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8 Jan, 2024 17:17

Biden won’t fire Pentagon chief – Politico

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had kept his hospitalization secret, even from the White House
Biden won’t fire Pentagon chief – Politico

US President Joe Biden won’t fire Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for hiding his hospitalization from both the public and the government, Politico reported on Monday, citing unnamed senior administration officials.

Austin was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last Monday due to “complications following a recent elective medical procedure,” the Pentagon revealed to reporters on Friday. Over the weekend, it emerged that Austin was still in the hospital but that no one had informed the White House of his initial absence.

Four anoymous officials spoke to Politico following calls by Republicans for Austin to relinquish his post, insisting that Biden is “famously loyal” and would refuse to accept a resignation even if the former general were to offer it.

“Austin’s going nowhere,” one senior administration official told the outlet.

Biden “respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday, referring to the Pentagon chief’s statement on Saturday admitting he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.”

“Our main focus right now is on Secretary Austin’s health and making sure he gets all the care and support he needs to fully recover,” Kirby added.

The condition that put Austin in the hospital has not yet been disclosed. He remains institutionalized and the Pentagon does not have a specific date for his release, Major General Pat Ryder said on Sunday.

The US government has neither confirmed nor denied an NBC News report claiming that Austin had spent four days in the intensive care unit. According to Ryder, his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, was taking care of “routine” business while on vacation in Puerto Rico. 

The Pentagon chief’s absence – which went unnoticed by both the Pentagon press corps and the White House – came as US troops illegally stationed in Iraq and Syria came under repeated attacks by militants, while Yemeni Houthis successfully closed the Red Sea to Israeli-linked shipping, despite the deployment of a US naval task force.

Austin is the first African American secretary of defense. He came to the post from the board of military contractor Raytheon Technologies, which he joined immediately after retiring from active service in 2016. While commanding an army corps in Iraq in 2008, Austin reportedly became friends with Biden’s son Beau, who served on his staff. 

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