President Biden and top officials weren’t immediately alerted about the hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin because his chief of staff was out sick, resulting in a breakdown in the notification process, the Pentagon said Monday. 

Austin, 70, was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 1 for severe pain for complications following a recent elective medical procedure,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said last week. 

Biden and the National Security Council weren’t told about the hospitalization for a few days and the press and Congress weren’t notified until Friday. 


“The best I can tell you is that the secretary’s chief of staff (Kelly Magsamen) was ill with the flu, which affected the notification timelines,” Ryder said Monday. “We’re we’re going back now and looking at the processes and procedures, as I mentioned, to include both the White House and congressional notifications to ensure that we can improve those processes. You know, the bottom line is we know we can do better and we will do better.”

Magsamen was “unable to make notifications before then” but she informed Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Thursday. The National Security Council and Biden weren’t notified of Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday as well. 

Ryder acknowledged that he and other public affairs and defense aides were told Jan. 2 that Austin had been hospitalized but did not make it public and did not tell the military service leaders or the National Security Council until days later. 

“I want to offer my apologies and my pledge to learn from this experience, and I will do everything I can to meet the standard that you expect from us,” he said.


Hicks, who was on a previously scheduled vacation and not physically in the Pentagon, partially assumed some of Austin’s duties last week, an official told Fox News. She wasn’t told Austin was hospitalized at that time, the Pentagon said.

Austin was taken to the hospital via ambulance on Jan. 1 and he was conscious during the ride, Ryder said Monday. 

“The secretary did participate, in a call with the president on New Year’s Day,” Ryder said. “This was, of course, prior to him being admitted to hospital.”

A Jan. 4 strike that killed a a militia leader in Baghdad was pre-approved by Austin and the White House before the secretary was admitted into Walter Reed, Ryder said. 

He added that Austin has no plans to resign. No senior Defense Department officials have been asked to resign as well. 

Ryder said staff in Austin’s front office will review notification procedures, including whether regulations, rules or laws were broken, and will take steps to improve the notification process. Those staff members, however, are among those who did not disclose the secretary’s hospitalization.

The Pentagon‘s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization has enraged congressional leaders and the news media responsible for covering the Pentagon.

“I was informed by the assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs on Tuesday afternoon that the secretary was in the hospital,” Ryder said. “He didn’t have any additional information to provide, but I recognize that I should have tried to learn more and to press for an earlier public acknowledgment.”

In a statement issued Saturday evening, Austin took responsibility for the delays in notification.

“I am very glad to be on the mend and look forward to returning to the Pentagon soon,” he said. “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 Associated Press contributed to this report.