On January 1st, 2024, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was admitted to the hospital. However, information about his illness was not disclosed to the public or senior officials for several days, sparking criticism regarding the perceived lack of transparency from both the Pentagon and the White House.
On December 22nd, Austin underwent a planned medical procedure. On Monday, January 1st, he was transported to Walter Reed via ambulance due to “severe pain” and was subsequently admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. However, details about Austin’s condition were not disclosed to Congress or the public until the evening of Friday, January 5th by the Pentagon.
Even though a statement was issued at 5:03 PM on Friday, indicating Austin’s anticipated return to work that day, he was still hospitalized as of 4:24 PM on Sunday, January 7th.
Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder asserted that national security was never at risk. However, this raises the inquiry as to why neither the president nor the public were notified about Austin’s health and hospitalization. Public grievances have been voiced on social media, and the Pentagon Press Association issued a statement expressing substantial concerns about the Department of Defense’s failure to inform the public and the press about Austin’s situation.
Lawmakers, including Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), have responded to the Department of Defense’s lack of transparency. Sen. Ernst deemed it completely unacceptable for the Secretary of Defense to be absent without public notification, emphasizing the gravity of the situation, particularly given the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) characterized the situation as “highly concerning” and stressed the necessity of holding a hearing in Congress to obtain clarification on the reasons behind the unfolding events. Elise Stefanik, the House GOP Conference Chair, urged for the dismissal of Secretary Austin due to the perceived absence of transparency.
The White House has announced its intention to reevaluate the protocols and guidelines surrounding the matter. Despite this, it was affirmed that President Biden maintains confidence in Secretary Austin. Subsequent information disclosed that Austin underwent hospitalization and received treatment for both prostate cancer and a serious infection.