House Panel Launches Probe Into Defense Secretary Going AWOL
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon May 25, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A House panel announced on Tuesday a “formal inquiry” into the secretive hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that has alarmed much of Washington.

The Armed Services Committee said letters were sent to Austin, his deputy Kathleen Hicks, and Austin’s chief of staff Kelly Magsamen, requesting information on what transpired over the past few weeks. Word of the inquiry got out in the hours after doctors revealed the reason Austin had been hospitalized — for complications following a procedure to treat prostate cancer — and officials conceded the White House did not even know the “root cause” of the hospitalization until earlier on Tuesday.

“My colleagues and I have grave concerns about the handling of your absence and hospitalization. It is unacceptable that neither the Department of Defense (“Department”), the White House, nor the Congress were accurately informed of your position or capacity. With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own Deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable,” Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) wrote in the letter to Austin.

“Everything from on-going counterterrorism operations to nuclear command and control relies on a clear understanding of the Secretary’s decision-making capacity,” Rogers added. “The Department is a robust institution, and it is designed to function under attack by our enemies, but it is not designed for a Secretary who conceals being incapacitated.”

The Department of Defense (D0D) first conceded publicly on Friday that Austin had been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on January 1, and it soon emerged that the Pentagon press corps, Congress, White House officials, and even some top DoD officials were kept in the dark. Reports that followed disclosed how Hicks temporarily assumed some of Austin’s duties without being informed of Austin’s hospitalization and a Pentagon spokesman pinned the late notification to the White House on Magsamen also being ill.

Austin said in a statement over the weekend that he was on the mend and conceded that he could have “done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.” He added, “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 White House has ordered a review of Cabinet protocols while the DoD announced its own review of records and communications to examine what happened internally when Austin got hospitalized and to come up with recommendations on how to improve “timely notification” to the White House, Congress, and the public when “certain authorities” are transferred.

Some GOP lawmakers and former President Donald Trump have called for Austin to resign or be fired over the defense secretary going AWOL. One House Republican announced a bid to impeach Austin. Others — including Democrats — have simply cited concerns and demanded more transparency.

White House officials said on Tuesday that President Joe Biden has “complete confidence” in Austin and plans to keep the secretary in place through the remainder of his term despite it being “not optimal” that the commander in chief and other leaders did not know what happened for so long.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  House Panel Launches Probe Into Defense Secretary Going AWOL