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Republican lawmakers confronted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday about his “failure of leadership” during his hospitalization.

Austin played defense throughout the hearing, contending that there were never any gaps in the command and control chain between President Biden’s administration and the U.S. military. He nevertheless apologized for failing to notify his superiors for multiple days during his early January hospitalization.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., began the hearing with scathing remarks.

“The fact that Def. Sec. Austin could be hospitalized for three days without anyone in the administration knowing implies his advice is neither sought nor heeded in the White House,” Rogers said.

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Republican lawmakers confronted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about his “failure of leadership” during his hospitalization.

Austin later responded, saying it is not entirely uncommon for he and Biden to go without direct communication for multiple days.

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Criticism of Austin was a point of rare unity for Republicans and Democrats on the committee. Ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he agreed with nearly every point Rogers made in his opening statement, only disagreeing with the claim that there had been gaps in national security communications during the incident.

Democratic lawmakers appeared satisfied with the changes Austin has already made since his early January hospitalization. He said the Pentagon has now codified procedures for both transferring authorities during emergency incidents and for notifying other key members of the administration and staff at the Pentagon.

Rep. Mike Rogers

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., offered scathing remarks to Sec. Austin at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing.

Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., a nearly 40-year veteran of the military, argued those protocols had already been in place, however. He argued instead that it was a “failure of leadership” that caused the confusion.

“I would argue that the protocols that were in place on January 2 were adequate. It was a failure of leadership in implementing the controls and protocols that were already in place,” Kelly said.

“I can tell you, if the [Chief of Naval Operations] would’ve done this and just disappeared for three days, there would be actions and consequences. Maybe not to him or her, but to the person who did that. If the commandant of the Marine Corps did this without reporting upward, there would be consequences. If a private soldier or a sailor or a marine had done this or an airman, there would’ve been consequences,” he added.

Rep. Trent Kelly

Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., a nearly 40-year veteran of the military, argued those protocols had already been in place, however. He argued instead that it was a “failure of leadership” that caused the confusion.

“I don’t think there was a threat to national security because of this, Secretary Austin. I don’t think that there ever was. The protocols were in place. I do, however, think it was an extreme lack of leadership at some level, and I hope we identify that and there are consequences,” he finished.

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Austin is scheduled to appear before the Armed Services Committee yet again in roughly a month.



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