According to analysts, President Biden, his deputy, and other high-ranking officials were unaware that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stayed in the intensive care unit for at least three days, leaving the United States military essentially directed by no one.
Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the media was able to obtain a disturbing 911 call made by an adviser to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on New Year’s Day. The 911 call shows that an adviser to Secretary Austin requested that an ambulance be sent without lights or sirens so they could be discreet.
Nobody in Biden’s inner circle knew of Secretary Austin’s serious health, but the 911 call shows that someone was aware of it. No one knows who the assistant who called 911 was.
After being taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on January 1st due to problems from an unknown previous operation, the Pentagon has verified that Austin never lost consciousness or got general anesthesia throughout his clandestine hospital stay. However, analysts warned that the administration’s response to global threats may have been compromised due to the secrecy surrounding Austin’s location and the lack of clarity about the secretary’s ability to carry out his responsibilities.
The news of Austin’s hospitalization slowly spread, adding to the impression that he was very secretive and that communication was difficult between his staff and other administration members.
Reports show even President Biden was in the dark about Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis (early December), the details of the operation (December 22), and its difficulties (early January).
Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon Press Secretary, told CNN that while Austin was hospitalized, he reportedly delegated specific operational authority to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, which needed continual secure communications capability. During a briefing, Ryder revealed that Hicks, who was vacationing in Puerto Rico at the moment, had access to a secret communications suite and used it to do some normal business on Austin’s behalf. Nobody knew why the transfer was made, however.
Robert Storch, the Defense Department’s inspector general, said on January 10 that an inquiry into the handling of Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hidden absence will be launched.