Updated Jan 18, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Lloyd Austin called to testify before Congress on hospitalization

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill on March 28, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Capitol Hill last year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was requested to testify before Congress about not immediately disclosing his recent hospitalization to the White House.

Driving the news: House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ohio) said in a letter to Austin Thursday that his "unwillingness to provide candid and complete answers" on his health meant his testimony was required at a Feb. 14 hearing "regarding decisions made to withhold information" from President Biden, Congress and the American people.

Why it matters: The initial secrecy surrounding Austin's two-week hospitalization following complications from prostate cancer treatment drew criticism from Congress members, and Biden called the decision a lapse in judgment.

Of note: Rogers wrote that when Austin last spoke with him he had "promised full transparency into questions regarding the secrecy" of his hospitalization, but he hadn't addressed all of the congressman's concerns.

  • "I am alarmed you refused to answer whether you instructed your staff to not inform the President of the United States or anyone else of your hospitalization," Rogers said in his letter to Austin, who was released from the hospital on Monday.
  • "Unfortunately, this leads me to believe that information is being withheld from Congress. Congress must understand what happened and who made decisions to prevent the disclosure of the whereabouts of a cabinet secretary," added Rogers, who asked for Austin to "promptly answer all outstanding questions" ahead of the hearing.
  • Representatives for the Defense Department did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Read the letter in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: White House orders Cabinet protocols review after Lloyd Austin's secret hospitalization

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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