Austin Faces Questions About His Hospitalization From Home Committee

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Protection Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III introduced himself earlier than a congressional committee for chastisement on Thursday, persevering with a spherical of mea culpas over his failure final month to inform his boss that he was within the hospital with problems from prostate most cancers surgical procedure.

Republican lawmakers had been making ready to put into Mr. Austin earlier than the listening to, calling former Protection Division officers for recommendation. Even the formal title of the listening to, listed on the Home Armed Providers Committee’s web site, struck an ominous tone: “A Evaluate of Protection Secretary Austin’s Unannounced Absence.”

Mr. Austin sought to get forward of the anticipated scolding by apologizing — once more — for retaining his hospitalization at Walter Reed Nationwide Navy Medical Middle a secret.

“We did have a breakdown in notifications throughout my January keep at Walter Reed — that’s, sharing my location and why I used to be there,” he instructed the packed listening to room. “And again in December, I ought to have promptly knowledgeable the president, my crew, and Congress and the American individuals of my most cancers prognosis and subsequent therapy.”

He added: “I take full accountability.”

On Monday, the Pentagon launched an unclassified model of a assessment of how Protection Division officers, together with Mr. Austin, dealt with his hospitalization. The doc provided little if any criticism and faulted nobody for the failure to reveal his sickness.

Even earlier than the listening to started, lawmakers had been steaming. Consultant Mike D. Rogers, Republican of Alabama and the chairman of the Armed Providers Committee, resorted to capital letters to make his level on social media that “the assessment of Sec Austin’s actions, carried out by his personal subordinates & topic to his approval, HELD NO ONE ACCOUNTABLE.”

In his opening assertion on Thursday, Mr. Rogers mentioned the chain of command “doesn’t work” when the president doesn’t know whom to name.

“It’s completely unacceptable that it took three days to tell the president of the US that the Secretary of Protection was within the hospital, and never in charge of the Pentagon,” Mr. Rogers mentioned as he opened the listening to. “Wars had been raging in Ukraine and Israel, our ships had been below hearth within the Pink Sea, and our bases had been bracing for assault in Syria and Iraq. However the commander in chief didn’t know that his secretary of protection was out of motion.”

Mr. Rogers added: “Somebody must be held accountable.”

On the opposite aspect of the Capitol, senators from each events voiced frustration after receiving a categorized briefing on the Pentagon’s assessment on Tuesday.

“I’ve very robust, extreme questions remaining for the Pentagon as to how this seeming concealment was dealt with, and I believe there should be some public accountability,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, instructed reporters.

Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the senior Republican on the Armed Providers Committee, mentioned in a press release, “I stay involved that the division has but to account for its failure to adjust to federal legislation and notify Congress or the White Home that the secretary was incapacitated.”

Mr. Wicker added, “It’s clear that many members of the committee left the briefing annoyed by questions that went unanswered.”

Mr. Austin underwent an elective medical process at Walter Reed on Dec. 22. He didn’t inform the White Home or senior administration officers that he was having surgical procedure for a prognosis he would later describe as a “intestine punch.”

He was launched earlier than Christmas however returned on New Yr’s Day with problems that saved him within the intensive care unit for 2 weeks.

Mr. Austin’s chief of workers, Kelly Magsamen, didn’t inform the White Home that her boss was within the hospital till three days later. The extraordinary breach of protocol — Mr. Austin is accountable for the nation’s 1.4 million active-duty service members at a time when wars in Gaza and Ukraine dominate the American nationwide safety panorama — baffled officers throughout the federal government, together with on the Pentagon.

Mr. Austin tried to elucidate himself in early February when he instructed reporters on the Pentagon that “I didn’t deal with this proper.”

“I ought to have instructed the president about my most cancers prognosis,” he mentioned. “I ought to have additionally instructed my crew and the American public, and I take full accountability.”

Mr. Austin additionally mentioned he by no means instructed his workers to not inform the White Home about his hospitalization.

The protection secretary has lengthy been often called extraordinarily personal and media shy.