unknown. According to the Pentagon, Austin resumed his responsibilities on Friday and is already guiding his staff.

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