Feb 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Lloyd Austin to testify to Congress on hospitalization

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue tie, testifies to a Senate committee.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifying to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Oct. 31, 2023. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will testify to the House Armed Services Committee later this month on the secrecy surrounding his hospitalization in January for complications from prostate cancer surgery.

Why it matters: It will be the first time Austin has to answer questions from Congress after a scandal that spurred criticism — and even calls to resign — from lawmakers in both parties.

Driving the news: "The Department of Defense has confirmed to the House Armed Services Committee that Secretary Austin will testify before the Committee on February 29th on his failure to disclose his hospitalization," Armed Services Committee spokesperson Justine Tripathi told Axios.

  • Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) sent Austin a letter last month asking him to testify at a hearing on Feb. 14, citing an "unwillingness to provide candid and complete answers" to written questions.

The backdrop: Austin's hospitalization in early January sparked a firestorm of controversy on Capitol Hill after reporting revealed he waited several days to notify the White House and Congress.

  • Even President Biden wasn't aware until several days after Austin was brought to the hospital in an ambulance — and Austin's deputy, who occasionally assumed his duties, was in Puerto Rico at the time.
  • In addition to congressional scrutiny, the episode prompted the White House to review cabinet agencies' protocols for delegation of authority.

What he's saying: Austin, who was released from the hospital in mid-January, acknowledged last week, "We did not handle this right. I did not handle this right."

  • Austin added at the press conference, "I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public."
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