Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin criticized after failing to notify White House of hospitalization

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during meeting of the alliance's Defence Ministers at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels^ Belgium

The U.S. Defense Department has acknowledged that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized since Monday due to complications following a minor elective medical procedure. According to a statement from his press secretary, Austin had been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Austin, 70, spent 41 years in the military, retiring as a four-star Army general in 2016.

Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Sunday that Austin is “still in the hospital and recovering well” and “resumed his full duties Friday evening,” , adding that he did not have details on when Austin would be discharged.  However, officials from the White House said that the National Security Council, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, was not informed Austin was in the hospital until Thursday morning. Similarly, the Senate Armed Services Committee was not notified about Austin’s hospitalization until Friday evening, saying: “the committee was notified before the press notification went out” about Austin.

Austin wrote in a press release on Saturday that he is “on the mend” and looks “forward to returning to the Pentagon soon.”  Austin said: “I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better. But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”

The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization to the President and other senior White House officials and Cabinet members is not typical practice. The Pentagon Press Association, which represents media members who cover the Defense Department, sent a letter of protest which read: “The fact that he has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for four days and the Pentagon is only now alerting the public late on a Friday evening is an outrage. At a time when there are growing threats to U.S. military service members in the Middle East and the U.S. is playing key national security roles in the wars in Israel and Ukraine, it is particularly critical for the American public to be informed about the health status and decision-making ability of its top defense leader.”

The Biden administration said that the President spoke with Austin on Saturday evening, calling it a “warm conversation,” and adding that the president “absolutely has full confidence in Secretary Austin.”

Editorial credit: Alexandros Michailidis /

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