WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday the administration will review what rules or procedures weren’t followed when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not disclose his hospitalization for days to President Joe Biden and top officials at the Pentagon and the National Security Council. The Pentagon maintained its silence on why Austin was hospitalized and said he has no plans to resign.
“We’ll do what’s akin to a hot wash and try to see if processes and procedures need to be changed at all or modified so that we can learn from this,” John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said when asked whether Biden wanted a review of what happened.
Austin, 70, was hospitalized on Jan. 1, which the Pentagon did not disclose to the public until Friday. Biden and Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, were not aware of Austin’s condition until Thursday.
The Pentagon still has not said what procedure Austin had on Dec. 22 that eventually put him in such pain that he was taken by ambulance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on New Year’s Day and put into intensive care.
“He was conscious, but in quite a bit of pain,” Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Monday.
He said Austin, who has resumed his duties, is now out of intensive care and has been moved to a private room. He remains in recovery and his prognosis is “good,” but it is not known when he will be released from the hospital. Ryder said Austin has no plans to resign.
Transfer of Authority
Austin spent the evening of Jan. 1 undergoing tests and evaluation. The next day, “due to the secretary’s condition and on the basis of medical advice,” some authorities were transferred to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, through a standard email notification that often does not provide the reason for transfer, Ryder said.
Ryder said he, Austin’s chief of staff and senior military adviser were notified of the defense secretary’s hospitalization on Jan. 2. Hicks, who was in Puerto Rico, was not told the reason for the transfer of authorities until Jan. 4.
The Pentagon has said the chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, did not inform the White House because she had the flu.
White House Response
Kirby, speaking to reporters on Air Force One as Biden traveled to South Carolina, said there is an “expectation” among members of Biden’s Cabinet that if one becomes hospitalized, “that will be notified up the chain of command.”
Still, White House officials on Monday emphasized that Austin continues to retain Biden’s confidence. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden appreciated Austin’s statement on Saturday, in which he took responsibility about the lack of transparency on his hospitalization.
“There is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job and continue the leadership that he’s been demonstrating,” Kirby said.