Row over US defense secretary’s secret hospitalization

Recent events surrounding US defense secretary Lloyd Austin‘s hospitalization have raised significant concerns and questions. The secrecy of his hospital stay, particularly the delay in informing key figures including President Joe Biden and deputy defense secretary Kathleen Hicks, has sparked a debate about transparency and protocol in such high-level health crises.
These FAQs aims to address the key questions and details that have emerged from this situation.
Q: What happened to US defense secretary Lloyd Austin?
A: Lloyd Austin was hospitalized following severe pain after an elective medical procedure on December 22. He was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit on New Year’s Day.
Q: Was the hospitalization of Lloyd Austin kept a secret?
A: Yes, the hospitalization was kept more secret than previously known. Key individuals, including President Joe Biden and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, were not informed for days.
Q: What are the implications of Austin’s hospitalization for his duties?
A: As Austin is second in the chain of command for the US military, his duties require immediate availability for national security crises, including potential nuclear attacks. His hospitalization in the ICU could have impacted his ability to perform these duties.
Q: Who assumed Austin’s operational duties during his hospitalization?
A: Deputy defense secretary Kathleen Hicks assumed some of Austin’s operational duties on January 2. However, she was only informed of Austin’s condition on January 4.
Q: When were President Biden and other senior officials informed about Austin’s hospitalization?
A: They were informed on January 4, the same day Hicks was told about Austin’s condition.
Q: What has been the response from Congress regarding this incident?
A: Several lawmakers have expressed serious concerns about the communication breakdown and the lack of transparency from the Pentagon. A joint statement from top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee called for transparency about Austin’s health and the decision-making process.
Q: What did secretary of state Anthony Blinken say about Austin’s hospitalization?
A: Blinken said, “I wasn’t aware of (Austin’s) medical issue,” and expressed his eagerness to see Austin fully recovered and working alongside him.
Q: What is known about the medical procedure Austin underwent?
A: The specific details of the medical procedure and the complications that followed have not been disclosed by the Pentagon.
Q: Has Lloyd Austin commented on the situation?
A: Yes, Austin said in a statement, “I take full responsibility” for the secrecy surrounding hospitalization. He acknowledged the need for better public communication regarding his health.
Q: What is the current status of Lloyd Austin?
A: As of the latest updates, Austin remains hospitalized but is recovering well and in good spirits. He has resumed his duties and is receiving operational updates.
(With inputs from agencies)

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