GOP Rep Launches Formal Investigation Of Austin’s Decision To Keep Hospitalization A Secret

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Republican Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, launched a formal inquiry Tuesday into Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s failure to reveal his Jan. 1 hospitalization to the president and key defense and national security leaders.

Rogers and his colleagues on the panel expressed “grave concern” over the lack of clarity around Austin’s hospitalization potentially leading to a breakdown in the chain of command in a letter to Austin on Tuesday. He also probed why Kelly Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, delayed informing the White House for two days after Austin was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks to clarify the responsibilities she assumed on Austin’s behalf despite being unaware of the reasoning behind the request.

“It is unacceptable that neither the Department of Defense… 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,” Rogers wrote. (RELATED: ‘Must Never Happen Again’: Top Dem Senator Breaks Silence On Lloyd Austin’s Unknown Hospitalization)

Nuclear response in a crisis, ongoing counterterrorism activities in Iraq and Syria and other military operations rely “on a clear understanding of the Secretary’s decision-making capacity,” Rogers wrote.

The defense secretary is not in the nuclear chain of command but does play a role in the decision and verification process.

“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,” he said.

Austin transferred some of his operational authorities to Hicks during his hospitalization, although the Pentagon has not provided further details about those authorities. He resumed his full duties Friday and continues to operate from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the Pentagon has said.

Rogers’ letter demands those details as well as information about whether Austin took any official action during the period from Jan. 1 to Friday.

In addition, Rogers asked for a “list of all military operations carried out in the United States Central Command area of responsibility from December 22, 2023 to January 8, 2024 while you were not acting in the role of Secretary of Defense.”

The U.S. conducted a retaliatory strike against a terrorist leader accused of plotting many of the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since mid-October on Jan. 4, while Austin was hospitalized. Austin and President Joe Biden had pre-approved the Baghdad airstrike, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

Rogers also required answers over whether Austin deliberately ordered his staff to conceal his hospitalization.

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