Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin listens President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s failure to inform his own deputy and even President Joe Biden that he had been hospitalized and could not perform his duties for an extended period of time revealed the systematic incompetence of the entire Biden administration, former US defense officials told Sputnik. Austin underwent an initial medical procedure on December 22 and then suffered severe pain on January 1 after which he was admitted to intensive care at Walter Reed military hospital in Maryland. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks assumed some of Austin’s duties on January 2, but she had no idea what had happened to him at that time. Hicks was only informed of his hospitalization on January 4. The White House was also kept in the dark for four days about Austin’s condition. Air Force General C. Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was told on January 2 that Austin was hospitalized. But, for some reason, he failed to inform the White House, leaving the Defense Department leaderless while war raged in both Ukraine and between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.
Incompetence on All Levels
Retired CIA analyst Philip Giraldi, founder and chair of the Council for the National Interest, said the chaos, disorganization and incompetence extended well beyond Biden and Austin personally but throughout their entire administration. “The lack of competency … as far as I am concerned, extends throughout the entire Biden administration inner circle. We are in for a rough 2024!” Giraldi said. Retired Pentagon analyst Chuck Spinney further noted that Deputy Defense Secretary Hicks had no scientific or engineering background, or the kind of military management that the Defense Department always needed. “Hicks … has a PhD in political science, but no history of real scientific and engineering training and no experience in managing the subtle, technologically intensive, bureaucratically complex infighting strategies of the Pentagon’s bureaucracy – with its many hidden as well as obvious nodes of independent interests and informal power sharing relations,” Spinney said. AmericasUS Defense Sec Treated for Prostate Cancer But Prognosis Remains ‘Excellent’, Docs RevealYesterday, 20:04 GMTBecause Hicks lacked so much necessary experience and expertise, putting her in charge, even if only temporarily, could have generated even more chaos and confusion in the US military establishment, Spinney said. “Now ask yourself the question: Which would you prefer: Keeping an ineffectual Secretary of Defense’s incapacitating illness secret or putting a more incompetent Deputy Secretary of Defense with an ambitious penchant for pushing hair-brained techno visions in charge of a Pentagon that is already clearly out of control?” Spinney asked. Biden might be better advised to leave the ailing Austin in titular charge of the US armed forces from his hospital bed rather than hand over leadership and control, even if only temporarily, to Hicks, Spinney said. “Perhaps, like the White House, the lesser of two evils is to let the Pentagon run on autopilot instead of invoking the line of temporary succession,” Spinney added. Former Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs Chas Freeman, who served in that post during the Clinton administration, agreed that the scandal revealed the incompetence of Austin and his inner circle. Asked whether this was an instance of their lack of capability to perform competently and responsibly, he asnwered, “You got it.”
Scandal During Time of Great Danger & Instability
Retired US Army Lt. Col. Earl Rasmussen, an international consultant and former vice president of the Eurasia Foundation, observed that the scandal had broken and embarrassed Biden and Austin at a time of great danger and instability in global affairs. “[It is an] interesting and awkward situation. Especially in light of the complex global environment that we are heavily involved in,” Rasmussen said. Many questions still remained to be answered, Rasmussen said. “What was the procedure? What caused an emergency situation and subsequent admission to the hospital? Who was informed and at what level? What actions were in place to ensure Secretary Austin’s duties were being performed?” Rasmussen asked. AnalysisNo Adults in the Room: Why Pentagon Chief’s Absence Went Unnoticed by Team BidenYesterday, 18:01 GMTTypically, one would think that Hicks would have been informed prior to any type of procedure or absence, Rasmussen noted. “In an emergency situation, such as what subsequently occurred, one would assume that either the Secretary or the Deputy Secretary would have at a minimum notified the President’s Chief of Staff and potentially other principles. … We still are left wondering about the transparency within this administration,” he said. Both Austin and Hicks bore responsibility for the ignorance, lack of communication and chaos caused by the Defense Secretary’s unacknowledged extended absence, Rasmussen said. “Is Secretary Austin responsible for the apparent lapse? Ultimately, yes. However, depending on the urgency of the situation, one could understand why he may have not been able to react accordingly. In that case, the Deputy Secretary had that responsibility and, one would assume, was in constant contact with the Secretary, health care providers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as well as the White House,” Rasmussen also said. There needed to be a major review of processes and actions taken to resolve any gaps, Rasmussen added. On Monday, the US Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed acknowledged in an official statement that the incident was a serious one and he called for transparency and accountability in the Defense Department.