DOD inspector general's office will review Austin hospitalization notification procedures

By Georgina DiNardo / January 11, 2024 at 11:16 AM

The Defense Department inspector general's office announced yesterday a new project that will review the notification procedures surrounding Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's recent hospitalization.

“The objective of the review is to examine the roles, processes, procedures, responsibilities and actions related to the Secretary of Defense’s hospitalization in December 2023-January 2024,” the notice said.

This report follows Austin’s hospitalization in the intensive care unit on Jan. 1 after an “elective medical procedure” on Dec. 22 left him in “severe pain,” according to Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.

According to Walter Reed Medical Center officials, where the surgery occurred, Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had a “minimally invasive” prostatectomy that left no complications at time of discharge. However, a urinary tract infection caused complications and required Austin to return to the hospital on Jan. 1.

Ryder said that “certain authorities” were transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Jan. 2, although Hicks and Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, didn’t find out about Austin’s hospitalization until Jan. 4.

This lack of communication, which Ryder attributes to Kelly Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, being sick with the flu and out of office, drew criticism from lawmakers about the chain of command and the delayed notification time.

The department launched a new 30-day review of DOD notification processes pertaining to the assumption of defense secretary duties, according to Ryder, which is a separate review than the IG’s.

The IG said it will “assess whether the DOD’s policies and procedures are sufficient to ensure timely and appropriate notifications and the effective transition of authorities as may be warranted due to health-based or other unavailability of senior leadership.”