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Updated January 7th, 2024 at 13:26 IST

US defense secretary Austin says he takes ‘full responsibility’ for secret hospitalisation

The 70-year-old US defense secretary was admitted on New Year’s Day to Walter Reed national military medical center.

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Austin
Austin | Image:AP
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US defense secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday said that he takes “full responsibility” for secrecy related to his hospitalisation. Speculations were rife that Austin was taken to the hospital amid the Middle East missions for a “medical procedure” and was under a week-long hospitalisation for a still-unspecified condition.

The 70-year-old was admitted on New Year’s Day to Walter Reed national military medical center. According to Pentagon, Austin faced “complications following a recent elective medical procedure.” The US defence department kept his medical condition and hospitalisation a secret for over five days. No details were released about why Austin was rushed to medical facility as well as the condition for which he was being treated.

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‘I commit to doing better’: US Defense Secretary Austin

Reports suggest that Austin had lost consciousness over the past week. There is no certainty when the US defines chief would be discharged. “I recognise I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” Austin said in a written statement published Saturday.

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“But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure,” Austin said.

It is understood that the US President Joe Biden, senior Biden administration leaders, top Pentagon officials and members of Congress were not aware about Austin’s hospitalisation. Pentagon did not inform the White House national security council or top adviser Jake Sullivan of Austin’s hospitalisation. Air force Maj General Pat Ryder at a presser said that the White House and the joint chiefs of staff were notified. 

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The members of US Congress were informed late Friday after 5pm. The top Republican on the Senate armed services committee, senator Roger Wicker, slammed Pentagon for failing to inform Congress immediately in accordance with the required by law. Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement, that Austin was facing "complications following a recent elective medical procedure.” As Austin has been hospitalised, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has been performing his critical duties, according to a senior defense official in the US.

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Published January 7th, 2024 at 10:52 IST

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