MIL-OSI USA: Waltz Presses Defense Secretary Austin on Secret Hospitalization

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Michael Waltz (FL-R)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, U.S. Congressman, and Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, Mike Waltz (FL-06) pressed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on taking accountability for his unannounced absence and failure to communicate with the Commander in Chief in a timely manner about his recent hospitalization during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Watch the full exchange here.

“Mr. Secretary, we wish you continued improvement to your health, but this hearing today is not about you, it is not about your privacy, it is not about what you desire, it is not about your health,” said Waltz. “This is about the chain of command and civilian oversight of the most powerful military in the world that is charged with keeping the American people safe.”

Waltz continued, “So, I want to make sure as the American people watch this, we have a couple of things clear. According to your report, it says ‘given the inability to provide timely communications to the Secretary while in critical care, the Secretary’s military assistants agreed that the transfer of authorities to the Deputy Secretary was necessary.’”

“Mr. Secretary, on January 2nd at that time, when they made that decision, were you conscious?” asked Waltz.

“I was conscious, yeah,” confirmed Secretary Austin.

“Okay, so you were able to make that decision yourself. You were of sound mind to make that decision yourself?” asked Waltz.

“They did not have access to me to be able to make…” responded Secretary Austin.

“So, there was then a disconnect for your ability to command the military through secure communications because they could not access you, correct?” asked Waltz.

“It was determined, and they were advised by the doctors that they would not be able to access or gain access to me, so that’s a tripwire to transfer authorities and they followed a procedure,” responded Secretary Austin.

“Okay, but let’s talk about whether there was a break because you have testified under oath that there was no gap. Did the President of the United States, Commander in Chief, know on the first of January that you were going to the hospital in an ambulance?” asked Waltz.

“He did not,” answered Secretary Austin.

Waltz asked, “Did he know on the second of January that you had been admitted to critical care in the ICU?”

“He did not,” answered Secretary Austin.

Waltz continued, “The Commander in Chief, elected by the American people, civilian oversight of the military, did not know on January 1st, did not know on January 2nd. January 3rd comes around. Did the President know?

“He did not,” answered Secretary Austin.

“He did not. How long does it take, and we could go through a number of scenarios, but how long does it take a hypersonic missile as a first strike weapon to hit the United States?” asked Waltz. “Fifteen, thirty minutes max? ICBM, I mean it’s commonly out there, from North Korea thirty minutes. Make a decision.”

Secretary Austin said, “We’ve been clear that the notification was not adequate but the transfer of authorities…”

“But the President of the United States, as the Commander in Chief, does not know for three days that his Secretary of Defense is incapacitated and in critical care, correct?” pressed Waltz.

“In critical care but not incapacitated,” responded Secretary Austin.

“And, the President of the United States does not know that his Secretary of Defense cannot access secure comms, correct?” asked Waltz.

“But the Deputy is fully empowered and has full access to everything she needs,” responded Secretary Austin.

“So, your report says the Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs was informed of the transfer of authority. Who made the decision for that individual to not inform the American people?” questioned Waltz.

“I cannot answer that,” answered Secretary Austin.

Waltz asked, “Did the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs make the decision?”

“I cannot…” said Secretary Austin.

“You just had a thirty-day review. You do not know who made the decision to not tell the American people?” questioned Waltz.

“I know that he was aware on the second, I do not know what decision-making process…” said Secretary Austin.

“To inform the public, you do not know today. You do not know who made the decision to not inform the public,” stated Waltz.

“I am not sure there was a decision to not inform the public, I know that he has the information,” said Secretary Austin.

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps had a medical incident and informed the American people and you,” said Waltz. “Here is what is missing here, this is not about process. You’ve made this about the process. This is about judgment and poor judgment.”

Waltz continued, “My teenage daughter knows to tell her supervisor if she is not going to work. The American people, truck drivers, bartenders know they have to tell their boss or they get fired. But you have held yourself to a different standard and that is unacceptable.”