US defense secretary says he takes responsibility for secret hospitalization

January 7, 2024 11:50 am

[Source: Reuters]

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement he took “full responsibility” for secrecy surrounding an ongoing, week-long hospitalization for a still unspecified medical condition.

Austin, who is 70, was admitted on New Year’s Day to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for what the Pentagon has said were “complications following a recent elective medical procedure,” a fact the Defense Department kept under wraps for five days.

Austin sits just below President Joe Biden at the top of the chain of command of the U.S. military and his duties require him being available at a moment’s notice to respond to any manner of national security crisis.

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It remains unclear the extent to which his duties were delegated to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, or whether Austin was involved in any key decisions during his absence.

The Pentagon has yet to detail why Austin is being treated, whether he lost consciousness over the past week or offer details on when he might be released.

“I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” Austin said in a written statement.

“But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”