Lloyd Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
The House Armed Services Committee, joining statements from across the political and defense spectrums, stated their "concerns" in a press release Sunday over Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's delayed health "disclosure" to government officials as he reportedly remains in the hospital.

The committee released a bipartisan press statement from Republican Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers and Democrat Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith stating that the committee has "concerns" with how Austin's "condition was handled." The congressmen additionally noted there are still "several questions" that "remain unanswered," emphasizing the secretary's "current health status."

"While we wish Sec. Austin a speedy recovery, we are concerned with how the disclosure of the Secretary's condition was handled. Several questions remain unanswered including what the medical procedure and resulting complications were, what the Secretary's current health status is, how and when the delegation of the Secretary's responsibilities were made, and the reason for the delay in notification to the President and Congress," the press release stated.

Comment: Absolutely. How and why was the decision made? What was being hidden from the White House and Congress? With Austin out and his UnderSecretary on vacation, who was actually in charge? Were decisions being made behind Austin's back and more importantly (since he seems to be the one actually running things), Blinken's back?

"Transparency is vitally important. Sec. Austin must provide these additional details on his health and the decision-making process that occurred in the past week as soon as possible."

Reports of Austin's health condition circulated Friday after the Department of Defense (DOD) failed to notify the White House about Austin's hospitalization. The defense secretary was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland for a procedure Jan. 1 due to an undisclosed medical issue.

Though Austin was in the intensive care unit for a number of days following the surgery, National Security Council officials were reportedly not notified until Thursday.

"The NSC is part of your team, it's part of the family," former Obama defense secretary Chuck Hagel told Politico. "The president has to know where his Cabinet members are at all times."

Additionally, DOD officials and legislators were only made aware of the situation Friday, shortly before the news went public.

While Austin has since released a statement apologizing for the lack of transparency around the issue, several key officials have called out the defense secretary's actions.

Former President Trump called for "failed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin" to "be fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty."

Former Vice President Mike Pence slammed Austin's move during a Sunday interview with CNN's State Of The Union, also calling it a "dereliction of duty."

"I wish the Secretary of Defense well and I'm pleased he's making a full recovery, but the handling of this by the Secretary of Defense is totally unacceptable. I believe the American people have a right to know about his medical condition, about the reasons for it ... [and] who was informed of his incapacity," Pence stated.

"But to think at a time when we have allies at war ... that the leader of America's military at the Pentagon would be out of commission for a number of days and the president of the United States didn't know about it — I think it was a dereliction of duty."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated he was not immediately made aware of his colleague's condition.

In addition, the Pentagon Press Association called the failure to disclose Austin's status "an outrage," according to a statement.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee released individual statements following the news reprimanding the defense secretary's actions.

Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon took to social media, demanding "transparency and accountability" on the incident, highlighting that the U.S. had a "15 minute warning time" when addressing "nuclear attacks" in which Austin is a "vital" part of.

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker said the "Department's shocking defiance of the law" was "unacceptable" and highlighted how it "further erodes trust in the Biden Administration."

In addition, Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a fellow member of the committee, stated Austin "must address promptly" the delay in notifying the White House.

In lieu of Austin, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks reportedly assumed the defense secretary's role Jan. 2 but was not made aware he was hospitalized, according to Fox News. Hicks was on vacation in Puerto Rico when she was told she was needed to step in and was only told about Austin's medical condition Thursday, the outlet reported.

Austin reportedly resumed full duties on Friday but is still hospitalized, according to AP News.

There is not a standard protocol for announcing a secretary of defense's temporary stepping back from the duties of the job, such as during hospitalization, Brad Carson, a former under secretary and chief management officer of the Army under Obama, said, according to Politico.

The NSC and Pentagon declined comment, according to the outlet.