SecDef Hospitalized; Press Protests Lack Of Info To Public

January 6, 2024
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The fact that he has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for four days and the Pentagon is only now alerting the public late on a Friday evening is an outrage.

The Pentagon Press Association in response to learning the Secretary of Defense has been hospitalized since Monday, January 1st, and the Pentagon did not release the news to the American public until Friday, January 5th.

Why It Matters: The Pentagon says the SecDef returned to duty on Friday night, from his hospital bed at Walter Reed. The lack of a more timely announcement about a cabinet secretary’s hospitalization is unusual. Questions remain about how transparent the Pentagon was with the White House and members of Congress.

What The Pentagon Did Say: “On the evening of January 1, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for complications following a recent elective medical procedure. He is recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today. At all times, the Deputy Secretary of Defense was prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required.” (Statement)

While the Pentagon says Sec. Austin could perform his duties during the week, the Associated Press reports Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks stood in for Austin while he was “incapacitated.”

The Pentagon Press Association (which represents the press corp at the Pentagon) went on to say in it’s letter protesting the lack of information: “At a time when there are growing threats to U.S. military service members in the Middle East and the U.S. is playing key national security roles in the wars in Israel and Ukraine, it is particularly critical for the American public to be informed about the health status and decision-making ability of its top defense leader.” (Link)

A Pentagon mystery: Why was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospital stay kept secret for days?

by Jenna Lee,

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