‘Dereliction of Duty’: Bipartisan Calls for Accountability Grow Over Secretary of Defense’s Secret Hospitalization

Bipartisan demands for accountability are growing as more details emerge about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s undisclosed hospitalization.


Bipartisan demands for accountability are growing as more details emerge about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s undisclosed hospitalization after Austin and his team kept his days-long stint in the ICU secret from the President, the Cabinet, Congress, and even senior Defense Department officials.

  • The 70-year-old Austin underwent “an elective medical procedure” before Christmas and was admitted to the intensive care unit on Jan. 1 after feeling “severe pain.” Austin remained in intensive care for the next four days and as of Monday morning still remains in the hospital.
  • Austin or his staff – it’s unclear at this point who exactly made the call – transferred only some of his duties to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who was vacationing in Puerto Rico. Even so, Hicks was not informed of Austin’s hospitalization until Jan. 4.
  • Senior DOD staff were not the only people kept in the dark. President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Congress were not informed of his hospitalization until Thursday, four days after he entered the ICU.
  • Apparently, the only senior Biden administration official who was informed that the Secretary of Defense was out of commission at a time when US forces in the Middle East are under constant attack by Iranian proxies was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs C.Q. Brown. It’s unclear why Brown kept that information to himself.
  • Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), the top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee, issued a joint statement demanding answers about “how the disclosure of the secretary’s condition was handled.” “Austin must provide these additional details on his health and the decision-making process that occurred in the past week as soon as possible,” their statement continued.
  • Politico reported Biden “would not accept a resignation” if Austin decided to quit and the secretary “remains in good standing” with Biden. Biden’s premium on loyalty recalls his refusal to hold any officials accountable for the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
  • Some senior DOD officials don’t agree with the president’s assessment that everyone should keep their jobs after this imbroglio. “Someone’s head has to roll,” one DOD official told Politico. Another former senior DOD official told the outlet, “Someone made the decision not to disclose. That person will likely be gone shortly.”

reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times reported the Pentagon is “under increased pressure” to explain their failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization, which former vice president Mike Pence called a “dereliction of duty” on Sunday. The Times pointed out that as late as Sunday, the Pentagon was “still sorting through their timeline” surrounding Austin’s hospital stay, and even noted Austin only “issued an apology of sorts” over his conduct.
  • USA Today argued Austin’s secret hospitalization “undercuts a top Biden campaign message”: that Biden “would bring transparency and trust back to government.” One Biden DOD official told USA Today the whole affair was “an exercise in unforced errors” that has “eroded faith in the military.”
  • The Washington Post observed “The incident raised troubling questions about management of weighty military decisions at a moment when the United States is grappling with heightened tensions with Iranian-backed proxies in the Middle East. On Jan. 4, with Austin in the hospital, the U.S. military conducted a strike on a militant target in Baghdad. U.S. forces have also tangled in recent days with Houthi militants in the Red Sea.”



  • National Review’s Jim Geraghty noted this snafu is just the latest “in an administration that has not lacked for odd screw-ups and embarrassments” and asked, “Why can’t this administration just be normal?” Geraghty continued, “In an administration where no one was fired and no one resigned over the debacle of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the president is not going to fire the secretary of defense for not disclosing a health problem. Besides, the last thing this White House wants to do is to invite further public scrutiny about the health of elderly public officials.”
  • The Washington Examiner called Austin’s failure to disclose “a breathtaking level of deception. No one had been informed of Austin’s stay in the intensive care unit at Walter Reed hospital, not the president, not the national security adviser, not the secretary of state, not even Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.”
  • The New York Post reported on former President Donald Trump’s call for Austin to be “fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) agreed with Trump in a statement demanding “consequences for this shocking breakdown.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023