Pentagon Promises Probe Into Command Process After Lloyd Austin’s Unknown Absence

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
Font Size:

The Pentagon plans to conduct an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s disappearance last week to find out whether any command procedures were not followed correctly, according to a memo.

The 30-day review will identify the facts around how Austin transferred some of his authorities to his deputy for days without disclosing to key officials, including the deputy defense secretary, that he had been hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Kelley Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, said in the memo. Austin’s second-in-command, Deputy Secretary 0f Defense Kathleen Hicks, had carried out some routine duties on his behalf while on vacation in Puerto Rico, seemingly without knowing that her boss was out of commission.

“This review will help to ensure clarity and transparency when a determination has been made that certain authorities have been transferred, and that proper and timely notification has been made to the President and White House and, as appropriate, the United States Congress and the American public,” Magsamen wrote. (RELATED: GOP Congressman Announces Impeachment Articles Against Biden’s Defense Sec)

Questions have emerged following Austin’s failure to tell relevant parties he had been hospitalized on Jan. 1 after experiencing complications from an elective surgery. He resumed his full duties as secretary of defense on Friday, when the Pentagon released statement for the first time acknowledging Austin’s hospitalization.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was not notified Austin had been hospitalized until Thursday, and he, in turn, told President Joe Biden. Hicks also did not learn until Thursday. She received notification Austin had transferred some authorities to her on the afternoon of Jan. 2, and she accessed a secure communications suite to make some routine decisions on Austin’s behalf without an explanation as to why, Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a briefing on Monday.

Hicks began arranging a return to Washington, D.C., after learning that Austin was in the hospital, but canceled those plans when the secretary resumed his post.

“Secretary Austin did not have to affirmatively delegate his duties because by statute, the Deputy Secretary is automatically authorized to perform the duties of the Secretary if he is unable to perform them. Medical professionals have been consulted throughout,” Ryder said in an emailed statement Monday.

Ryder said Magsamen knew Austin was admitted to the ICU, but could not perform appropriate notification procedures due to her own illness.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have raised issue with Austin’s lack of transparency, wondering whether anyone was in charge during the period Austin was in the hospital unbeknownst to key DOD and NSC leaders.

“The Secretary of Defense’s Chief of Staff had been out sick with the flu, which caused a delay in these notifications. We are currently reviewing how we can improve these notification procedures, to include White House and congressional notifications,” Ryder said.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact