Pentagon inspector launches probe into defense chief’s secretive hospitalization

Inspector general to examine 'roles, processes, procedures, responsibilities, and actions related to the Secretary of Defense’s hospitalization'

Michael Gabriel Hernandez  |

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department’s independent inspector general announced Thursday that it will investigate the Pentagon’s handling of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization for prostate cancer.

“The objective of the review is to examine the roles, processes, procedures, responsibilities, and actions related to the Secretary of Defense’s hospitalization in December 2023 – January 2024, and assess whether the DoD’s policies and procedures are sufficient to ensure timely and appropriate notifications and the effective transition of authorities as may be warranted due to health-based or other unavailability of senior leadership,” Inspector General Robert Storch said in a letter to Austin and senior Pentagon officials.

Storch asked Austin’s office to designate within five days an individual to serve as the primary point of contact for queries related to the probe, and said that while the review will be focused on the defense secretary’s office, it may expand as needed.

Austin and the Pentagon have faced increasing scrutiny for his secretive hospitalization, which even the White House was unaware of until last week.

The Pentagon did not disclose the cause of Austin’s hospitalization until Tuesday when his doctors acknowledged he was being treated for an infection after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer.

Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland on Dec. 22, and underwent a surgical procedure called a prostatectomy, the Pentagon acknowledged earlier this week.

He was released the following day and worked from home during the holidays but was readmitted to Water Reed after experiencing “severe pain” Jan. 1. He remains hospitalized in good condition as he undergoes treatment for a urinary tract infection.

The White House said it was not informed that Austin was hospitalized until the afternoon of Jan. 4.

US President Joe Biden was subsequently informed by his chief of staff Jeff Zients that evening.

“We didn’t have information specifically about his condition and quite frankly, nobody did, and it was just yesterday when the Pentagon announced that what put him in the hospital were complications from prostate surgery,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

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