Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remained in the hospital Sunday as more details emerged about key decision-makers, even President Joe Biden, being kept in the dark for days that the Pentagon chief had been in the intensive care unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization reflects a stunning lack of transparency about his illness, how serious it was and when he may be released. Such secrecy, at a time when the United States is juggling myriad national security crises, runs counter to normal practice with the president and other senior U.S. officials and Cabinet members.
A senior defense official said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks was not notified until Thursday that Austin had been hospitalized since Jan. 1. Once notified, Hicks began preparing statements to send to Congress and made plans to return to Washington, the official said. Hicks was in Puerto Rico on leave but had communications equipment with her to remain in contact and had already been tasked with some secretary-level duties on Tuesday.