House Republicans on Thursday are demanding to know whose decision it was to keep Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospital stays a secret from the White House and Congress.

In a hearing before the GOP-led House Armed Service Committee, Austin is testifying for the first time since undergoing surgery for prostate cancer and being treated for underlying complications

White House officials said they were unaware of Austin’s situation until he had been hospitalized for several days in the intensive care unit.

PHOTO: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, Feb. 1, 2024.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, Feb. 1, 2024.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Austin told the House panel that he is “completely cured” of his prostate cancer because it was caught early.

He said there was a “breakdown in notifications” while he was hospitalized and that he takes “full responsibility” for the lapse.

“Again: we did not handle this right. And I did not handle this right. And as you know, I have apologized… including directly to the president. And I take full responsibility.”

Austin reiterated that there were never any lapses in authorities or in command and control — that either he or the deputy secretary were “in a position to conduct the duties of my office.”

“I should have promptly informed the president, my team, Congress and the American people about my cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment,” he said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of Alabama, called it “totally unacceptable” on Thursday.

“It’s totally unacceptable that it took over 3 days to inform the President that the Secretary of Defense was in the hospital and not in control of the Pentagon,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of Alabama, in remarks prepared for Thursday.

“Wars were raging in Ukraine and Israel, our ships were under fire in the Red Sea, and our bases were bracing for attack in Iraq and Syria. But the Commander in Chief did not know that his Secretary of Defense was out of action,” according to Rogers’ prepared remarks.

An internal review by the Pentagon concluded there was no indication of “ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate” by Austin’s aides. Instead, the report found, staff was worried about concerns about medical privacy and unsure of protocol in a rapidly changing situation.

Austin has said he never directed his staff to keep his hospitalization quiet.

But the Pentagon review didn’t answer key questions about about when individual aides became aware of Austin’s condition, why each individual chose not to alert the chain of command and whether the defense secretary himself was advised to alert the White House but chose not to. It’s also unclear if Austin’s aides instructed others within the department not to share the information.

In his testimony on Thursday, Austin was expected to say the mishap was his responsibility.

Earlier this month, Austin described the cancer diagnosis as a “gut punch” and said his first instinct was to keep it private. That was a mistake, he said.

“We did not handle this right. I did not handle this right,” Austin said.



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