The Mystery of the Disappearing Defense Secretary
Published: Jan 18, 2024 04:46 PM
Lloyd Austin Photo: AFP

Lloyd Austin Photo: AFP

The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, was released from the hospital on Monday. Since January 1, he has not been seen due to surgery related to prostate cancer. Austin's secrecy has caused a major uproar in American politics, and both Austin and the Pentagon have faced criticism for how they handled his hospitalization.

Secretary Austin spoke to President Biden before entering hospital, but didn't bother to tell him where he was going. Why? The secretary's personal staff apparently knew as well, but none felt the need to inform anyone at the White House about his location.

When going into hospital, Secretary Austin transferred some of his duties to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, while she was on vacation in Puerto Rico, and told her not to bother to return to Washington. And even Hicks felt no compulsion to let her president know where Austin was. The head of the Joint Chiefs knew on January 2, but didn't bother to tell Biden either. 

There is an entire procedure for government officials moving from one location another, and internal security devoted to making sure nothing goes wrong. With reaction times to world events measured in minutes, it is vital to know where everyone is at all times. 

The US was conducting a number of military operations around the world, and the Secretary of Defense was nowhere to be found; nor did anyone look for him. Normally, Washington DC suffers from too many leakers; those exposing some piece of information for money or political gain. This time it was the opposite. 

This incident has once again brought up rumors about who actually is running things in Washington. Is the National Security Council running the country? Was President Biden not told because it doesn't matter if he is told? Did the "right people" know, and just not feel the need to inform him? What exactly is his role?

The Pentagon has stated that it has been planning operations in Yemen since the beginning of the year, and yet waited until this week to launch them. Could the timing of this operation be, at least in part, a distraction from this new political incident?

There are rules in Washington, and sadly Secretary Austin broke those rules. He is out of the hospital now, but the mystery continues. 

The hospital scandal has added another layer to the partisan Republican-Democrat feuding that affects every aspect of Washington. Congress was already trying to hammer out a compromise spending bill to avoid a shutdown in a few days. President Biden has stated that he will refuse any attempt at a resignation by Austin. Representative Matt Rosendale filed articles of impeachment against Secretary Austin, which will not succeed in the Democrat-led Senate. Republicans in both chambers are demanding investigations, while Democrats are stating such actions are merely political theater. All around the world there is concern that Washington is becoming too unstable to work with. 

The author is a freelance writer. He is a veteran of both the US Army and US Navy. He is a veteran of the Gulf War (1990-1991), where he served as an acting WMD officer. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn