Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's New Year's Day took an unexpected turn when an aide was forced to place a 911 call for an ambulance to his residence.
The call quickly turned into a request for subtlety from the aide, as revealed by a recording obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The request for secrecy comes as multiple inquiries are launched into Austin's secretive hospitalization for complications following a December procedure to treat prostate cancer.
The recording, obtained by The Daily Beast, reveals that the aide asked the dispatcher if the ambulance could arrive without lights and sirens due to the need for privacy. However, the dispatcher explained that it is standard protocol for ambulances to use lights and sirens on main streets, but will turn them off when entering a residential neighborhood. The aide, whose name was redacted, also reassured the dispatcher that Austin was not in any immediate danger.
The news outlet also noted that based on the time and location of the 911 call, it is likely that the defense secretary was involved. However, his name and title were withheld in the recording. This secrecy adds to the growing criticism and backlash that Austin has faced since news of his hospitalization broke.
Many lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, as well as former President Donald Trump, have called for Austin's resignation or firing. They have cited the lack of transparency surrounding his health situation and the impact it could have had on national security as reasons for their demands. In response, several investigations have been announced, including one by the Department of Defense's inspector general and a review of Cabinet protocols by the White House.
In a 911 call on January 1, an aide to Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin asked:
“Can I ask that the ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? We’re trying to remain a little subtle...”
The Biden administration proceeded to cover up Austin’s incapacitation for more than a week. pic.twitter.com/wXFTCNru3t
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 17, 2024
Despite the mounting pressure and criticism, Austin has insisted that he takes full responsibility for the lack of disclosure and that he plans to continue performing his duties from home as he recuperates. This assurance was given on Monday when the Department of Defense announced that Austin had been released from the hospital after a two-week stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
White House officials have also reiterated their support for Austin, stating that President Joe Biden has "complete confidence" in the defense secretary and that he plans to keep him in place through the remainder of his term. However, they did acknowledge that the lack of disclosure was "not optimal" and that steps would be taken to ensure such situations are handled differently in the future.
This incident has raised questions about the level of transparency and communication within the Biden Administration, as well as within the Department of Defense. Austin's secretive hospitalization has sparked concerns about the potential impact on national security, as top officials were not made aware of his health situation for days if not weeks. This has led to calls for a review of protocols and procedures to ensure that such lapses do not occur again in the future.
The recording obtained by The Daily Beast has shed light on the circumstances surrounding the 911 call for Austin on New Year's Day. It has also added to the scrutiny and criticism that the defense secretary is facing. As investigations continue, it remains to be seen how Austin's health situation and the lack of transparency surrounding it will affect his position as defense secretary in the Biden Administration.