Biden Won't Sack Defense Secretary Over Secret Hospitalization: Report

Lloyd Austin (Getty Images)
January 8, 2024

President Joe Biden will neither fire Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin nor accept his resignation after the general did not promptly inform the president of his days-long hospitalization, Politico reported Monday.

Several officials in the administration said Biden was not considering dismissing Austin, with one saying the president would not accept the secretary's resignation if he offered it, the outlet reported, citing the four unnamed officials.

The report came as National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told the press that Biden had "no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job."

The Pentagon disclosed Friday evening that Austin had been admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 1 after complications from a medical procedure. Austin acknowledged his hospitalization in a statement the next day, saying that he "could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed."

Reports over the weekend revealed that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Biden were unaware of Austin's condition until three days after he went into the hospital. The Pentagon released a statement Sunday that said Austin remained at Walter Reed and that it did not have a timeline for his release.

It is still unclear exactly why Austin checked into the hospital. The Pentagon's Friday statement said Austin experienced "complications following a recent elective medical procedure." Its press secretary, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, told ABC News Sunday that Austin underwent that procedure on Dec. 22, going home the day after but returning to the hospital on New Year's Day after experiencing "severe pain," leading to his placement in the intensive care unit.

"For privacy reasons, we're not able to provide additional information," Ryder said.

The controversy surrounding Austin comes amid tension in the Middle East surrounding Israel's war against Hamas. Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis have attacked commercial vessels and military craft defending them in the Red Sea. Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria have also attacked American military personnel at least 100 times since the beginning of the war.