Follow Us

House Republicans chastise Austin in Hill hearing for undisclosed hospital stay

'I did not handle this right, the Defense secretary said in response to questions about his handling of the matter.

Published: February 29, 2024 10:43am

Updated: February 29, 2024 11:57am

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was met with a scathing response from the House Armed Services Committee as he testified Thursday on Capitol Hill about his hospitalization, which was not even disclosed to President Joe Biden until several days into the secretary's hospital stay.

"It's important in democracy that public officials are held accountable when mistakes are made. This administration has gone to great lengths to avoid accountability whenever possible, but this is a matter of national security, and someone needs to be held accountable," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala.

Rogers said the goal of the hearing is to "understand how and why this happened so we can ensure this never happens again."

Washington Rep, Adam Smith, the committee's top Democrat, said he agrees with most of the comments Rogers made during his opening statement.

"I agree with much of what the chairman said," he said. "I think the lack of transparency and clear communication about what was going on with the DOD [Department of Defense], certainly with the White House but also with Congress and others should not be repeated."

"I do want to disagree with just one thing the chairman said," the Democratic congressman also said. 

He argued that Biden knew who to call while Austin was in the hospital and that the transfer of power had been made. 

While the White House was aware the deputy defense secretary was put in power, "the reason behind it was not and that's why I think the lack of transparency is problematic," Smith also said.

Austin blamed what he called a "breakdown in communications" for the lack of transparency. "We did not handle this right and I did not handle this right."

Austin was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 1, 2023, following complications from prostate cancer surgery. When he was admitted to the critical care unit on Jan. 2, Austin transferred power was transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who was on vacation in Puerto Rico at the time.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan was informed of Austin's hospitalization on Jan. 4, and he told Biden about it that day. 

Austin was temporarily hospitalized earlier this month, and he transferred power to Hicks at that time.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook

Just the News Spotlight

Support Just the News