Lloyd Austin Admits He Was Unreachable in Hospital, Blames His Staff

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin insisted there was no break in the chain of command when he was hospitalized for several days without President Biden’s permission in January, but on Thursday he decided to transfer as much authority as possible to the vice president. He admitted that he was actually a close aide, but blamed his staff for not informing the president of his hospitalization sooner.

Austin confessed under questioning by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), a Marine Corps veteran. The congressman asked Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks whether he had made the decision to transfer his authority on January 2 after going into critical care.

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US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services

“I didn’t. The decision was whether we and they had reached a threshold where I would no longer be able to communicate or have access to secure communications. So if that’s part of the process. It’s a trigger,” Austin began.

“So your condition was so serious that you were unable to carry out the transfer personally?” Gallagher pressed.

Ms Austin said it was not because she was unwell, but because staff were “unreachable” and there was no secure means of communication.

“The problem number one was that they couldn’t contact me, but number two was access to secure communications. It had nothing to do with my physical condition at the time. ” Austin said.

“The decision was still made. So who made the decision?” Gallagher asked.

“Well, as my assistants discussed, they agreed that we should put a process in place now that we had reached that standard, and they did, and I think it was the right decision. “I think so,” Austin admitted.

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U.S. Department of Defense, via Storyful

“So your military aides have made the decision to transfer authority to the deputy secretary of defense?” Gallagher asked incredulously.

“My military aides have decided to begin the process,” Austin said.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder insisted in a Monday news conference that there were “no gaps” in command and control.

“I’m not going to go into a specific timeline other than there was no gap,” Ryder said. Said.

Mr. Austin later admitted under questioning by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) that he did not have his phone with him while in the hospital, and blamed staff for not informing the president after he was admitted.

“In terms of hospitalization, I’ve still been a patient since January 1st. So I’m hopeful that the organization will provide information to the appropriate authorities,” Austin said.

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When McClain asks, “It wasn’t your fault, was it the staff’s fault?” I couldn’t even access communications.”

“Didn’t you have a phone? Nothing?” she asked. Austin replied, “No.”

The defense secretary repeatedly insisted there was no breakdown in the chain of command, even though Austin had not made the decision to transfer authority to his lieutenants and his staff determined it should be done.

Mr. Austin also told committee member House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) that if a junior service member fails to report for duty, the organization to which the junior service member works will “I hope they will act appropriately and notify senior military personnel.” Leaders. ”

Stefanik called the breakdown in the chain of command “unacceptable” and accused it of endangering the lives of deployed soldiers.

“You said there was never a break in command and control. But still, the President of the United States was unaware that you were outside the chain of command. “No. Don’t you believe that the commander in chief and the departments that are important to command and control are?” she asked Austin.

Austin acknowledged that the president is “clearly at the top in terms of command and control,” but added, “The important thing is that we provide the president with credible options, and that we strive to ensure that the president can handle any situation.” It means that it is possible.” happened in this case. ”

Stefanik said, “Except he wasn’t aware. The president wasn’t aware of this breakdown in command and control, and you’re not there in terms of who you’re going to hear from.”

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