Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin looks on during a joint press conference with Israel's defense minister, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Dec.18, 2023.ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

White House Says ‘No Plan’ To Fire Defense Secretary After Secret Hospitalization

Secretary Lloyd Austin came under fire for waiting several days before informing top government leaders, including the president, that he was being hospitalized.

By  Sanjana Karanth |

The White House said on Monday that there is “no plan” to fire Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after the top military leader waited several days before informing the public, Congress, Pentagon officials and even the president that he is being hospitalized.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC spokesman John Kirby said that President Joe Biden still has “complete confidence” in Austin, despite the secretary’s stunning lack of communication about his medical status.

“The president’s No. 1 focus is on the secretary’s recovery and he looks forward to having him back at the Pentagon as soon as possible,” Kirby said. “The president respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency. He also respects the amazing job he’s done as defense secretary.”

“There is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job,” he continued, adding that the White House will “take a look at the process and procedure here and try to learn from this experience” and see “if there are changes that need to be made.”

Austin was admitted to the intensive care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 1 after experiencing complications related to an earlier elective surgery. Despite remaining hospitalized all week, many top government leaders — including Biden — were not informed of his condition until Thursday.

The Pentagon disclosed Austin’s hospitalization to the public and Congress on Friday, resulting in swift backlash over the secret nature of a top military leader’s medical status while the country faces multiple national security crises. The department’s second-in-command, Kathleen Hicks, was only informed of Austin’s hospitalization two days after she was asked to assume some of the secretary’s duties.

She also faced days of riots which erupted across France at the beginning of the summer, triggered by the deadly police shooting of a teen.

Macron’s office announced his acceptance of Borne’s resignation in a statement, and the president posted on X, formerly Twitter, that Borne’s work “has been exemplary every day.”

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