Defense Department Releases Summary of Sec. Austin Hospitalization Review

Matt Gluck
Tuesday, February 27, 2024, 8:53 AM
The investigation found no “ill intent” on the part of the secretary or his staff, but that situational factors and staff decisions limited disclosure.

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On Feb. 26, the Department of Defense released an unclassified three-page summary of its report following the department’s director of administration and management’s 30-day investigation into Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s Jan. 1 to Jan. 5 hospitalization for prostate cancer-related treatment and surrounding events. In addition to examining “the relevant facts and circumstances” concerning the hospitalization, the investigation also “evaluate[d] the processes and procedures through which the Deputy Secretary of Defense was notified that she would carry out the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense under 10 U.S.C. § 132(b) and Executive Order 13963.”

The summary outlines the timeline of Austin’s medical procedures and the communications between the staffs of Sec. Austin and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks from Jan. 1 to Jan. 5. The investigation found that three primary factors limited transparency: “First, medical privacy laws prohibited medical providers from candid sharing of medical information with the Secretary’s staff. Second, for privacy reasons, his staff were hesitant to pry or share any information that they did learn. Third, the Secretary’s medical situation remained in flux and as long as he remained in the Critical Care Unit, timely secured communications could not be assured.” 

However, the investigation found no evidence of any “ill intent” or efforts to “obfuscate” the secretary’s condition or the surrounding circumstances. The report also made eight recommendations, reportedly relating mostly to improving department processes and guidance. 

You can read the summary here or below.

Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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