White House to review defense secretary’s hospitalization notification

by Tommy Grant

The White House said Monday that the administration will review what rules or procedures weren’t followed when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not disclose his hospitalization for days to President Joe Biden and top officials at the Pentagon and the National Security Council.

“We’ll do what’s akin to a hot wash and try to see if processes and procedures need to be changed at all or modified so that we can learn from this,” John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said Monday when asked whether Biden wanted a review of what happened.

Austin was hospitalized on Jan. 1, which the Pentagon did not disclose to the public until Friday. Biden and Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, were not aware of Austin’s condition until Thursday.

The Pentagon has refused to offer details about Austin’s initial medical procedure on Dec. 22 and what prompted him to be admitted into intensive care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on New Year’s Day. Austin has resumed his duties after deferring to a deputy, although he remains hospitalized.

Kirby, speaking to reporters on Air Force One as Biden traveled to South Carolina, said there is an “expectation” among members of Biden’s Cabinet that if one becomes hospitalized, “that will be notified up the chain of command.”

Still, White House officials on Monday emphasized that Austin continues to retain Biden’s confidence. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden appreciated Austin’s statement on Saturday, in which he took responsibility about the lack of transparency on his hospitalization.

“There is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job and continue the leadership that he’s been demonstrating,” Kirby said.

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