Defense Secretary Austin under fire for failing to inform Biden of his hospitalization

Defense Secretary Austin under fire for failing to inform Biden of his hospitalization

Defense Secretary Austin faces scrutiny for lack of transparency after delayed notification of hospitalization Pence wishes him well while criticizing the unacceptable failure to inform President Biden promptly

Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for failing to promptly inform President Joe Biden about his hospitalization. Austin was hospitalized on New Year's Day due to complications from elective surgery, but Biden was not notified until January 4 when national security adviser Jake Sullivan informed him in the evening, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Pence sent well wishes to Austin during his hospitalization but criticized his lack of transparency as "completely unacceptable." "I think it's important for the public to be informed about his medical condition and the reasons behind it," he told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union," describing Austin's behavior as a "failure to fulfill his duty."

Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement on Saturday calling the decision to withhold information about Austin's hospitalization "unacceptable."

"I am relieved to hear that Secretary Austin is in better condition and I hope for his swift recovery. However, it is unacceptable that the Department of Defense intentionally kept the Secretary of Defense's medical condition a secret for days," said Wicker.

Wicker expressed concern about the lack of transparency surrounding Austin's hospitalization and its impact on trust in the Biden Administration. He also raised questions about why the notification process under 5 U.S.C. 3349 was not followed and who made that decision. 5 U.S.C. 3349 is the US code for reporting vacancies in an office, which applies to the head of each executive agency.

Austin has fully resumed his duties and recently had a conversation with Biden. A White House official confirmed that the president has full confidence in Secretary Austin and is anticipating his return to the Pentagon. Over the weekend, Austin expressed gratitude to the staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and stated that he is recovering well and eager to go back to his role at the Pentagon.

He recognized the concerns from the media about transparency and expressed a commitment to improvement in the seven-sentence statement. However, he did not issue an apology for the delayed notification to the public and press. Typically, senior administration and military officials who are hospitalized release a statement within 24 hours. This report includes contributions from CNN's MJ Lee, Oren Liebermann, Haley Britzky, Natasha Bertrand, and Kevin Liptak.