Lloyd Austin's hospitalization: Pentagon assures there was no 'malicious intent' in not communicating the secretary's condition

The secretary of defense was secretly hospitalized on Jan. 1 and will testify before Congress on Thursday, Feb. 29.

Lloyd Austin was secretly hospitalized on Jan. 1, sparking controversy in Washington once it was made public. Republicans and some Democrats argued that suppressing this news was irresponsible on the part of the defense secretary and his team, who apologized for not handling the situation properly. Almost two months later, the Pentagon investigated the situation and drew its own conclusions.

As it became known days after the case, the official was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for an infection related to a bladder problem that arose from prostate cancer surgery performed in December.

The Pentagon investigated the situation and revealed its findings on Monday in a three-page report, in which they clarified that they found no "indication of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate" on the part of Austin.

In turn, they noted that Austin's staff was limited "in three significant ways" when reporting the situation.

"First, medical privacy laws prohibited medical providers from candid sharing of medical information with the Secretary’s staff. Second, for privacy reasons, his staff were hesitant to pry or share any information that they did learn. Third, the Secretary’s medical situation remained in flux and as long as he remained in the Critical Care Unit, timely secured communications could not be assured," the report states.

Lloyd Austin hospitalization controversy

On Jan. 5, the Pentagon revealed that the secretary of defense had been hospitalized since New Year's, when he began to feel "severe pain," seemingly normal for a person who feels to be in poor health.

However, the problem is that practically no one within the federal government was informed of Austin's situation, including Joe Biden.

During his second day at the hospital, Austin transferred his duties to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was on leave in Puerto Rico. However, she learned of her boss's hospitalization two days later. Both the White House and the general public were made aware on Jan. 5.

Austin acknowledged through a statement that he should have better managed the communication of his hospitalization and assumed full responsibility for the decision to hide it even from the president.

"I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better. But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure," the secretary wrote.

Austin is scheduled to testify in front of Congress to explain the situation on Feb. 29.