The U.S. defense department provides military forces needed to prevent war and to protect the country.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went into the hospital on Jan. 1.
However, it took days for the White House and the public to learn about Austin’s health issues, causing politicians from both sides of the aisle to criticize him and the Biden administration.
Reports show that doctors diagnosed Austin with prostate cancer in December.
Then, the secretary of defense underwent minimally invasive treatment to possibly cure him from the illness.
After a routine prostate screening in lab tests from early December, Austin underwent a prostatectomy, which included general anesthesia on Dec. 22.
Pentagon officials said, “Secretary Austin recovered uneventfully from his surgery and returned home the next morning. His prostate cancer was detected early, and his prognosis is excellent.”
Austin, 70, went into the Walter Reed hospital on New Year’s Day “with complications from the December 22 procedure, including nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain.”
Courtney Kube of NBC News reported, “An initial evaluation found that he has a urinary tract infection and on Jan.2, a decision was made to transfer Austin to the intensive care unit for ‘close monitoring and a higher level of care.’…Doctors then discovered that Austin had ‘abdominal fluid collections impairing the function of his small intestines.”
The Pentagon official added, “This resulted in the back up of his intestinal contents which was treated by placing a tube through his nose to drain his stomach. The abdominal fluid collections were drained by non-surgical drain placement. He has progressed steadily throughout his stay.”
According to officials, Austin’s infection is gone, and they expect him to make a full recovery as he is continually making progress.
At a press conference, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told journalists that Austin is in good spirits and is recovering well.
Ryder added that the department will give daily updates on Austin’s status.
He said that while he had not spoken to Austin and does not know why the defense secretary kept his ailment a secret, Ryder said that prostate cancer and its subsequent treatments are “deeply personal.”
When asked by a reporter if Austin would have to step back from his duties as defense secretary, which includes much travel, Ryder responded that the defense secretary “continues to monitor DoD’s operations worldwide” and “is actively engaged in his duties.”
Kube of NBC News reported, “The revelation about Austin’s condition is a new development after the defense secretary and several of his aides waited days to notify the White House and key Pentagon officials that he was hospitalized for complications following what was described as ‘an elective medical procedure.’
“The public didn’t know he was hospitalized until Friday evening when Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement that Austin had been admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday night for ‘complications following a recent elective medical procedure,’ though he didn’t specify what the procedure was.”
It was not until last Thursday that the Department of Defense informed senior officials at the National Security Council.
Some of Austin’s duties were transferred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was on vacation in Puerto Rico, on Tuesday.
However, Hicks did not find out about Austin’s hospitalization until last Thursday.
Kube of NBC News reported, “On Monday, Ryder told reporters that he was informed about Austin’s hospitalization on Jan. 2, a day after he was admitted and two days before President Joe Biden and national security adviser Jake Sullivan were told. Ryder briefed reporters on camera [last] Thursday and did not disclose the secretary’s continued hospitalization. He did not provide further details—including whether he was directed not to tell anyone.”
Ryder added that the Pentagon is reviewing whether any laws were broken during the Austin ordeal.
Many critics of Austin’s decision to keep his hospitalization a secret point to the violence in the Middle East and Ukraine as a reason why his decisions should face scrutiny.
And many Republicans have demanded answers.
In a letter sent to Austin on Wednesday, Sen. Roger Wicker, who is the ranking Republican member in the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “We are deeply troubled by the apparent breakdown in communications between your office and the rest of the Department of Defense, the White House, and Congress over the past two weeks.
“Further, the apparent failure to even notify your lawful successor in this case is a massive failure of judgment and negligence.
“It is an intolerable breach of trust with the American people at a dangerous moment for U.S. national security.”
Additionally, Wicker labeled Austin’s comments from last week as “wholly insufficient.”
He said all those involved in the notifications process from the Department of Defense should be prepared to respond to his committee by Jan. 19.
Wicker added, “In particular, the administration needs to provide answers on how it complied with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). The FVRA is an extension of the inviolable Constitutional principle that the American people have the final say, through the Senate’s consent, over who fills our nation’s most important executive roles.”
Furthermore, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who serves as the House Armed Services Committee chairperson, said he too wanted answers from the Defense Department about why so many were kept in the dark regarding Austin’s hospitalization.
Rogers said, “It is unacceptable that neither the Department of Defense…the White House, nor the Congress were accurately informed of your position or capacity. With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own Deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable.”