Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meeting at the Pentagon on Nov. 22, 2023.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Ukrainian Defense Contact Group meeting at the Pentagon on Nov. 22, 2023. (Cesar J. Navarro/Department of Defense)

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s handling of his undisclosed hospitalization will be investigated by the Defense Department inspector general, the office announced Thursday.

Robert Storch, the inspector general, disclosed the review in a memo to Austin, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and other officials, saying his office would begin the investigation this month.

“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 and 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,” Storch wrote.

The IG review comes after the Pentagon announced Monday that it would conduct a 30-day review of the incident.

Austin, 70, has been in hospitalized since Jan. 1 after experiencing complications from a surgery conducted Dec. 22 to treat prostate cancer. The secretary has come under scrutiny for failing to notify President Joe Biden and other federal officials about his illness and hospital stay.

During Austin’s medical treatments, no one at the Defense Department notified the White House, Hicks, Congress or the public for several days. On Jan. 2, Austin transferred some of his more pressing responsibilities to Hicks, who was on vacation in Puerto Rico.

Biden did not learn of the secretary’s prostate cancer diagnosis until Tuesday morning, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said earlier in the week.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, launched a formal inquiry Tuesday into Austin’s failure to disclose his illness and hospitalization.

Rogers is asking Austin, Hicks and Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, to answer detailed questions and hand over documents related to delays in informing the White House, top Pentagon officials and lawmakers about Austin’s medical condition.

“As you must be aware, this lack of transparency is inexcusable and could have resulted in calamity,” Rogers wrote in a letter to Magsamen. “Congress must understand how this unacceptable breakdown in disclosure concerning the secretary’s capacity to lead the [Defense] Department occurred.”

All Republican senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee submitted a letter Wednesday to the secretary with questions regarding what unfolded.

“Our branches of government share a sacred obligation to work together to keep the American people safe. We cannot do this without clear and open communication,” the senators wrote. “Your statement provided on Jan. 6 is wholly insufficient to address the situation.”

author picture
Matthew Adams covers the Defense Department at the Pentagon. His past reporting experience includes covering politics for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and The News and Observer. He is based in Washington, D.C.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now