Opinion: Are the grown ups back in charge? Lloyd Austin's absence & the question of leadership
[ U.S Politics] Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's recent hospitalization, and the Pentagon's delayed notification of both the White House and key officials, has thrown a spotlight on a concerning question: who, exactly, was running the show while America's top military leader was out of commission?
The National Security Council and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks were not notified until Thursday, Jan. 4, that Austin had been hospitalized since January 1st, the Associated Press reported.
CBS reports on the afternoon of January 2, "the Secretary of Defense transferred to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Kathleen Hicks, certain operational responsibilities that require constant secure communications capabilities".
Hicks was vacationing in Puerto Rico at the time and was not told of Lloyd Austin's hospitalization when she assumed his duties, according to subsequent reports.
As the head of the Department of Defense, Austin holds a critical role in the national security apparatus. His absence, particularly during a period of global uncertainty, could have left a crucial decision-making vacuum.
As the controversy continues to trend on social media, some are making a mockery of the circumstances and have called for Austin to be replaced.
Sec of Def Austin and his immediate staff need to be replaced IMMEDIATELY — not informing the WH and Biden about Austin in ICU until Thursday? Why didn’t Austin’s security notify anyone? His Dep on vacation and not know about this? right now USA is involved in military actions around the world and there are two wars - Ukraine / Israel…even my news org knows where I am at all times (it is part of the job to be ‘on call’)- Greta Van Susteren
The lack of clarity about Austin's condition and the chain of command raises several concerns about who was truly in charge during Austin's hospitalization, and whether vital decisions were made with full information.
So Lloyd Austin doesn’t disclose his hospitalization and his #2 is vacationing. So who’s running the DOD while even clueless Joe is in the dark vacationing‼️ It’s not like they were any wars going on Btw Who is approving drone strikes - calling the shots as our service men and women are being attacked in Iraq and Syria.- Judge Jeanine Pirro
Austin has acknowledged the communication lapses surrounding his hospitalization and has apologized for any concerns it caused. He has assured both the President and Congress that he will improve communication protocols in the future.
Mostly along party lines, some have called for Austin's resignation, others have expressed understanding for the situation and are willing to move forward. Democrats largely continue to back Austin.
Beyond the immediate concerns, the Lloyd Austin hospitalization saga raises broader questions about leadership and communication within the Biden administration.
The phrase "grown ups back in charge" gained significant traction during the 2020 U.S. presidential election when Joe Biden was elected as the 46th President of the United States. Many supporters of Biden used this phrase to express their belief that his administration would bring a return to normalcy and a more traditional approach to governance.