On Tuesday, reports surfaced that United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had been hospitalized for "complications" from an undefined "elective medical procedure".
This news was especially concerning as Austin had been absent from doing his job for four consecutive days, while his staff continued to mislead the public that he was simply working from home.
However, the situation took a more serious turn when it was revealed that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General C. Q. Brown, had been notified of Austin's hospitalization on Tuesday, but had failed to inform anyone else in the chain of command. The senior Defense Department official claimed that Gen. Brown wasn't even aware of Austin's whereabouts until a day after his hospitalization.
This shocking revelation begs the question of how many other officials within the Pentagon were kept in the dark about the true status of the Secretary of Defense. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon's number two leader, was not informed of Austin's hospitalization until Thursday, when other reports surfaced that even the President of the United States, Joe Biden, was also unaware of Austin's hospitalization until three days into his stay at Walter Reed National Medical Center.
Furthermore, it was disclosed that the service chiefs of the U.S. military were only informed two hours before the public announcement was made on Friday. One can only wonder how this lack of communication between the top military advisers to the President happened, as it is a clear violation of federal law. There is an implicit duty for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to inform the White House of any breaks in the chain of command, especially in the event of a nuclear attack.
The lack of integrity within Austin's immediate office is also troubling. It has been reported that his staff lied about his location and health, even going so far as to delegate certain responsibilities to Deputy Secretary Hicks without giving any reason for the transfer of powers. This raises questions about the level of control Austin has over his staff or if he himself was complicit in the cover-up.
The situation also raises concerns about the severity of Austin's condition. Reports indicate that he was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Walter Reed National Medical Center, while the public was told he was working from home. This deception not only damages Austin's credibility but also raises doubts about his ability to carry out his duties as Secretary of Defense.
There are also questions about the motives behind this cover-up. Some speculate that Austin's "intense need for privacy" may have been a factor in keeping the public, and even his colleagues, in the dark. However, this is not a mere privacy issue. This situation reveals a cult of personality within Austin's office, with a disregard for the proper chain of command and national security protocols.
If this mishandling of information and breaches in national security protocols are not addressed, it could have severe consequences for the United States and its military. The public deserves transparency and honesty from its leaders, especially when it comes to issues of national security. President Biden must take appropriate action to rectify this situation and ensure that there is accountability for those involved in this serious lapse in judgment and trust.