An internal probe of US defense chief Lloyd Austin’s failure to reveal his hospitalization has found no “ill intent” FILE PHOTO © Alex Wong / Getty Images

An internal Pentagon review of the secrecy surrounding US defense chief Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization last month has determined that while communication processes should be improved, there was no serious wrongdoing by senior officials.

“Nothing examined during this review demonstrated any indication of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate,” the Pentagon said on Monday in a declassified summary of its 30-day investigation of the incident. Several measures have been adopted to ensure a smooth chain of command, and those steps were deployed when Austin was again hospitalized earlier this month for an “emergent bladder issue.”

Unbeknownst to President Joe Biden and other officials above and below Austin in the US government, the 70-year-old secretary of defense underwent surgery for prostate cancer on December 22. Austin fell ill with severe abdominal pain on January 1 and was taken by “subtle” ambulance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he remained hospitalized with a urinary tract infection until January 13.

Old sick men control US nuclear chain of command – Moscow Old sick men control US nuclear chain of command – Moscow

Neither White House officials – including Biden – nor Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks, were informed of his incapacitating condition until January 4. His condition was serious enough that he was transferred to the intensive care unit on January 2. Hicks, who was on vacation in Puerto Rico at the time, filled in for Austin without knowing until three days later that he was in the hospital.

The Pentagon issued a brief public statement regarding Austin’s hospitalization on January 5 and waited until January 9 to disclose for the first time that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in early December. Austin, a former US Army general and Raytheon board member, is 70 years old.

Pentagon chief in hospital due to ‘emergent bladder issue’ Pentagon chief in hospital due to ‘emergent bladder issue’

Members of Austin’s staff were limited by medical privacy laws on sharing of information about his condition and were “hesitant to pry” for details, the Pentagon review found. “Although, as hindsight has shown, the process for making decisions to transfer the secretary’s authority could and should be improved,” there were no indications of intentional wrongdoing, the summary said.

The reforms adopted as a result of the review include steps to make deputies better-prepared to quickly fill in for an incapacitated defense chief. Austin admitted in a February 1 press briefing that his cancer diagnosis wasn’t handled correctly. “I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.” (RT)