by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center on January 1 for complications related to an as-yet-unspecified “minor elective surgery” he received on December 22. Austin had been at home recovering from the surgery since December 23, but, when he was admitted to Walter Reed with acute pain, he was sent straight to the intensive care unit, where he remained for the next four days.
All of this would be fairly unremarkable — complications from surgery, however unfortunate, are a regular occurrence — were it not for the fact that by all accounts Secretary Austin went AWOL with the White House during this period. Although a few top officials in the Pentagon were apparently aware that Austin had been rushed to the ICU on Monday, they failed to notify either President Biden or Jake Sullivan and the National Security Council until several days later that the secretary of defense was in the ICU. (Austin reportedly avoided detection of his hospitalization by claiming to be “working from home” during the entire week, quite the luxury for a secretary of defense during such fraught times.)
Austin was hospitalized on a Monday. General C. Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not informed that Austin had been hospitalized until Tuesday. Neither the White House nor Austin’s understudy, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, was informed of his whereabouts or the threat to his health until Thursday — a matter of particular concern given that Hicks herself was vacationing in Puerto Rico at the time. Austin remains in the hospital as of this writing, although he has been removed from intensive care and is said to be on the mend.
Nothing about this is remotely normal. The secretary of defense does not typically disappear “off the grid” and remain unaccounted for to his superiors for several days. …